Why you should pitch your idea, even if it’s to that random stranger?


This article is by Dr Kelvin Chan, a scientist, an entrepreneur and a pianist. Kelvin is highly enthusiastic about entrepreneurship in the biotech/life science sector and is an aspiring VC himself.

Biotechin.Asia is starting a series of articles for scientists and life science professionals for starting their own company and setting up their business. This first article, in particular, is on pitching and why should one pitch your business, to anyone and everyone, reiterating the importance of an elevator pitch for your startup or even your idea.

What is a pitch?

We know that coming up with new ideas is tough work. But communicating and convincing others to act on them, often called pitching, is an even more daunting task.

The basic skill of pitching an idea is the same, regardless of whether a scientist is applying for grants, a jobseeker selling themselves to a potential employer, or a child hankering for a new toy. Pitching happens in everyday life – the essence of it involves communicating needs and wants, and how acting on the idea provides a beneficial outcome.

Who pitches?

As scientists, we come up with hypotheses to solve questions and gaps in the scientific literature. We then come up with possible experiments to probe and verify our hypotheses, and we apply for grants to support us in our efforts. The very process of applying for these grants is itself a form of pitching! We communicate to others the importance of solving these questions, and we pitch to get their support, and success translates to getting a grant award.

It is important to get others to buy-in into our ideas. This gives us validation that our ideas are worth spending time on – you don’t want to be spending time and effort (and money) on ideas that don’t make impact.

First-time entrepreneurs often worry about pitching. There are often concerns along the lines of “If I share my idea, others might scoop me”. Sounds familiar?

“Getting scooped”

The biggest reason why people are afraid to share ideas is fear of copycats and losing the competitive edge. Scientists are terrified of this – understandably so, because a “scoop” may mean that years of research may go to waste if a competitor publishes your hard work before you do! However, if we dive deeper into understanding this issue, we find that the *big* idea is what we should be sharing with others, and not *how* we approach the problem. This applies whether you’re a scientist, or an entrepreneur. Keep the details to your approaches and methods secret – reveal the non-confidential, public information. If you can convince others that the problem is worth investigating, then you know you’re on track. Just be careful when you speak with other competitors! Big ideas are big not because someone hasn’t thought of them before, but because no one has yet found a feasible way to act on them yet. The “How” is going to be your secret sauce.

On the other hand, if you choose not to pitch to others, you miss out on some terrific benefits of doing so – getting feedback on your ideas, drumming up interest in your endeavors, meeting new people and exciting others enough to get them to join your team, getting practice before pitching to investors etc. The benefits truly outweigh the potential costs.

The Elevator Pitch

There are a few types of pitches, but the one that every individual can benefit from is the elevator pitch. This is a concise and simple message that takes no more than the time it takes to go up or down an elevator, hence the moniker. It often lasts no more than a minute, and hence it’s critical to nail down a compelling elevator pitch to capture their attention right from the beginning. The key objective is to pique the interest of your audience, and not to overwhelm with information. Get them interested in the problem you’re trying to solve, and leave the discussion on how you are going to solve that problem for a later date.

How to Pitch?

Biotechin.Asia is organising a workshop on “How to give an elevator pitch?” in March 2016 (date to be confirmed), which will cover what goes into an elevator pitch, how to create one, and who to share it with. This workshop will be specifically for life science, healthcare, medical device and biotech startups/entrepreneurs/aspiring entrepreneurs. We will also be inviting a biotech investor to share why it’s important to pitch well. Join us then and sign up! Be on the lookout @ www.biotechin.asia.

Kelvin8-copyAbout Dr Kelvin Chan: Kelvin has a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from The Scripps Research Institute, USA, and is a fellow of A*STAR, Singapore. Apart from discovering and developing new synthetic methods to functionalize drug molecules, Kelvin has interests in business, entrepreneurship, and investing, with a focus on venture capital. Kelvin is founder and adviser to the Scripps Consulting Club (SCC), an organization within The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) that provides graduate students and postdocs with the training and resources needed to pursue management consulting or business in science as a career. He is also on the Membership Committee for the San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange (SDEE), and was a CONNECT Springboard Fellow. Kelvin received his B.A.(Hons) in Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, and is a concertizing pianist.