Startup life is filled with emotional ups and downs. For one night in late January, though, the Toronto startup scene was filled with actual ups and downs.

Elevator pitches are never easy to do. How can you condense something that you have quit your job for, taken on massive financial risk for and staked your reputation on into a mere 60 seconds?

This was the problem that startups found themselves grappling with at the International Startup Festival’s Elevator World Tour, which kicked off at the CN Tower here in Toronto on January 31.

Over 100 startups were invited to pitch to a panel of judges in the actual elevators of the CN Tower. The event itself was an elevator pitch for the International Startup Festival, which takes place in Montreal this year, from July 10 to 12. Entrepreneurs, investors and service providers got a sneak peek into the dynamic energy that the festival has come to be known for.

For many entrepreneurs, pitching is second nature. Lindsey Goodchild, JOLT graduate and founder of Greengage Mobile, is an example of this. For her, “it was easy to relate to the elevator pitch, because at Greengage we are always giving quick pitches and demonstrating value for environmental, social, health and safety initiatives with clients and employees through our software,” she says. “Greengage Mobile delivers quick, concise and helpful calls to action around sustainability for Fortune 1000 clients, while we capture all of the impact that those actions create.”

Companies took many different approaches to getting the judges’ attention. Some used their time to highlight the market pain points that they are solving in an effort to convince the judges of the size of their market. Others highlighted the uniqueness of their technical solutions or the strength of their initial traction.

Kevin Kliman, one of the founders of, took a different approach. He surprised the judges by using his product to broadcast out his pitch to any connected device.

Of the 100 companies that participated in the event, six were either MaRS clients or graduates of MaRS’ JOLT accelerator:

Meet the winner

The seven short-listed finalists presented in front of the whole crowd, with the winner, crowdsourcing jewelry startup Mejuri, selected by popular vote.

The prize? A free pass and paid travel to attend the International Startup Festival in Montréal (July 10-12, 2013).

Whatever way you choose to approach your pitch, remember to practise, and if you trip up mid-pitch just keep going. An elevator-style pitch is all about developing a connection with the person you are pitching to that can facilitate a follow-up. Just don’t forget to get a card and connect the next day.

Jared Gordon

Jared has nearly a decade of experience in the venture capital and technology industries in a multitude of investing, operational and legal roles. During his venture career, he has been actively involved in the promotion and development of early-stage companies. Prior to joining the Investment Accelerator Fund as an investment manager, Jared was in a senior management position with a foreign financial institution. See more…