What's a Cafe Pitch?

What's a Cafe Pitch?


Disclaimer: Practice social distancing. Don't pitch people at a cafe during the pandemic. Instead, #cafepitch with my friends & me every week on Clubhouse:

Place: Clubhouse
Event: Startup Gauntlet
Time: Updated weekly, follow me @tamez on Clubhouse for info
Hosts: @tamez, @jonnystartup, weekly guests

You know how to elevator pitch. At least, you have heard of it and think you can elevator pitch. Still, until you have pitched a real investor in an actual elevator and had a positive outcome, there's no way to know.  

The thing is, if you are a startup founder, you probably won't find yourself riding in the same elevator as your target investors. They'll be at One Market, and you'll be two streets over, tapping away on your keyboard at WeWork. Even worse, you may be running startup operations from your parents' basement in a town like Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

That leaves you, as a founder, with a couple of options. First, create something so great that people throw money at you on the internet, and you don't need investors' money. If that's not happening yet, then create the best thing you can, and take every opportunity to talk to people about your startup. You have to get comfortable pitching, conversing, and putting yourself in situations where success is a possible outcome.

If you are in a tech city, one of those places might just be the cafe. When I lived in San Francisco, I'd often grab an afternoon cappaccino (*affogato) and work a few hours at a cafe. I crossed paths with people like Tim Ferriss, Dennis Crowley, Jack Dorsey, and others. When a heavy hitter is on the move, chances are high that they will pass through a cafe at some point during the day. I'm not saying to camp out and wait for people to show up, but position yourself for serendipity and always be ready to pitch.

I am giving you a playbook here. I ran the trial & error, so you can skip it and capitalize on the opportunity. When I started, I hadn't coined the term "cafe pitch" or even praticed pitching in an impromtu scenario. I was just trying to catch a coffee buzz, do the work, and build my startup. When I accidentaily got my first investor meeting this way, I realized that it could be part of a larger strategy.

Here's how it works:

  1. Practice and perfect a 60 second pitch.
  2. Be ready for a follow up conversation.  
  3. Have a realistic goal, like getting an email & scheduling a meeting with the person. Unless they ask, money is not yet part of the conversation.
  4. Create serendipity. Spend time in the right places. This might be parties, bars, or the new cafe downtown.
  5. Timing is critical. At a cafe, the ideal time is right after they have placed their order and are waiting at the counter. You can practice with strangers.
  6. Smile and introduce yourself. Ask him or her if they are interested in your sector - social apps, robot pets, space travel. If they say yes, it's a green light to pitch. If not, you will need to read the situation. Don't force it or be weird.
  7. If it's goes well, close. Ask for the meeting.

Remember, in startups and in life, a "no" is always better than a "what if". Always be ready to cafe pitch.