Pitch-Slapped for a Purpose
In this short-but-important episode, Precursa CEO and Co-Founder Cynthia Del’Aria shares the breakthroughs the company is experiencing, but also the ones she is experiencing personally. Building a startup isn’t always about what you think it’s about, and sometimes that can be (really) good news.
Today Precursa’s fearless leader, CEO and Co-Founder Cynthia Del’Aria, shares how she’s gotten to a place where she can pitch with confidence. Her advice deals with the importance of practicing, not just so you know what to say, but so that you can keep the points concise and let the person you’re pitching to guide the salient details.
Cynthia also asks some really important questions that may not seem like they have to do with success but can be really important indicators of exactly that. Questions like, how many times have you gone broke? And how do you know this is the one? If you’re wondering whether you’ve got what it takes to be the kind of entrepreneur investors look for, and who can turn a mere idea into a world-changing product, you don’t want to miss this episode.
Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Precursa: The Startup Journey on your favorite podcasting platform and tune in for the next episode!
Straight to you from Denver, Colorado, this is Precursa: The Startup Journey. We share the ins and outs of building a tech startup from inception to launch to revenue and beyond. If you’ve ever wondered what building a startup from scratch really looks like, you’re in the right place. With full transparency and honesty, we reveal it all about Precursa on our ride from idea to exit: the wins, the lessons learned, and the unexpected twists and turns.
Hello everybody. And welcome back. This is Precursa: The Startup Journey. And as always, I am your host, Cynthia Delaria. I am the CEO and one of the co-founders of Precursa. So this week was good. We had some milestones. I think we have finally gotten into a place where the pitch feels like it’s starting to get confident. It’s starting to get in my bones, which is really good. I think that’s really important. We oftentimes, as founders don’t recognize or properly value practicing, right? And we think, oh, I know everything about my business. This will be fine. I’ll just go in and wing it. And that’s fine. I mean, uh, you know, I’ve done that and it’s, you know, moderately successful to whatever level that it is. But the reality is when you know your pitch backwards and forwards and you know, it’s solid. You talk about the things that matter in your pitch.
So as the founder of your company, you know, the entire universe of your company, or most of it, most likely the pitch isn’t about telling everyone the whole universe, the pitch is about telling everyone what you need now and what you’re doing now and getting them the vision. And whether you think it’s possible or not, that can happen in as little as 99 seconds, but not if you don’t practice it because our tendency is to wander away. Right? So what I mean, when I say wander away is like, you start making a point that’s in your pitch, and then you realize there’s 18 other things you could say about that point either to back it up or to give it more credence or whatever it is. And that’s our tendency. As human beings, practice allows you to know where you’re going, stay on point, stay on topic and give the pieces that are necessary to set context, and then let the person you’re pitching or the person you’re talking to let them ask questions about what they wanna know more about.
So the way this sort of like paints itself in reality is I’ve gotten very confident with the pitch. Now, uh, I mostly don’t need notes on any of my slides anymore, which is good. It’s not robotic, cuz I didn’t memorize it necessarily. Right. What I do have is the salient details and the points that I need to make and the confidence that once I’ve made those points, I can move on. And so what happened the other night was we met up with a friend of ours who is also a business owner. He’s not in tech, he’s in healthcare, but he’s very, very brilliant. He’s very sweet. He’s very down to earth and he just loves us. You know what I mean? He’s working with David on his pro a couple of his projects. He wants to work with me on this one. And so we got together for dinner and he, and you know, I of course brought two copies of the pitch deck and, and he took a copy and he set it down.
He said, let’s just talk, just tell me what you’re doing. So because of the work I’ve done with the pitch and knowing it in my bones, I didn’t have to go through the pitch itself. I could snag a couple pieces and then let him ask questions about what he was interested in. And so over the core of a 40 minute conversation with him, we got to all the points that we needed to. And I, I didn’t expound, you know, wax SOIC on every little thing. I answered his questions succinctly concisely when he asked them. And when he wanted to know the information, which in the end resulted in, he’s going to put some money in yay. And he’s working on, uh, going through his contact list, which is vast, nationwide and filled with very influential people and helping us find other people who also put money in.
He feels pretty confident that we can raise at least a few hundred thousand dollars pretty quickly and maybe get the whole thing done here so we can get back to actually the business of building a startup <laugh>. So part of the conversation that we had was about, you know, I spoke a couple episodes ago that, you know, I turned 40 and I’m, you know, there’s just this perspective that seems to be coming with that. Not that that’s important, but that, I think there’s a level of maturity. There’s a reduced level of narcissism and, and neuroticism, you know, as you get older, I think that’s just normal for everyone. We’re much more self-involved the younger we are. And the older you are, the more wisdom you gain and the more you start to become about other people and about other things outside of, you know, just yourself and we, as we were talking about this, he told me a story about this bestselling book author that he got a chance to have lunch with.
This was probably a couple decades ago now, but what he said was when, when the author sat down to lunch with him, the very first thing he asked him was how many times have you gone broke? How many times have you been broke? And my friend had to think about it for a second. And he said two or three times, and the author said, okay, good. Then I know you’re successful, let’s chat. And he said it, you know, if, if you’ve listened to this show, you know, for any length of time or heard me on any other podcast at all, you know, that I have had two successful exits. And within two years of both of those exits, I was broke. And so <laugh> when my friend told me that story. He looked at me and he said, so how many times have you been broke?
And I was like, at least two, possibly three <laugh>. And he said, but that’s good because it means you’re risking something. And the other thing that he asked me, he said, is, is this the one? And my answer was unequivocally. Yes. And he said, well, why, because you’ve done other projects before you’ve got other stuff going on. You also have the commercial airline company that you’ve, you know, been working on for gosh years. We’re like seven years in production. Now I think for six years in production, seven and a half years on the product. And I said, well, the problem commercial airline thing is that the market’s super limited. There, there is only so far. We can take that before. There’s nowhere else to take it. And that doesn’t mean that we’re going to get a hundred percent of the market, but even if we did it, there’s a cap on it.
And it it’s a real cap. It’s not artificial. So, but Precursa has the opportunity every year to impact billions of dollars of investment money and uh, out years and decades and, and centuries of time for people and waste, uh, at a, at magnitude. Right? And that <affirmative>, that is why it’s big, but why it belongs to me and why it’s the one is because never in my life have I had the experience. So viscerally that every corner of what we’re building with Precursa is entirely dependent on, on everything that came before in my life. Everything from the exits that I’ve had, the successes, the wins to the times I lost all the money. The times I had to climb outta debt, the processes that I have now for never getting back into debt, right? Like all of those things, all of my experiences of the projects that I’ve worked on, I can look at every single one of them and see how it contributes to the value and my ability to execute on Precursa.
That is so reassuring. I mean, it, it’s sort of like if God himself could reach down, out, out of heaven and tell you, this is your purpose, this is what that would feel like, because it just seems so clear. This is my purpose. Like this is the thing that’s needing to get done in the world. And I have been given every experience and every opportunity and every success and every failure to be the one to birth it, to be the one, to be able to bring it into the world and have it be wildly successful, like beyond, you know, know I had a <laugh> I had a friend of mine the other day. Uh, we were sitting at dinner and I think I’ve told you guys this, but I basically made a promise to Paige and Sarah that if we get our billion dollar valuation, we sell for a billion dollars or more, I’ll get a unicorn tattoo.
Like it’s the only tattoo I would ever get. And if it, if we don’t hit the billion dollar mark, I’m not in it. But if we do, I will. And so I was telling that story, cuz we were talking about tattoos and my friend looked at me and she was like a billion dollars. You really think you’re gonna do that? And it wasn’t even a question I said, yes. And you know, she, she’s kind of in disbelief because, but that’s just because of her, not because of me. And it just, it was really reassuring to be in that scenario and not feel mad at her or like she was trying to put me down or like I just knew that wasn’t about me and, and it felt really good. So I guess what I’m saying, is there something to be said for wisdom and I’m not saying I’m wise, I’m saying that I am exceptionally grateful for people like my friend for people like, uh, my fiance David, for, for people like Paige and Sarah for all of the people who are on this journey with us in one way or another.
And I’m except grateful for everything that’s come before now. Cuz like I said, every day, I’m just seeing more and more how all of it contributes and how all of it makes Precursa possible. And is the gift that Precursa is for me. Right. So I encourage you, especially when you’re feeling like, oh my gosh, can I do this? And oh my gosh, this is crazy. And man, if I would just go work for somebody else, I could be making a lot more money. Like all those things are good indicators of how invested are you really? And I don’t mean monetarily, I mean is, is what you’re working on. Does it have to exist no matter what or did it just sound like a good idea one day when you had an idea for an app, right? Because that second one, isn’t gonna get the job done. You’re not gonna get up every day. You’re not gonna work your tail off. You’re not gonna do all the things that are required. You’re not gonna make the sacrifices that are required. <affirmative> if it just seemed like a good idea, one day you’re gonna cuz it won’t seem like a good idea. As soon as you realize what it’s gonna take. But when you get at a cellular level that this is my purpose, this is the reason all of the things before happened.
There’s nothing I won’t do to make this happen. I mean, and remember this is backed by. We have early product market fit. We understand our customer. We know they want what we’re building. We know that the people who are eventually going to be the primary buyers want what we’re building, like remember the, that this isn’t a pipe dream that I’m gonna make happen, come hell or high water. This is I’ve done the work and it’s going to happen because I say it is. So, which I think is a, I think it’s a really important distinction because as we were talking the other night with my friend, you know, he said, okay, so we need to get money in your company so that you can stop raising money and go focus on building your company and actually deliver on what you’re trying to deliver on. And he said, so that money’s really valuable, which means you need to find a way to make it more valuable to investors.
And so we’re talking about, you know, investment structures and all that kind of stuff. And he kept pointing out, you know, the money is really valuable. Like my money has a lot of value and I’m was like, yes, I said, but understand, I’m going to do it no matter what, like you might write a check and I absolutely your money’s valuable. And so I’m gonna, I’m gonna negotiate with you and we’re gonna work out a deal that makes you feel really happy. And that makes me feel really good and that gets the job done. But even if you don’t do that, I’m going to do this. Like I will figure out a way and it might take me longer and it might be a little bit more of an uphill battle and I might have to work harder, but I’m not afraid of any of those things.
And so until you’re in that place, I think it’s really hard to raise money with a chip on your shoulder with a chip on your shoulder. And I’ve talked a lot of about how I do fight that. Um, but I think getting to this place of confidence in the pitch, getting to this place where I know the important pieces to talk about with people, regardless of whether or not I’m doing a formal pitch, it’s removed the chip. I don’t have anything to prove anymore. It’s just about finding the right people, talking to the right people and taking the next steps that there are to take. So that said, I was also thinking the other day about what if we’d gotten that money all those months ago, you remember back, you know, let’s see, we started talking to these guys in January and February. And then when we started the podcast, we talked quite a bit about, you know, the structure of this loan that we were gonna do this really great rate through this VCE firm.
And they just wanted the first write of refusal when we did do another raise. And you know, it was just really great. I mean, almost too good to be true, which ended up too, too good to be true. But I, I started asking myself, would we have the trajectory we have if we’d gotten that money, would things be better or worse right now? Could we have been spending a lot more, but in the wrong direction, if we’d gotten that money when you know, way back when, and I think actually I’m certain the answer is yeah, because here’s what fundraising forces you to do. And regardless of whether you need the money or not, I really feel like in any venture that I do in the future, I will raise some money if only for outcome, which is the more conversations I have, the more refined our directions get.
So our go to market strategy has now been well honed under the, uh, <laugh> under the incredibly watched full incredibly Hawk, like incredibly doubtful doubting eyes of investors. Right? And so if under that level of scrutiny, we are confident and we can get through, we can talk through those conversations and we have like that sort of, you know, you know how, when you get through a, a tough conversation, you know that you’ve won the person over, they see your point of view because they, they kinda like nod their head, right? That’s the response we get. Now, people are no longer left questioning whether or not we know what we’re doing or whether or not we’re confident in what, like, they’re just not because we know how to talk about it and we know what we’re doing and we’re doing it well. So the value of this process, although it’s taken far longer than any of us would have wanted it to.
But the value in the process is the result of the process. It is trial by fire, literally trial by fire. I mean, no investor that you’re sitting in front of is gonna be nice. Now my friend was nice because he loves me, but he grilled me. He still grilled me. And he, we still had some of those conversations where he was like, yeah, but, and I said, yep, I get where you’re going with that. Let me, here’s how we’re thinking about that. And here’s what we’re doing about that. Right? So he still grilled me. He, even though it was in a nice way because he loves me, the, the intent was still, you need to know all the things there are to know so that I can feel confident. You’re the one cuz remember in an early stage startup, they’re vetting you as a founder.
The idea is the idea and they’re a dime a dozen, right? But you as the founder, what makes the difference between that idea, turning into a thing that makes money and get somebody a return or that idea failing miserably. And I’m not saying that all startups that fail it has to do with the founders, but a lot of it does. We talk about the statistic all the time, but 42% of startups fail because nobody wants what their building. Well, that is absolutely about a founder that doesn’t take the time to talk to customers, to understand the problem they’re solving, to understand how they’re PR, how, how they’re solving it and how their customers feel about that problem. How painful is it not taking the time to understand and dive into that early absolutely sets you up for failure. And that’s absolutely about a founder, a founder that can’t figure out how to get through the work of honing and refining their pitch and their business model so that they can continue to raise money and continue to show results.
Again, that’s about a founder. So all the things that may, you know, be part of the statistics contributing to the nine out of 10 startups ultimately fail. Ultimately it all comes back to the founder or the founders. So if we had gotten that money without going through that trial, by fire back in, you know, February and March, we not could have, we would have spent money, a lot of money in a lot more wrong directions because over the last six months we haven’t had that money. So we’ve had to get creative and we’ve bootstrapped. And you know, right now, um, not sleeping very much because I’m working all the time because I took on some extra projects in order to put some extra money into some of the things that we’re working on in Precursa over the next few months while we, you know, get this money raised.
So I’m exhausted, right. But doing that work means and not having that runway means that our original strategies, like for example, our original strategy about advertising and our direct entrepreneur model and building a list, we spent some money, but we didn’t have a lot of money. So we couldn’t spend a lot of money. And the money that we did spend, we learned very quickly running ads, directed towards entrepreneurs doesn’t work. Like it just doesn’t. I mean, we got, we got some really good solid engaged leads and some of those have turned into podcast listeners, but because we couldn’t, you know, shove 30 grand a month into building up a podcast list and you doing advertising and marketing and brand awareness, we actually had the opportunity to go slow and learn that, Hey, the price per the cost per lead, that way doesn’t make any sense.
It’s not, it’s gonna have us never be able to hit profitability. So we hadn’t spent a lot of money. We were able to pull back and up that strategy and reassess. And that was how we figured out this podcast is actually the most engaged audience we have. And in fact, in the pod, you know, if you look at the entrepreneur world at large, the most engaged audience of entrepreneurs is actually in the podcast world. So it only makes sense for us to say, Hey, we’ve gotten really great organic growth off of the podcast. Let’s start looking at strategies for putting intentional growth there and putting paid growth there. We may not have gotten to that place soon enough to save ourselves quite a bit of money, or we would’ve spent a lot more money to get to this place if we had it. So I, I think, I feel like the thing I want you to take away from this, it fits with what I said to my friend the other night at dinner too, which is stop looking at the road blocks or the things that seem like they’re not getting you where you wanna be as fast as you wanna go, stop looking at that.
Like, oh my gosh, why can’t people just get on board with my vision? And this is so hard. And this is a frustrating start looking at every one of those things as an opportunity to learn, hone and refine and figure out what is still the chip on your shoulder that you need to keep working on and, and, you know, chipping away at the chip away at the chip, but that you need to keep chipping away at, in order to get to that place where you have confidence and it’s clear why you’re doing what you’re are doing and that you’re doing the right thing, right? Because that’s the place I’m at now. And everything does fall into place. That that’s the thing is it all actually does work out in the end and life is about the journey. It’s not about the end, but what a difference it makes just knowing that it will work out.
And that doesn’t mean it will work out the way I say, it’s gonna work out, but one way or another it’s going to work out. And so that gives me some freedom to let go of the anxiety and the worry about the future and be present in the moment, be present when I’m with my friend, be present when I’m in a hitch, be present when I’m with an investor, because in that moment, that’s, that’s where I am. And that’s what matters. So I would challenge you, first of all, consider, there is a chip on your shoulder consider if you’re in that place where you are struggling, or you are experiencing the trough of sorrows or you are struggling with fundraising or whatever, whatever that looks like for you, what’s the chip, what’s the thing you’re holding onto. What’s the assumption that you feel like should be true or is true for other people.
And isn’t for you, that’s causing you to, you know, like what is that story? What’s that persistent complaint going on in your head? And then I would say challenge you to say, what are the things I could learn from how would my startup benefit? How would I benefit as a human? How would I benefit as a founder and an entrepreneur from identifying those pieces and working on them and breaking them up and, and allowing myself to, to be forged in the fire of my startup. What would that really look like? What, who would you be on the other side of that? And I challenge you to consider, even if you have to write it down every day, as many times as it takes for as many days as it takes until you believe it, what difference would it make? If you knew it was all gonna work out in the end and you didn’t have to worry about that.
So big things. Well, they feel big to me and not, not because we’ve got some money on the table now and we’re starting to negotiate, which means there’s some other money that will follow that. And, you know, I, I think the likelihood that we raise this money within the next two months is pretty high, at least enough to get us, you know, to next summer, which would be a couple hundred thousand. And then, you know, we can close out the rest maybe early next year, but we, that’s not what I mean when I say big things are happening. What I mean is big things are happening in me. I mean that the journey, this is a journey, not just about a company, it’s not just about what did we get done this week? What are we doing next week? You know, what are we doing next month?
What’s our plan for next year? Like, that’s, that’s the execute journey, but there’s another journey in the startup journey. And that’s the founder journey. That’s the human journey that is sometimes visions and goals and things we set out to do. Aren’t about the thing we’re doing. They’re about who we are and we want to be and who we are meant to be. And so yes, there, there, there was, there is traction being made in our, in our execution journey as well. I mean, our development is just going so well. We’re, we’re probably gonna be closer to early to mid-October with our launch, which is totally fine. But you know, we’re building all of our video content and all of the steps are starting to come together. And, you know, our UX engineers doing a brilliant job with working out flows and, you know, she and the developers talk, you know, almost every day about, okay, how would this work?
Can we do something like this and getting creative? And it’s really exciting to see it all come together. But for me, the startup journey is evolving into who am I, that I get to keep being the visionary and holding the space for Precursa, which one to exist in the world, which is going to exist in the world and the universe or God, you know, however you, however you relate to that, but God says to you, I’m giving it to you and I’m giving it to you because you’re the right person and you’re capable and you’re going to become that person. You’re going to become that capable as you do this work. And as you build this company, and it’s all, it’s all a circle. It’s all coming together at the same time. And it’s all evolving and growing and executing and, and on a journey at the same time.
So your vision, isn’t an accident. Your idea, isn’t an accident. How you engage with that is the X factor. You know, how you engage with that, how you engage with yourself in that process, that’s the X factor. That’s the thing that makes or breaks the startup. It’s the thing that makes or breaks your experience as an entrepreneur. And here’s the thing. Nobody else can give that to you. I can, I can coach the crap out of you about it. And you know, if you want, if you want that, if you’re struggling with something, send me an L email@example.com and I’ll find 30 minutes and we’ll get on the phone and we’ll talk through it. But once we’ve talked through it, and there’s a strategy it’s down to you, man, it’s down to you, my friend, you have to go make it happen. So, and a big part of that, making it happen, understanding that the journey isn’t just about your company, the journey is also about you.
It’s also about me as a founder, as an entrepreneur and as a human, maybe that’s the most important part of the journey, in fact. So, yeah, so, uh, it was a good week. It it’s, it’s been a good week and come back next week. Of course, as always, if you have questions, if you wanna argue about something, if you want some coaching or if you know you wanna come on the podcast and talk about something or talk about your experience as an entrepreneur or an investor, or maybe you run an accelerator or an incubator, and you wanna talk about that. You want to talk about something that’s close to you and you wanna get it in front of, you know, a podcast us audience. We would love to have you email me startup precursa.com and we’ll figure out a way to make it happen. So as always happy entrepreneur, and I will see y’all next time.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Precursa: The Startup Journey. If you have an idea for a startup and you want to explore the proven process of turning your idea into a viable business, check us out at precursa.com. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, so you never miss an episode. Until next time…