How to Pitch A Brand Incubator

PepsiCo is bringing innovation in-house through PepsiCo10, an incubator program that pairs tech start-ups with its global brands. Join Josh Karpf, PepsiCo’s director of digital media, and Digiday editor Giselle Abramovich via Webinar on Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. to discuss how the company harnesses start-ups’ talent to create groundbreaking campaigns while providing them with mentorship and visibility.

Until then, here are Karpf’s Do’s and Don’ts for start-ups looking to pitch brand partnerships.

Don’t pitch your napkin idea: You may be pitching an incubator, but you’ll have to show your company is primed to thrive. “We look at viability,” said Karpf. “Is there a business model around it or is it just an idea that would take resources to build?” PepsiCo10 whittles down its initial wave of submissions to 25 to 30 companies that pitch to executives. Those without a real business plan are the first to go.


Do be quick: PepsiCo10 and other incubator programs attract professional pitchers who know how to articulate who they are and what they can contribute in five minutes or less. “A number of them are serial entrepreneurs. This is the second or third company, so these guys know how to pitch… They’re very concise.”

Don’t be desperate: Start-ups pivot on a dime, but selling through even a brilliant idea to a corporation can involve navigating their bureaucracy over months. “We might say we need a month or two, but for a start-up that can mean the difference between success or failure.” If your company’s sheer existence depends on a quick thumbs up and an immediate round of financing, you may not be operating on the same timeline as your potential benefactor.

Do your homework:
Make sure you’ve studied the brand’s business inside and out, including all their product lines. If you’re pitching PepsiCo10, make sure you reference Lay’s potato chips, not Pringles. “I don’t think it’s a death sentence, but knowing the business is really key. Know all the products, not just the major ones. Research is key.”

Don’t be an upstart: You may think your start-up can be the campaign’s sharpest tip, but part of working with a big-budget marketer is finding your place. Bonus points go to pitchmen who can articulate where their business fits within the existing communications strategy. “You may become one piece of a larger initiative and being able to work with a broad team is valuable.”

Do stand out:
There’s a fine line between memorable and gimmicky, but if your pitch is smart, a stand-out execution may make the difference. The 25 to 30 companies that pitch PepsiCo10 in a single day all work hard to get noticed. Lots of presenters go the young Harvard MBA route with matching suits and slick materials, but the pitch Karpf remembered best was very different.“We had one CEO that had a music start-up. They rapped their whole five-minute pitch. It was a hip hop music type of product. He was great.”

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