The Innovative Pitch

Our society is enthralled with “pitching” or the public presentation of innovative ideas. At the dawn of the technology revolution in the 1980’s, the business plan – a 40 page or so description of a company’s opportunity – was the medium of communication. However, this has shifted. Although a full “plan” is still required, the summary in the form of an oral presentation and associated PowerPoint (or GoogleSlides, Keynote, other) deck is how opportunities are communicated today and startup “winners and losers” are chosen. Further, our society has become obsessed with pitching – witness SharkTank, the watch list of TEDX videos, listenership of the TEDX radio hour, the 20+ podcasts dedicated to similar topics, as well as the ubiquity of pitch events at universities and in communities committed to innovation.

The ubiquity of pitching raises an important question – what makes an effective pitch?

Dr. Clay Spinuzzi, Department of Rhetoric and Writing in the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, has been studying pitching as a genre (a formalized technique or strategy in communication) in collaboration with the IC² Institute since 2012. Dr. Spinuzzi and his colleagues, including Dr. Gregory Pogueat IC², have explored pitching to understand how entrepreneurs respond to market feedback and craft compelling arguments through studying the experience of Korean, Portuguese, and U.S. entrepreneurs[1].

This month, Dr. Spinuzzi was asked by Insider to comment on what makes a great pitch[2]. In this article, the contribution of founder experience, style, and passion were highlighted as components that build trust and create attraction between investors and founders pitching innovative ideas. Dr. Spinuzzi and other experts describe what works in pitching, but also point out important biases and limitations associated with pitching. Such insight helps the public see what “sells” and why some highly risky ventures can attract high quantities of venture capital, but still lack a validated and scalable revenue model.

So, look at this interesting article, ” Science has figured out why Silicon Valley keeps forking over millions to charismatic screw-ups like WeWork founder Adam Neumann” to gain advice to create more effective pitches while avoiding risky pitfalls.

[1]Examples include: Spinuzzi, et al., 2023, in press. Linked but desynched: An OODA analysis of associated entrepreneurship accelerator programs. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 37:1.; Spinuzzi, et al., 2020. Go or No Go: learning to persuade in an early-stage student entrepreneurship program. IEEE Trans. Prof. Commun., 63:100-117.; Spinuzzi, et al., 2018. Articulating problems and markets: A translation analysis of entrepreneurs’ emergent value propositions. Written Communications 35(4):379-410.; Spinuzzi et al., 2016. How magnets attract and repel: Interessement in a technology commercialization competition. Written Communication 33(1):3 41.; Spinuzzi, C., Nelson, R.S., Thomson, K.S., Lorenzini, F., French, R.A., Pogue, G., Burback, S.D., Momberger, J. 2014. Making the pitch: Examining dialogue and revisions in entrepreneurs’ pitch decks. IEEE Trans. Prof. Commun., 57:158 181.