The art of the elevator pitch

Elevator going up.

Jeremy Hobson: We're coming up on graduation season which means it's "Business Plan Competition" -- time at the nation's business schools. From Harvard to Rice to the University of Chicago, teams of student entrepreneurs have been honing their elevator pitches. MIT holds its final round tomorrow.

From the Entrepreneurship Desk at Oregon Public Broadcasting, Mitchell Hartman has our report.


Mitchell Hartman: This year, for the first time, contestants in MIT's pitch competition were able to submit their start-up ideas not just on paper and in person, but also in 60-second videos on YouTube.

MBA student Kourosh Kaghazian is running the contest.

Kourosh Kaghazian: It's really important for start-ups that have limited resources to be able to use social media platforms to sort of promote their products or services, to recruit talent or raise funding.

YouTube opened up this year's field beyond the elite East Coast MBA network of MIT, Harvard, Wharton and the like. Video pitches came from Georgia Tech, the University of Utah -- also Taiwan, Cameroon, India and Pakistan.

Khagazian says there's an art to the 60-second elevator pitch. It's got three key ingredients, and we'll mash up some of the YouTube videos to demonstrate.

First, there's the problem.

Clear Ear: Everyone produces ear wax. But for 35 million Americans, their wax buildup is so large that it plugs the ear canal, causing symptoms such as hearing loss and ringing in their ears.

The Stable: We provide access to high-end exotic automobiles for a fraction of the cost of ownership.

Sanergy: Holy crap -- 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation in the developing world.

Next ingredient: How your solution works in the marketplace.

Clear Ear: With our patent-pending earwax-removal system, nurses can see into the ear canal while injecting water, thus avoiding complications like...

Bookxor: Second-by-second tenth-of-a-page-resolution analytics about...

Saathi: Banana fiber.

Banana fiber, OK.

Finally, no elevator pitch is complete without a closer. Something catchy to seal the deal.

Bookxor: And we're going to revolutionize education.

Sanergy: Help us as we turn s*** into gold.

Clear Ear: No messy cleanup -- it's quicker, it's safer, it's easier.

That last pitch you heard, by the way -- for Clear Ear, the earwax-removal start-up -- it won the beauty contest on YouTube. Tomorrow night, its student team from MIT and Stanford will compete against a dozen other finalists for MIT's $100,000 prize.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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