Do you have a revolutionary idea you want to pitch to investors? What if you are so visionary and ahead of time, only you can see it? Think about pitching accessing the internet with your phone in 1990, or flying a metal box across the Atlantic in 1890, or driving an oil eating machine that runs ten times faster than a horse in 1790.

You think you're Steve Jobs pitch the iPhone, but you could look like this guy:


If you think you can just show up and people will line up to invest, think again. While you see yourself as the next Steve Jobs, most, if not everyone, will think you're crazy.

This doesn't just happen in real life. It happens in Game of Thrones, too. In last week's episode (Season 7, Episode 3), Jon Snow demonstrated how not to pitch your great idea.

Here's a clip:


Fans of the book and show have waited for years--decades, even--for this epic meeting between our two heroes. How did the final Song of Ice and Fire start? Not well. Jon Snow wanted to convince Daenerys Targaryen to shift her whole war effort to be against the Army of Undead. It's probably easier to convince her to invest in smart phone.

Let's translate this into a modern investor pitch scenario. Think about a young unknown entrepreneur named Jon pitching a big idea to Mark Cuban. For the purpose of this article, I will also skip the political discussions such as "bending the knee" and who should be the king.

'Game of Thrones' in real life

Mark Cuban's advisor Tyrion starts with an introduction: "Meet Mark. Owner of Dallas Mavericks, star of Shark Tank, founder of broadcast.com, member of the three-comma club, future President of the United States..." This is intended to make Jon pee his pants before the pitch starts.

Jon doesn't take the bait. "If you want to be rich, you have to invest in my company," he says.

Cuban chuckles: "You're funny. Have you seen my companies, my show, my bank account, my one million twitter followers, my NBA trophy, and the millions of people begging me to invest? Why do I need you again?"

"You should stop investing in meaningless ideas on the Shark Tank, and invest $50 million in my company," says Jon. "I'm building a quantum four-dimensional simulation algorithm, combining virtual reality, robotics and AI. It will disrupt every industry on earth and all your companies."

Cuban: "Is this guy for real? I'm from a poor Jewish family in Pittsburgh. I started my first business at 12. I became a millionaire at 32, a billionaire at 41, and an NBA champion at 53. I accomplished all these not because of some pie-in-the-sky idea, but because of my real businesses sense. Guess what: My sense tells me you're full of it."

Davos, Jon's advisor, intervenes. "You might not believe or have heard of him, Mark," Davos says. "But Jon is no joke. He had his first patent at age 16. He ran a college software club. He was also one of the early employees at Oculus and Google robotic."

"Mark, with all due respect, you're successful because you got lucky and Yahoo was dumb," Jon interjects. "I'm the real genius."

The negotiation broke down and Jon returned to his hotel room. He was frustrated: "How do I convince people who don't know me that what I am building is truly revolutionary?"

Luckily, Tyrion knows Jon and is able to step in as a mediator. "People can't understand abstract concepts like you do," Tyrion says. "You need to pitch him with familiar terms, such as 'real-world matrix'." Also, you can't expect $50 million after one meeting. No one does that."

Jon says, "I got rejected. I want to go home."

Tyrion: "You can't be successful if you can't handle rejection. Mark won't put down $50 million on a guy he doesn't know with a concept he doesn't understand. Why don't you ask for a small favor, such as being on your board of advisors, or introducing you to a VR investor? Build a relationship first."

Jon takes a step back and met Cuban again. "Mark, we got off on a bad start," he says. "You know how smart I am. Why don't you become my advisor first and stay plugged in? If my tech is real, you will be part of the next big thing. If it's not, it won't cost you much."

Cuban: "This sounds reasonable."

Three takeaways

  1. No matter how good your idea is, don't expect people to get it right away. Explain in terms they can understand.
  2. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, start with small ask and build a relationship first.
  3. Don't take rejection personally and give up easily. You might need multiple meetings to get what you want.
Published on: Aug 14, 2017