What is it about American entrepreneurs that make them so charismatic when they talk about their start-ups? Atelier US met the French Tech Tour organizers, who shared their views on the cultural differences between France and America when it comes to building a pitch for their start-up.

What is it about American entrepreneurs that make them so charismatic when they talk about their start-ups? Atelier US met the French Tech Tour organizers, who shared their views on the cultural differences between France and America when it comes to building a pitch for their start-up.

One thing is to build an innovative technology; another is to know how to talk about it. No matter how great your new software, you must be able to present it quickly and simply to any client, customer or VC you meet… even in an elevator, on your way to work. In Silicon Valley, this 30-second speech is called the “elevator pitch”, because it shouldn’t last longer than an elevator ride, just like in this famous scene in Working Girl - the first time a real elevator pitch appears in cinema. 

Atelier US met Stephane Alisse and Gaetan Gachet, organizers of the The French Tech Tour (FTT). One of the main goals of this 10-day intensive program is to teach French start ups how to build a good pitch and how to communicate in Silicon Valley. “When French entrepreneurs come to Silicon Valley for the FTT, there is definitely a culture shock in terms of marketing. A lot of our participants have developed amazing technologies and products, but they don’t necessarily know how to talk about it an efficient way, and make it attractive for clients or customers”, Gaetan says.

VP Marketing of Nimbula Reza Malekzadeh coaches the start-ups participating to the FTT. “When asked about their company, a lot of French entrepreneurs only focus on technological aspects of their software or online service, but that’s not what the pitch is about. Most of the time, your interlocutor doesn’t really care about the technology behind a product. What they really want to know about a new service is what it brings to the market and how it is to be used.” Reza explained that contrary to this trend in French entrepreneurship, American entrepreneurs almost never talk about technology when they pitch. Instead, they tell a story to make their product appealing even to people who know nothing about technology.

“The American pitch is about telling a story”, Reza Malekzadeh says. If you don’t tackle technological aspects of your product during your pitch, then when do you get to talk about it? Reza Malekzadeh explained that the elevator pitch is just the top of the iceberg of a more global marketing strategy. The elevator pitch is the shortest format used to present a company or a service, and therefore catch people’s attention. You can go deeper into technological explanations when you have a more informed audience and when you have more time then a simple elevator ride.

So, if you can’t get into technological details, what are you supposed to say in a pitch? Reza Malekzadeh considers the most important questions your pitch should answer are the following: Who are you? What problem is your start-up solving? How is it different from other actors on the market?  What makes your start-up interesting to your interlocutor?

As always, it is easier said then done. Building a good pitch is one of the hardest things in marketing, and as a matter of fact no one really tells you how to do it. So maybe a good way to test your pitch once you built it is to follow Reza's advice : “For me, the best way to test my pitch is to try it on my father. If he gets the message, than it’s a good pitch.” 

By Alice Gillet
English editorial manager