Let Others Go First: How Pitch Order Affects Investor Interest in Elevator Pitches

Published:

Recommended citation: Clingingsmith and Shane (2017). "Let Others Go First: How Pitch Order Affects Investor Interest in Elevator Pitches" Unpublished Ms.

The start-ups with the most potential to innovate and generate employment are the ones most likely to rely on capital provided by outside investors. Several institutional developments including the rise of business accelerators, angel groups, and startup competitions, have meant that founders seeking this type of capital increasingly pitch their business ideas to investors in group settings, raising the question of whether the order in which ideas are pitched affects outcomes. Research on order effects in other competitive environments indicates that judges often have high expectations and calibrate their evaluations to the lower average performance of competitors at the beginning of competition, making it difficult for those going early to do as well as those performing later. We test empirically whether this calibration effect is also present for efforts by founders to pitch investors by conducting a field experiment. Entrepreneurs participating in elevator pitch competitions were randomly assigned the position in which they pitched. We find evidence of this calibration effect: investor-judges expressed substantially lesser interest in pursuing investment in the first and second ventures pitched to them.

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