Guest post: How to play it safe so that your startup gets invited to pitch and what next

This is a guest post by Boris Borchert, an editor and the social media expert in the online marketing team of ImmobilenScout24. ImmobilienScout24 is the leading real estate platform in Germany with over 5 million unique users per month. He is also on the executive board of the DJV Berlin, a German journalist organisation.

We have built an incubator for startups at our company in Germany. People use all kind of communication to send us their startup ideas, but most of them land in my email in-box. I won’t go into further detail about their ideas because discreetness is our number one rule. But I am still astonished every day what people think might make me decide to choose their idea for further recognition. And I am used to getting strange mails (I once received a job application online with a blinking and smiling Christmas tree on the bottom of the page).

If I were a psychologist, I might find it interesting to study if people purposely kill their chances of getting invited to pitch because of some kind of natural fear of becoming successful. But I am not. So, instead, this is a somewhat selfish post to help save us all some time.

1. The first (very German) rule:

We are not long time buddies. We didn’t fall drunk together in high school or something like that so never ever greet me using my first name until we know each other better. I know it’s a social world but it’s not businesslike in Germany. By doing that, you act like a social media nerd, which might earn you some points of sympathy, but a really bad B grade for artistic value.


Although I am a cinĂ©aste, I don’t want cliffhangers or trailers. I am sure you found the most amazing solution for the ultimate problem. But not naming the problem, the solution or both leaves me rather more sad than excited. You really want it to depend on my mood whether or not I ask politely for more information or send the “So sorry, we didn’t accept you” -message? In four words: Come to the point.


I know you imagine our CEO twirling his fingers all day just waiting for your call or acceptance of a lunch invitation to talk about your idea. So it might depress you to hear that he is rather busy. To quote Yoda: Patience! Asking every second day does not help. A gentle reminder after four weeks of silence might be a good idea instead.


A business plan doesn’t make an idea and an idea isn’t a business plan. The most splendid power point presentation and a business plan predicting a golden era of income can’t feign a good idea. The idea instead need not be brilliant. It needn’t even be new. But it must be monetizable in a (short term) way or give the company some other kind of advantage.


Don’t play hide and seek. A link to a website explaining the idea is good. A website only your geek friends understand, isn’t. I might be a geek, but the guy in charge who gives the money normally is not (Zuckerbergs excluded). If you are not sure, ask mom if she has a clue what you are talking about.

And when you’ve finally made it and get an invitation to pitch:


If you give a presentation and act as if your idea is an unpleasant skin disease that you should try not to come in contact with, I won’t be sure you are the right guy even if the idea is a good one. Live your idea. I don’t expect you to be Jerry Seinfeld, but if I get the impression you don’t believe in your idea, why should I?


Be prepared for the pitch. This might sound obvious but unfortunately it is not. Check how much time you need for your presentation and leave enough time for questions. You won’t get more time than agreed in advance. If you are clever you bring your presentation not only on your laptop (two are better, just in case), but on a stick as well in case the local hardware isn’t in love with your computer. Depending on the company, old school handouts (more than one) might be wise as well.


If you have a brilliant idea don’t discuss it with your friends endlessly until someone else comes up with the same idea. Give the idea in you a chance to come out and play. Good luck!