“All you need is love”… and a good pitch. Why hacks are a must for business people

Today is the first day of 2017 and I want to share one of the my brightest experiences of 2016 with you. Or to be precise I want to tell you a story about telling a story.

Preface

It all started with my current job and our great culture of innovation. Once in a quarter we organise internal hackathons where the main goal is to come up with a new disruptive idea for our product and develop the first prototype in one day. And of course pitch it to everyone. It’s a very nice opportunity to work on the projects you never have time for and collaborate with people from other teams. And of course have fun.

After a few internal hacks I realised that I want to experience a real hackathon where people code non-stop to deliver magic in 3 days. And it was the right moment. By lucky coincidence my colleague was going to a Hackathon in Stuttgart and invited me to join him.

Prologue

I must say it was very challenging.

First of all, I was one of the few business people there and I am a woman. This combination is not very typical for a hackathon. Oh yeah, and I didn’t speak German. But I must say that it is diversity that brings perfect synergy.

Secondly, since I am a woman and a marketeer, I’m not used to 24h coding and sleeping on beanbags. It was freezing cold there in the night and only humour and creativity helped me cope with this.

Thirdly, I had to pitch our project in English to a crowd of Germans in 3 short minutes and persuade people with background in technology that our project was innovative.

But it was really amazing. People who think business people will have nothing to do at a hackathon are terribly wrong. Apart from developing ideas, doing design and other fancy stuff, there’s a pitch part that is not as easy as it seems. Developing a good story that will trigger an audiences’ emotions and becomes memorable is hard, it’s a hell of a hack too!

And here’s what we did.

Chapter 1. The product.

One of the sponsors was a car-sharing company called car2go. What is good about them is that in Stuttgart they offer electric cars only, it’s eco-friendly and modern. It’s really affordable and the best part is that you can leave a car anywhere in the city, not only in the spots they defined. It’s really affordable and they are very techy.

And from my personal marketing point of view – they have a truly amazing brand with well-defined guidelines. In other words, we had a great modern product to work with that inspired both the tech and the business members of our team.

And the idea was to make the service even more affordable and develop a feature that will allow to share rides. This could potentially make commute cheaper than public transport.

Chapter 2. The team.

When you plan to develop a completely new project with the people you just met you have to plan carefully what kind of skills you will need. Our team was a really good mix – a front-end developer, 3 back-end developers and a marketeer.

It was really interesting to see how the developers were building their infrastructure from scratch and organising their process of working together. It’s amazing how unified the standards in this industry are. 2 students from Stuttgart (a German and a Kazakh) and 2 full-employed developers (one working for Mercedes, another for Beekeeper) – they all spoke the same language straight from the beginning and knew exactly what to do. I was really shocked. The world of marketing can never be so organised and well-defined.

And just a side note, I was really impressed to see how passionate all the people there were about coding. They were literally coding days and nights to bring the idea to life. Developer is not a profession, it’s a way of life.

Chapter 3. The pitch.

The prototype was working good, but we were not the only team who had this idea of the rides sharing feature and was building this functionality. And this is when it comes up to a good story.

Our project was called car2gether, I guess there’s no need to explain where the inspiration came from 😃 And in my view here’s is what business people can do to make your pitch fly:

1) Attention to the detail

Or in other words, branding matters. Making the idea more personalised for the brand you work with is a sign of respect and attention.

2) Consistent and easy-going story

People can’t consume too much information in 3 minutes, no need to overload them with details. Everybody wants to listen to a story that explains difficult things in a simple way. We told ours with the help of Sir Paul McCartney (I hope he doesn’t mind). Because many decades ago The Beatles already advised everyone to “car together” 😃

Sir Paul was a co-narrator and together we told a story about a girl called Michelle who had drinks with her friends, but doesn’t have a driving license, and a guy named Ralf who’s been working like a dog and just doesn’t want to drive home alone. And also both don’t mind to save some cash.

As you can see, this was a match made in heaven for the product we developed.

3) Take cultural attributes into account

It’s important to understand who is the audience of your pitch and what is the potential market of the product. Stuttgart is the heart of the Swabian culture and Swabian people are known for their love to save money. So a car-sharing service that allows to save money, drink beer after work and have an option to go home by car with someone else driving was a perfect cultural match.

4) Memorable ending

If you can add an emotional accord to the last part of your story it will make it more memorable. The most important part is to make sure this emotional part still delivers the idea of your product and doesn’t cannibalise it. In our case the functionality name itself gave was a perfect way to finish the story.

“Michelle and Ralf can just share a ride or it could be a beginning of another beautiful story. In can be car2gether or car 2 get her. Because like sit Paul once said: “all you need is love”… and a good car-sharing service.

Epilogue

In the end, we won the prize for the best pitch and the sponsor’s award from car2Go.

I believe there are many factors that construct success and luck is for sure one of them. And it’s the one you can’t influence. But having the product you like and creating an environment of diversity with different people bringing necessary skills from all the sides of production – this is the formula that creates perfect synergy and increases the chances for success.

And they lived happily ever after.

P.S. Big thank you to the car2go and logicline teams for the visuals and photos used in this post.

Written by barikhina