Your elevator pitch can have more beneficial effects than just landing you investment. Even if you’re not ready to take on the responsibility that comes with an investor, in the early days of business there are some things money can’t buy.

For entrepreneur Nicole Buskiewicz, the most important takeaways from pitch nights are validation and confidence. There’s no confidence booster quite like replacing the mirror with a live audience.

“It’s a great opportunity, not just to pitch for potential customers and investors, but also to practice public speaking and calm those nerves,” says Nicole.

In March this year, Nicole entered Academy Xi’s Pitch X competition to pitch her very niche business idea: Advoc8. Born from her own frustrations working in the political sector, Nicole came up with the idea of creating a political engagement platform that helps connect advocacy professionals with data and technology.

“There are thousands of people around the country doing this everyday. Until now, they haven’t had any way to keep track of all their calls, meetings and interactions with government. They’ve been relying on spreadsheets and emails,” explains Nicole.

“Advoc8 was designed as a bespoke advocacy platform to help these teams who are engaging with government, work more efficiently.”

In pitching her idea for the first time at the Pitch X competition, Nicole took away first prize, despite her nerves and niche idea.

“This was a really good exercise because I knew I had one minute. I put everything down to one page, tried to memorise it to the greatest extent possible and was able to really think about the pitch quite clearly,” Nicole remembers.

At the time of pitching, Nicole admits her biggest challenge was spreading the word about Advoc8 to the right market. Growth marketing was a large gap in the business that needed to be filled. In winning the Pitch X competition, Nicole received a growth marketing course, which she says is one of the great prizes to come out of the night.

“[Growth Marketing] is one of our ongoing areas for improvement and for myself to understand how we can better our marketing efforts,” says Nicole.

Advoc8 has now been up and running for 18 months, and has successfully gone from pitch to validation.

There are many ways to validate your startup idea including testing, growing and of course finding product/market fit. Pitch nights like Pitch X help entrepreneurs to understand and articulate what they’re doing and solving. These pitches will need to perfected and iterated throughout the course of their startups life.

“[Pitch X] gave me enormous validation, not only to be able to stand up in-front of a group of people, but for the business concept itself and the fact that all these amazing judges thought that Avoc8 had legs,” says Nicole.

On a pitch night, you never know who will be in the room: who’s looking to invest, who needs a cofounder or who has the skills to help you grow.

In the meantime, listen to Alex Blumberg, CEO of Gimlet Media, discuss how to not pitch a billionaire in his podcast: StartUp.

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