The early stages of the venture-backed startup life cycle can be daunting. There is immense pressure to deliver a viable product, land meetings with investors, and secure the necessary funding to keep going — all at breakneck speed. Companies that graduate from the life cycle phase to growth-stage scale-up have always been a rare breed. Still, with the current market backdrop and venture dollars that are not easy to come by, those companies are rarer than ever.
At TechCrunch Disrupt in September, I had the opportunity to be pitched onstage by five fantastic early-stage companies as part of Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield. Afterward, my colleague Sophie Starck and I synthesized three imperatives for any founder looking to craft a pitch that cuts through today’s market malaise and captivates investors.
The importance of “why now”
Venture capital is just one of many ways to finance a business, and it is best suited when the speed of growth is a primary consideration. In turn, rapid growth requires more than a solution to a problem — it requires identifying an acute pain point that demands immediate attention. Regardless of how robust a product may be, without a clear articulation of the urgency to adopt it, there is a risk of stagnating growth and, ultimately, misalignment with VC investors.
Venture capital is just one of many ways to finance a business, and it is best suited when the speed of growth is a primary consideration.
A compelling pitch expresses how market tailwinds are decidedly on the company’s side. These tailwinds could be new regulation that forces organizational change, a paradigm shift in consumer behavior, or fundamentally novel technology that makes what seemed impossible possible. Pinpointing the “why now” is crucial for realizing a venture-backable growth curve.
Dylan Fox started building AssemblyAI, a platform that allows any company with voice data to stand up AI applications, back in 2017. In the earliest days of Dylan’s journey, many people couldn’t distinguish AssemblyAI from general speech-to-text transcription services, and few were thinking about how an intelligence layer on top of their voice data might unlock new experiences. But Dylan had conviction that as the volume of audio and video data swelled exponentially thanks to the likes of Spotify and Zoom, so too would the desire to leverage that data creatively.
Later, when ChatGPT brought LLM capabilities to the foreground, and the floodgates opened, he stood ready to capture even more demand. Now, nearly every company with proprietary access to voice data is actively thinking about enhancing their offerings with AI. The market tailwinds have been decidedly on Dylan’s side, and the company’s growth trajectory reflects this exhilarating context.