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What Not to Say When You Pitch Your Green Start-Up

Photo: Masson / Shutterstock
Photo: Masson / Shutterstock

Face it, your pitching strategy will determine the difference between getting funded or going bust.

Whether it is a meeting at your university’s startup incubator, your local bank or a major venture capital firm: you need to come prepared.

I have worked with many students on sustainable business models and clean technology products. And I know that many of you are after a green investor, a responsible company, the ethical individual.

But most of the time, you are surrounded by a broader range of people who either love our beautiful planet, want to strip it of all consumable resources – or don’t really care.

It is crucial to appeal to all types of people if you want to make a difference, and if want to get to launch your idea into the real world of mixed opinions.

The Coffee Shop Test

When I first introduce business pitching to my entrepreneurs and students, I always ask them to apply the ‘coffee shop test.’

Pretend you have just been asked if you want to go for a cup of coffee. How do you respond?

Answer A: Yes, but only if it has been ethically sourced, organically grown, fairly traded, managed through circular economy principals at all stages of production – and if it has used sustainable water sources, comes in biodegradable packaging and tastes fantastic.

Answer B: Yes (and then simply suggest a coffee shop that matches your needs).


Answer A sounds like hard work, and you probably won’t be asked for coffee again. But answer B gets the same result, and gives you the opportunity to explain your choice once a friendship has developed.

Your pitch is a tool to create dialogue with potential investors and customers, it is an opening statement and an introduction to you. It must not descend into a fanatical rant.

5 Top Tips

Next time you pitch your green business idea try these top tips to make sure you always get invited for coffee.

1. Tell them what your idea is

Don’t waste time with a lecture about the sad state of the planet. Just tell them what your idea is, in plain and simple terms.

2. Tell them why we need it

Someone must need your idea. Who is this person or business, and why do they need it? The reason can be environmental, that’s fine. Just express it plainly and move on.

3. Tell them why your idea is smart and special

Have a strong business model to underpin your idea. It should be innovative, practical and feasible. If you can communicate this, your pitch will always be interesting.

4. Explain your current status

Give an honest outline of where you are with your start-up. List the contacts and networks you have, show your prototype and outline your finances.

Investors want to know that you understand the process you are undertaking. This is more important than your personal opinion on climate change strategies.

5. Close with the important information

Sum up what your idea is, and why it is smart and special – in one or two sentences.

If you execute this well, your pitch will draw people in. It will give you all the time in the world to also remind them that saving the environment is a great thing to do as well. After all, there is no profit on a dead planet.

Still need some support? Find out how Climate-KIC could help you learn how to pitch your idea or launch your start-up.

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About the author(s)

Eleanor Saunders

Eleanor Saunders

Eleanor is a UK-based pitch trainer for companies, start-ups and individuals. She is also a business coach in the field of green entrepreneurship and supports teams across Europe, helping them to realise their ideas and create viable businesses. Eleanor has supported the Climate-KIC community for many years in various roles.