How I became comfortable pitching my startup idea, and how Material Depot made it into Atoms

June 16, 2022
“Clarity of thought is a must when pitching your startup idea & it helps if you write things down before the presentation. You need to convey your message to the prospects with absolute conviction within the first five minutes into the conversation.” – Material Depot’s Manish Reddy

Being a standout in any field involves breaking conventions - startup founders know this for a fact. However, inspiring examples always give us the courage to become a go-getter ourselves. Manish Reddy’s journey of pitching his idea to build an industry-first startup is one such inspiring story.

An engineer who went on to pursue liberal arts indicates the rebel in Manish, which is also reflected in his first attempt to build a startup. Seeking to bridge a major gap in the construction industry, Manish and his co-founder Sarthak Agarwal started Material Depot early this year. After journeying through the Atoms Accel program, the founder duo is all set to take their novel business idea to the next level. They aim to build a strong platform that will, in the future, completely digitize the construction industry.  

Manish & I met virtually to primarily discuss how he became comfortable with pitching his startup idea to investors. 

How did you land on the idea of Material Depot? 

My dad is an electrical contractor, my mom runs an electrical shop and my aunt is an interior designer. So, my association with the industry goes back to my childhood days. 

While working with my previous company, Boston Consulting Group, I had the opportunity to see how enterprises use digitization to scale rapidly. On superimposing that to the industry my parents were operating in, I noticed there hasn’t been any significant change here over the years. That’s when the idea first came to me. 

What are you aiming to solve with your platform?

Today, the entire material search process of the industry happens through tedious offline mediums like calls or store visits which is extremely time-consuming. So, we are essentially building a search engine for designers and architects to discover building materials under one roof. It’ll be a platform where they can search through lacs of material resources seamlessly.

We are also offering specialized tools to automate their workflow, whereby they can generate mood boards and estimates in seconds. 

Talking about pitching a business idea, let’s get down to the basics. From ideating to pitching your startup idea to investors – what has your journey been like? 

The first chunk of my journey was about transitioning from consulting to the startup world. Being in the consulting business, my idea of presentation was restricted to creating detailed slides on what needed to be solved. However, stepping into the startup world, I had to undergo a complete 180-degrees turn, in terms of how to present an idea. Since everyone in this space has very limited time, one has to be concise and clear in communicating a message. 

The industry that we’re a part of isn’t intuitive for a lot of people because empathy towards architects & designers and the problems they face doesn’t come naturally. So, explaining this to people outside the industry also takes time. 

However, we came to realize that our idea has merit. Once I was sure that our idea was backed by a solid business case, there was no looking back. That’s how I eventually got comfortable with pitching the business idea. 

Considering that people are always on the move, pitching an idea within a startup ecosystem is a different ball game. In that light, what would your advice be to budding entrepreneurs? 

We live in a busy world in general, but that is equally true for the business world. Investors have tons of meetings to attend on a daily basis and every week they’ll probably be meeting around 40-50 companies, if not more. So, your pitch has to be not just crystal clear, but brief as well. It is key to ensure that the message is conveyed within a very short span of time and the impact is such that it stays with them. 

With time, I’ve come to appreciate the learning that if you aren’t able to communicate your business idea within the first 5 minutes, you will lose the audience. It is crucial if you want to survive in this ecosystem.

You have to be sure of the two to three points that you want the investors to take away from your half-an-hour meeting. Things will automatically fall in place if you learn to empathize with the investor mentality. If there’s a lack of confidence in your pitch, they will not invest.

Would you say that pitching to investors is a one-size-fits-all experience?

No, that is not true. There is not much of a difference between a business idea and a sales pitch. You need to know your audience for both cases. When you pitch a business idea, the pitch always remains the same. However, you need to tweak your message delivery as you come across different types of stakeholders.

So, the best thing would be to look up the investors that you’re going to meet, and prepare  for the meeting accordingly. 

Do you have any pro-tip on how to stand out in the area of business pitching? 

The business idea may be clear in your head, but if the presentation lacks clarity, you will lose the game. So, be it investors, end-users, or even prospective media folks, once you pen down what you want to say, the process of taking it to the people becomes simpler. Remember, with clarity comes confidence, and that is what investors are looking for in the first place. 

Now that you’ve nailed the transition from consulting to pitching your startup idea - Would you like to share any noteworthy experience from your time in the Accel Atoms program?

At Accel Atoms, I was really surprised to see how helpful the entire cohort set was to each other. I ended up making some great friends within the cohort and my peer founders have been very responsive, be it anything. 

Even now, when the cohort is over, I’m very much in contact with a couple of my cohort mates. Honestly, having shared the same journey, talking to them is like therapy because in a way you can share your problems, right from business to anything that’s on the table.

If you had to advise your fellow founders as to why they should join the Accel Atoms family, what would be your response?

I’d give them two major pointers. First would be the point of non-dilutive capital, for sure, because you won’t be losing out on equity, to begin with. Second, and the best takeaway, as I’ve already mentioned, would be a great set of friends from your peer family within Accel Atoms.  

Also, apart from that, everyone in Accel is quite helpful. Be it anything, you can just call them and brainstorm, which is huge for young startups like us. 

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