Peter Pham’s Can’t-Miss Startup Advice
Peter Pham’s name is synonymous with startup success. As the co-founder of Science Inc., which facilitated Dollar Shave Club’s one billion dollar exit to Unilever, and Science Blockchain, the first company to offer an ICO (yes, that stands for Initial Coin Offering), he’s had his fingerprints on numerous wave-making deals and projects. He’s also an angel investor and frequent advisor to technology companies.
Last week, WORLDZ co-founder Jim Sullos got the chance to pick Peter’s brain in front of a live audience at WeWork Santa Monica. Their conversation was as wide-ranging and insightful as you might expect. Over the course of an hour, Peter discussed how to find ideal partners and investors, reviewed some common pitching errors, and offered advice for companies that are trying to push a completed product. Check out some of the highlights below.
On common pitching errors:
Whatever your pitch is, it’s too long. It should be an elevator pitch – I call it the telephone game – if you tell it to me, will I be able to repeat it to my partner? Will I be able to tell my friends about it? If I’m excited about it I’m going to talk about it many, many times. I’m going to say it over and over in my head. The next person I meet, I’m going to be like “Hey, have you heard of this startup? Here’s the idea… What do you think?”
So if you overcomplicate your pitch, and I don’t understand it – if I can’t rearticulate it simply – it’s a problem. I stop pitching you dead.
On the importance of storytelling:
It’s always about storytelling. What is the story, what is the startup? If you’re telling somebody about your company, the goal is for them to feel like they’re missing out. Is the story going to be compelling enough for somebody to say yes?
Stories should be punchy and to-the-point, but also answer why you? Why are you so special? It could be a personal story, like you used to work with so and so, you have a special network, a special advisor that will help. Because if you’re starting at the idea phase, there has to be something special.
Building companies, being in it, making decisions and strategy every single day – that gets me up and excited.
On the role of human insecurity in entertainment and business:
We’re all insecure, every human being is insecure. If you look at the success of almost every product today – particularly on social media – it’s feeding and answering that insecurity. On Instagram, it’s like “I don’t have enough friends,” or “I’m not perceived as cool enough.” Same with Facebook, Youtube… Tinder and what not. If you think about all the success, it’s like you’re dealing with some sort of insecurity… so that’s consumer products in my mind, and they’re just fueling the entertainment world.
On finding ideal partners and companies:
I always say networking, but it’s a lot of chance. I met Delane [Parnell, founder of eSports powerhouse PlayVS] on the dancefloor at SXSW, [Michael] Dubin [founder of Dollar Shave Club] is one of his good friends, his brother went to college with Mike. [Sometimes I meet entrepreneurs at] conferences. It’s all random, it clicks or it doesn’t. I’m a very gut person, I can see where it’s going to go. It either clicks with me or not.
On making a good investor match:
You’re just finding someone who thinks like you. Someone who can see it, can think about it. The really good investors, the ones you want, are the ones who think about you all the time, who understand and can empathize with the product. Can they wake up and be excited about it?
I have a Google spreadsheet with 190 people that I will take money from, that I like. But there are thousands and thousands of investors. It’s about a collision moment. That investor woke up that day and something happened to them – they read an article, their wife or daughter or son said something. You just have to catch people in these certain moments in their lives. It’s no different from dating. It’s no different. Time, place, and circumstance play… biases play…
You just have to catch people in these certain moments in their lives. It’s no different from dating.
Tips if you’ve already built your product:
If you’re going into A or seed, spend time on things that show opportunity. It would be great if you had a million dollars in revenue, if you have a million users, but most likely you don’t. So that’s why I say forget the main quantitative numbers; it’s the little things in-between that matter the most. The little things like conversion as a percentage. It’s about “For every 100 people that come in, 99 do this.” That’s what I’m looking for, because I can extrapolate later. Focus on the little morsels that could expand over time.
Peter Pham will join us at WORLDZ 2018 as a part of our LaunchPad Program (October 17th in LA), a forum designed to unearth ‘diamond in the rough’ startups and help them fine-tune their pitch for successful next stage growth. Peter will share best practices and guidance to these up-and-coming founders as they compete for the coveted first prize recognition on the WORLDZ main stage!