Graduation night is special. It is the last time you’ll officially be a part of the program, so you want to finish with a different narrative. You want to show the story of how your company has evolved over time, you want to thank the key people who have helped you (and in so doing show you are coachable), and then paint the picture of where you are going next. That last part is key because this is your last chance to recruit a bunch of mentors to make a commitment to help you post graduation.
You have only 3 minutes for your graduation pitch. We recommend you structure it like this:
- Micro Pitch (15-30 seconds): Just give us the gist, not a full pitch. Probably just your customer segment and value proposition is all you have time for.
- Example: “All inPlay is an online community where the visually impaired can play with their fully-sighted friends and family unhandicapped and as equals.”
- Progress Summary (15-30 seconds): Tell us where you were when you applied to VVM. Then tell us where you are today.
- Example: “When we applied to VVM we were two guys with an idea. We had no idea who our customer was, what exactly they wanted, how to reach them, nor did we have the skills to build software! Today we have secured distribution partnerships with two leading organizations for the blind. Through those organizations, we have a prototype in the hands of a hundred blind users, who love the product!”
- 1st Major Learning/Result (15-30 seconds): Tell us the first major thing you learned because of VVM and thank those who specifically helped you learn that thing. Telling this story is important because the entrepreneurs who succeed are the ones who learn the fastest and can build relationships. Nothing proves you can do this, and nothing thanks your mentors more meaningfully, than showing the room how mentors helped you learn quickly.
- Example: “Thanks to our facilitators Sally Smith and Juan Yu, we were introduced to the lead researcher from the American Foundation for the Blind. Through her and her introductions, we discovered that our assumptions about our customers were way off. Turns out our customers are much older than we thought, didn’t give a lick about playing first person shooters, but were desperate for the chance to play traditional card & board games with their friends and family.”
- 2nd Major Learning/Result (15-30 seconds): the second major thing you learned!
- Example: “So now we knew who are customer was and what they wanted… but we still had no way to build it! Luckily, Narayanan Gupta and Michelle Davinski connected us to a hackathon where we met Nivag Teserda, literally one of the top software engineers in the Valley. The Hackathon was the first date in a series that our mentors guided us through leading to us successfully recruiting Nivag to become a partner in the company. Two weeks later an initial prototype was in the hands of potential customers and since then he has cranked out new versions every week based on user feedback.”
- If you have time, 3rd Major Learning/Result (15-30 seconds): the 3rd major thing you learned!
- Final Ask (30 seconds): This is your last chance to make new connections that can last beyond the program. Make it short & sweet. How to Craft an Ask
- Example: “We want to grow All inPlay to the point where its community and technologies can help millions of blind and visually impaired people. But we have a long way to go. We particularly struggle with being seen as a brand that is exclusively for the small number of blind people in our country, instead of something that can help the 10x larger number of people with poor vision. So how do we solve these branding issues? How do we find channel partners? How else we can deploy (and monetize) our core technology to help the visually impaired. Thank you!”