WATCH: FoodBytes! Chicago: How should startups begin an elevator pitch?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags FoodBytes! Rabobank

How should you begin an elevator pitch, and what raises red flags for potential investors? FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson headed to Chicago to quiz the judges at Rabobank's FoodBytes! pitch competition.

Speaking as 15 entrepreneurs chatted to FoodBytes! mentors and rehearsed their pitches the day before the competition, FoodBytes! Chicago​  judge and investment director at ADM’s venture arm Darren Streiler said entrepreneurs typically begin a pitch by outlining a problem and explaining how they plan to solve it.

A variation of this might be to explain how they are uniquely equipped to prosper as the landscape changes, he said: "What I like to tell startups that I work with is to describe a shift that’s occurring, and when this shift occurs there are winners and losers, and you need to position your startup as being someone that can take advantage of this shift and become a winner." ​​

So what gives him the confidence that the entrepreneur or team in question has what it takes to execute on a strategy?

It’s pretty basic, he said, but first off, he’s looking for proof that they are 100% focused on the new business: “Show me that they’re committed. I never like investing in a startup where this individual is doing this on the side….

“I understand you need to make ends meet, but really show me that you’re committed to this startup,” ​added Streiler at ADM Ventures, which has made strategic investments in startups including Sustainable Bioproducts,​ Geltor​,​ and Perfect Day​,​ which produce proteins via microbial fermentation.

Red flags in pitches

As for red flags in pitches, Michael Lavin, fellow judge and founder at food & agtech VC fund Germin8 Ventures​ said alarm bells immediately start ringing if a startup does not have a clear sense of the competitive set: “Not knowing the competitive universe very well… not having an analysis that shows how they stand apart."

Another red flag is when he gets “the sense that they are not being honest with me,”​ added Lavin. “It’s usually the people element, it could be that they don’t know the answers, and that’s OK, but to try to compensate for that by trying to establish more credibility the wrong ways can be a very big red flag.”

Learn more about FoodBytes! Chicago HERE​.

FoodBytes! Chicago winners L-R: Hector Saldivar, Tia Lupita; Daphne Mazarakis, LocalCoho; and Juan Guzman, Capro-X (picture: Cassie Borreson)

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