Elevator pitching

by Trey Nosrac

Are you a trainer looking for a wealthy owner? Are you a harness handicapper tired of getting pummeled by the whales and high takeout? Are you a small-time breeder who wants to promote your yearling? Do you have a new racing product?

Sitting on the pier as you watch the harness racing ship sink or sail will not change your situation. Young or old, you need to try new things. As John Quincy said, “Try and fail but do not fail to try.” Do not fear looking like a fool, be bold. If it does not work, be more foolish, be more daring.

“Driving businesspeople back and forth from the airport in my LYFT was enlightening. Passengers would hop into the backseat and begin speaking English in foreign tongues as they prattled into their cell phones using terms like bootstrapping, verticals, synergy, elevators, TOFU, and VC entities?”

David smiled, “I was one of those passengers.”

“What the heck is TOFU?”

He explained. “TOFU is an acronym for the top of the funnel, the beginning stage of a deal.”

Rolling my eyes, I said, “Whatever happened to English using simple words like I got my foot in the door, they didn’t say IGMFITD?”

“Whatever you call it, Willy Loman faced the same problem in Death of a Salesman in 1949 that an entrepreneur faces in 2021 — the beginning of the deal. Anyone in your sport who is looking to try something innovative needs to look for funding. They need to start somewhere. Today, the beginning of a business proposal is called an elevator pitch.”

I scratched my chin stubble and asked, “Suppose my sport had an entrepreneur who hoped to use harness horseracing. Or a young trainer without many connections needs to find some owners to invest in a few standardbred yearlings? Where would they start?”

He shrugged. “No matter what you call it, the goal is to get an audience in front of money or investors. Massive projects require venture capitalists, the funders of new ideas. However, any wealthy individual can be a target. People with a new idea or product must find an entry point. The first step is always the most difficult.”

“How can any mortal do that? How do trainers find owners?” I asked.

“In the modern business world, just like the old world, you need to grab the ear of a party with resources and hit them with an elevator pitch — a brief, persuasive dialogue to spark interest in your concept. A good elevator pitch lasts about the same amount of time as an elevator ride, hence the name.”

I simplified, “You look for people with juice and get their attention.”

“Exactly, if you have an idea, you need to push it out to someone who can help. The process is as old as the sun, and so are the methods for approaches. Humor, intensity, confidence, uniqueness, and unpredictability are some methods to make ideas stand out. You must be brief and engage the target.”

“Give me a sample using horseracing.”

He thought for a few seconds and then said, “The first part of every elevator pitch is to state an obvious problem or need that your product or service addresses.”

He cleared his throat, changed his manner of speech, and said, “Horse racing has huge possibilities, but right now, the sport is running in circles. Wagering, which is everything, is not expanding. Demographics are fading like a Trump suntan in hard rain. The transition to social media markets is weak, and the prospects are bleak.”

I said, “Whoa, that seems a little dark. And the political wisecrack seems risky.”

He continued, “Pitches can be light or dark, are often risky, and there is no end to creativity. But, whatever your approach, the second part of an elevator pitch is a statement that contains the words, What I do or What we do.”

“Never fear, I am here, like a knight on a white horse. What my people do is create new gambling opportunities that allow sports like harness horse racing to leverage their products to gamblers on social media platforms.”

“Are you making this up on the fly?” I asked.

“Yes and no. I’ve heard hundreds of elevator pitches. I’m merely filling in the basic template. The third part of the formula is where you offer benefits, and it contains The Purpose.”

“People are always looking for ways to satisfy their gambling itch. Gambling laws are changing, not just in America but worldwide. Our purpose is that whenever a person with a cell phone has the itch to play, we can scratch it. Scratching the gambling itch is a revenue stream that does not run dry.”

I whistled, “That was impressive. If I had a billion dollars, you would have my attention.”

He smiled, “I’m not quite finished. Elevator pitchers try to stick the landing with a concise recap.”

“We can find revenues in digital media. Potential markets are unbelievable if the sport presents differently. Horse race gambling today is like taking a cab or riding in a horse and buggy. We can bring money and new markets to you, monster money, huge markets. Here is my card. Call me if you want to piggyback off racing, and we can set up a deck pitch.”

“Deck pitch?”

“That’s the next step if you get a nibble from the elevator. I’ll give you more elevator pitches for horse racing in the next few weeks.”

I shook my head, “I’m beginning to understand why you retired early.”

He smiled again, “Asking for funding or support is awkward. Convincing other people to believe in your dream is challenging and frustrating. However, if you want to get a hit, you need to swing the bat. Remember, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ Yoda says.”

I scratched my chin, “Give me a wild pitch for finding a new owner.”

…to be continued.