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On February 15th, the Center for Technology Licensing at Cornell University hosted the ‘CTL New Venture Series: Pitching 101: How to Present Your Startups and Technology Innovation to Potential Funders.’ The event was an insightful session aimed at educating Cornell researchers and entrepreneurs on how to effectively pitch their startups and technological innovations to potential investors. Lynda Inséqué, the Director of Technology and Venture Initiatives & Engagement, welcomed presenter Kirsten Leute, a partner at Osage University Partners with 19 years of experience in university relations and technology transfer. 

Kirsten opened her presentation with a key insight, “Pitching is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It’s crucial to consider your audience when crafting your pitch.”

She navigated through the various funding stages for startups, from government grants to venture capital, underscoring the significant equity often exchanged for venture funding. Leute articulated the importance of a clear, concise, and compelling pitch, highlighting the imperative for founders to effectively communicate their background, the intrinsic value of their technology, the market potential, and specific funding needs. She counseled the audience to tailor their pitches to align with the goals and interests of investors, suggesting that a customized pitch greatly enhances the likelihood of securing funding. 

As the event progressed, Leute delved into the diverse stages of startup funding, charting the trajectory from initial seed funding—commonly sourced from grants or angel investors—to substantial venture capital investments. She observed that while venture capital can inject considerable funds and offer valuable networks, it also often requires ceding a portion of equity and potentially some level of company control. 

Leute also illuminated the essential elements of the pitch itself, including the clarity of the business model, the scalability of the technology, the scope of the market, and the competitive context. She emphasized the need for founders to delineate their business’s unique selling proposition and distinctiveness in the saturated startup milieu. 

Highlighting the critical role of due diligence, both in comprehending one’s audience and in readying the startup for the intense scrutiny of the fundraising journey, Leute’s expertise was evident as she instructed the participants on navigating the intricate domain of intellectual property—a cornerstone for many technology-driven ventures. 

The ‘CTL New Venture Series: Pitching 101’ event concluded with an open forum for questions, allowing participants to seek personalized advice on their pitching strategies. Leute’s insights provided a roadmap for entrepreneurs to refine their pitches and maximize their chances of success in the competitive world of startup funding. 

In the Q&A, Kirsten addressed various queries, offering insight on topics such as avoiding particular phrases, processing feedback, and the intricacies of discussing valuations with venture capitalists. She stressed the significance of being candid about the makeup of the startup team and the necessity of anticipating multiple engagements with investors. 

The event provided a thorough guide to the nuances of pitching, enriched with actionable insights and advice from seasoned professionals. Participants departed with an enhanced capability to present their startups and innovations to potential investors with greater efficacy. Visit CTL’s YouTube channel to watch the full event

On March 18, join us in person at the Cornell Tech campus for a New Ventures Series Panel titled ‘Data Rights & Commercialization Strategies in AI Innovation.” A curated group of panelists, experts in AI innovation and commercialization, will delve into the intricacies of data rights. Register here.  

By Catherine Yingzi Lin, writing intern at CTL