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When startups fail at pitching

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

Thank you, next. What do startups, actors, writers, and Ariana Grande have in common?

The idea to write this blog post came to me as I was driving my daughter to her best friend's house (both mind you are HUGE Ariana Grande fans and they put on performances of ALL of her songs, ALL of the time).

So I was listening to this song (I really like the tune so we were both singing along) and then, I got to thinking ... this Thank you, Next .... it applies to so many events in life.

Now, you may wonder what Ariana Grande and her Thank you, Next song has to do with all this talk about startups and actors.

Well, Ariana Grande has been a class-act from a very tender age (13) and her success has been crescendo and exponential over these last few years, so in terms of professional rejection, I am not so sure Ariana has felt the heat.

However, in her song, "Thank you, Next" Ariana tells us a story. Her story focuses on her past relationships and how they affected her current path in life. She expresses gratitude to all her ex's because she was a big enough person to learn the life lessons that were taught to her in all of these former relationships and can peacefully move on, as a wiser and more mature woman. It's a song about moving on and getting to where you need to be... despite the rejection. Ariana Grande's contagious song is all about positivity.

I started to reflect on the process of rejection and how so many people struggle to make their dreams literally come true.

It takes very strong inner courage and self-love to continue to forge a path on the bumpy, steep and sinuous road towards success.

Pitching to Venture Capitalists, business angels, launching a crowdfunding campaign, auditioning for a commercial, a movie, pitching a script, submitting to a publishing house... I mean, we are talking some pretty serious bumpy, steep and sinuous roads ahead.

Thank you, next

Even if you’ve got a wonderful business idea, you can face hundreds of rejections and spend so much time just trying to get by, pay the bills, and work on your idea until you hit the next milestone. This return on your time and effort is huge... much like what actors and actresses go through when their dreams bring them to Tinsel Town with hopes of making it big and writers who collect in scrapbooks the number of rejections from publishing houses.

Startups and entrepreneurs need to prepare, work their pitches, carefully curate their image, background, show enthusiasm, know their market, know how to network, and deal well with the stress. I probably could substitute actor, actress, or writer right now for startups and entrepreneurs and the same sentence would hold true.

The challenge of getting a break as a startup with a great idea or an actor/actress, writer with great potential is compounded by the number of people out there who want to do just that.

There are massive amounts of people waiting in the wings. Everyone is inspired to dream. Being an entrepreneur and launching the next Unicorn, becoming as well-known an actor like Bradley Cooper or turning into the next J.K. Rowling, is a pretty enticing notion.

You have to learn to take the Thank you, Nexts and move on.

The most important take-away besides surrounding yourself with a tribe of positive people who believe in you and support you, keep you grounded, and tell it to you straight is to listen to feedback. In fact, many of the most successful entrepreneurs say they have learned to walk into investor meetings expecting a no and value the opportunity as an excellent way to get feedback and practice their pitches.

The right mindset can really help protect you and keep you solidly locked into the game.

You have to see failure as the beginning or the middle, but never the end.

Believe in yourself and that you can and will achieve the huge and wonderful outcomes you are capable of. However, use the Thank you, Nexts to move on and grow. Use these Thank you, Nexts, as a way to rethink how you can improve your odds of getting funding, better traction, better terms and, investors.

Here are some ideas for you:

  • Study how the fundraising process works and which fundraising is best for you (VC, BA, Loans, Crowdfunding...),

  • Take time to reevaluate your choices: seek fundraising according to your own personality, business type, and stage of development your company is currently in (this criteria, especially the third one of company development stage may not be the same over time),

  • Use the rejections to re-evaluate if your choice of funding is the one best adapted to your situation,

  • Understand what investors want and which investors could be a good match for your offering,

  • Take the time to gain market traction: take charge of curating your network, creating engagement through digital marketing, grow your tribe, your audience, send email updates to prospective and current investors,

  • Attend pertinent events, use LinkedIn and grow your network,

  • Leverage outside expertise to position your company and attract capital: thought-leadership articles, interviews (LinkedIn, contribute articles to magazines, Medium, participate in round-tables),

  • Get introductions to investors,

  • Become a master of storytelling. This is essentially done by putting together a great combination of 15 to 20 slides that tell the story of your business convincingly. Make your story personal. Stick to your plans and stay organized.


Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

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