Bruno Francois's appearance on the popular TV show got him $500,000 and Mark Cuban's seal of approval--and provided vital lessons on how to deliver a masterful pitch.
When Bruno Francois went on the entrepreneur-themed reality TV series Shark Tank last June, all he wanted was $90,000 in return for 5 percent of equity to further develop his photography app, Cycloramic. Instead, he got $500,000 and investor Mark Cuban's seal of approval. How did he do it? By giving a killer presentation that hit all the right notes. Here's what you can learn from him about pitching a product, whether on camera or off.
Do Your Homework
Weeks before the show, Francois devoted some time to researching which of the sharks (i.e., potential investors) would be best for his business. "The point of the show is to make a deal," he tells Inc., "so there's a a whole strategy to doing some research and looking at the sharks' portfolios." That meant meeting with startups who had worked with Mark Cuban and researching the companies the other sharks had invested in previously.
Keep It Brief
Within only seconds after walking on stage, Francois managed to introduce himself, explain how much funding he wanted, and what his product was called. From there, he gave his elevator pitch, explaining how his app rotates a smartphone 360 degrees to take panoramic photos without the need for your hands or even a tripod. "With Cycloramic, you're going to be able to truly capture the whole picture," he promised.
Give Them a Taste
Nothing sells your product like seeing it in action. When Francois set his phone on a base and let the app do its thing, the sharks were visibly impressed. Before he could say yes to any of their six-figure offers, two of the sharks, Daymond John and Kevin O'Leary, were lightheartedly mugging for the camera--a sign of a great demonstration. Francois gets bonus points for avoiding technical glitches and hooking the smartphone up to a big-screen TV so everyone could see the panoramic photos the app created.
Know the Answer to Questions Before They're Asked
Part of what made Francois's presentation so good was how informed he seemed. He knew Lori Greiner would ask if the phone needed the base in order to spin, and that she and the other sharks would want to see what happened when he removed it. When Cuban asked about the technology that enables the app to make the phone move on its own, Francois explained: "When we saw [the phone] was moving a bit, like with a vibration, we played with the frequency--we turned it on and off--and then we tried the rotation with the compass and [saw] how fast it goes."
Have Some Traction
What really set Francois apart from other Shark Tank contestants was the fact he had been working on Cycloramic for more than a year. He already had accolades from tech columnist David Pogue, who called the app "the freakiest darned thing you ever saw," and Apple co-inventor Steve Wozniak, who used Cycloramic to film a tour of his kitchen that went viral. Even better, the app had received 660,000 downloads and had a utility patent. Francois could also speak authoritatively about sales projections, valuations, and competitors.
Let the Deals Come to You
Francois knew going into the show that he wanted Cuban and Greiner to back him. Cuban's app expertise was unparalleled, and as a fellow inventor, Greiner's ingenuity was hard to beat. But Francois didn't want to come off as too desperate, so he let the sharks come to him. Without saying much of anything, he simply watched as they fought one another for a stake in Cycloramic.