Tips for your First Pitch Competition

Posted on Monday, August 19th, 2019

Written by Kamil Chatila & Jane Ong

You've got a great idea, maybe even an MVP but you need money. The next logical step is to win pitch competitions! But, without a product in stores, no website or any experience under your belt, how will you even get into one? We're a young startup in that position and we just got in our first pitch competition, the Canadian National Exhibition's Emerging Innovators Pitch Competition. Here are some of our takeaways from that whole experience:

1. Always be on the lookout

via GIPHY - GIF caption: Two lemurs looking around

We've all heard of CNE, Canada's largest fair and the 4th biggest in North America, but most of us don't know that they've been hosting a pitch completion since 2015, and we'd have missed it entirely if it wasn't for looking online (actually, we forgot how we stumbled upon it, but most pitch competitions are posted online these days). Always look for non-traditional places to apply to.

2. Get a second opinion

via GIPHY - GIF caption: Gentleman in a suit looking pensive and holding up finger saying, "Can I say something real quick?"

Everyone has a unique way of presenting and getting many people to read the same script allows you to see your story in a new light. As a food scientist, Jane has a no-nonsense way of speaking that doesn't translate well to pitching. While practicing, we got people from various fields to give us input on how they would do it and incorporated their ideas in our final pitch.

3. Practice practice practice

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You want to look natural on camera and sound confident. YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES. Between equipment malfunctions and slips of the tongue, it took us over 10 takes to get to the final product. Also, make sure your SD card has more space than you think you need! You can thank us later.

4. Have fun!

via GIPHY - GIF caption: Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute from The Office doing a happy dance

No one wants to sit through a boring pitch, let alone make one! Incorporate your humour (and your company!) into the pitch and showcase your passion. We made our pitch ours by adding puns, funny graphics and not taking ourselves too seriously. If you don't even want to watch your pitch, how can you expect others to?

5. Don't hesitate to reach out to the organizers

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If it's been a while and you haven't received any updates, don't be afraid to ask for one! After not hearing back by the week the results were supposed to come out, all it took was a short (polite!) email to the organizers to figure out what we did wrong. Turns out we weren't checking the right inbox... Always remember which email you used to sign up, learn from our mistakes.

6. Above all, don't be scared to apply!

via GIPHY - GIF caption: Man climbing cliff beside ocean with caption, "Fortune favors the brave"

You can always make excuses for why not to apply. We found out about CNE's pitch competition 3 days before the application was due and one of us was in the Arctic! It took 2 sleepless nights to get it done, but we managed. The worst-case scenario is that you got more experience for the next pitch competition to come along.

Now, here's the video that got us into our first pitch competition.

If you're coming to the CNE this year, be sure to check out our booth to taste our cheese, and come and watch our pitch at 2.30pm on August 24th!


Kamil Chatila & Jane Ong are the founders of NeoPhyto Foods a startup striving to produce sustainable versions of everyday foods by combining innovative new techniques and time-tested tastes. Their inaugural product is a tangy, smooth, creamy soy-based vegan cheese.

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