The Hot Seat Goes Virtual

A man pitches his business venture

You identify your audience. You hone your ask. You practice your pitch. You get ready for questions from the audience. And, then—you log on to Zoom.

One of Summer Venture’s most well-known sessions, the Blank Center for Entrepreneurship’s Hot Seat is eagerly anticipated and often talked about. For this year’s virtual Summer Catalyst accelerator program, the Blank Center team adapted Hot Seat pitch sessions for an online delivery format that provides Summer Catalyst entrepreneurs with the opportunity to strategically improve their pitching.

Throughout the summer, each entrepreneur pitches to the Summer Catalyst cohort. Following the pitch, the entrepreneur immediately enters a rebuild session with a small working group of their peers. Hot Seat sessions are intensive, and the entrepreneurs walk away with constructive feedback and clear next steps.

The added complexity, of course, is pitching online. The entrepreneurs must work that much harder to engage their audience and keep their attention. Blank Center Executive Director Debi Kleiman, who recently published First Pitch: Winning Money, Mentors, and More for Your Startup, suggests tightening up sentences or adding a memorable story to add energy and evoke emotion. And, the entrepreneurs must master the technology as well, to ensure a seamless experience.

Ultimately, Hot Seat serves not only as critical preparation for the Summer Catalyst Showcase, but also for the creation of a powerful pitch that the entrepreneurs can use moving forward.

Register for the Summer Catalyst Showcase to be held on Thursday, August 6.

One Entrepreneur’s Experience

Jason Shatsky ’21, co-founder of TicketRev, was the first Summer Catalyst entrepreneur to enter the Hot Seat this summer. With the B.E.T.A Challenge and many other pitching opportunities under his belt, Shatsky was ready to pitch his venture TicketRev. But, the Hot Seat, he said, was unlike any other experience.

“Hot Seat is a successful exercise because we have built a strong virtual community of entrepreneurs who take pride in helping and supporting each other. Over 30 founders and advisors gathered to watch my pitch to help me form a more convincing storyline and ask,” he shared.

What makes it so valuable? The feedback is a start. “I think the piece of feedback that stuck most with me was that I need to craft a more effective and relatable story at the opening of my pitch. This way the audience can relate to the problem we are solving.”

Shatsky’s venture, TicketRev, is the first reverse marketplace for event tickets. Feedback from the Hot Seat helped him craft that stronger opening. “Our marketplace makes buying and selling event tickets easier and more convenient. So, rather than opening my pitch by stating, ‘If you’ve ever purchased concert tickets, you know that the process is very frustrating …’ the advice I received was to craft a compelling story.”

Here’s how he’s pivoting the pitch. “My improved pitch will instead open with a story about trying to buy tickets for a Warriors basketball game in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the game had completely sold out months prior, so my only option was to overpay for tickets online. In the moment, I kept thinking, ‘There has to be a better way.’ And, that’s when the idea for TicketRev was born.”

His takeaway? Connecting with his customer from the moment he starts to pitch.

“Compared to other pitch opportunities, where prize money or resources may be at stake, pitching in the Hot Seat allows you to focus on what matters most: connecting with your audience and selling the vision for your company,” he said.

“As I continue to grow TicketRev, I will be integrating Hot Seat feedback into pitches for future investment and partnership opportunities. I’m especially excited for our upcoming Showcase event because our entire cohort will have the chance to display our progress through our updated pitches—something we’ve all been working on throughout the summer.”


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