How Losing Pitchfests Can Help You Win

Last week, our startup, FanSaves, won our first Pitch Competition ever and it was an amazing feeling. Winning anything is always a great moment but this time around the feelings that enveloped us were more than just the glory of taking home the top prize, this time it was more.

It was the feeling of perseverance paying off. It was knowing how hard we had worked to get to that point in time and realizing that our hard work had actually paid off that really made it worth it. You see, we’ve been on the pitching circuit since the end of May and for seven long months we didn’t win anything. Zilch.

Kris and I are athletes. We’re competitive and we don’t like to lose. We’re not sore losers by all means (at least not always and definitely never in public) but we like to win. We both grew up playing hockey and have lost out fair share of “big games” but not much can prepare you for loss after loss after loss on a big stage, in front of so many people, in a realm that’s completely foreign to both of you.

But, ever persistent and determined, we never gave up. Yeah, it sounds cheesy but it’s true. Moments before our first pitch ever, a keynote speaker wished everyone pitching good luck and told us all that the best thing that could happen that day was to lose. He said that losing would only make us try harder in the future. He was right. We didn’t win despite pulling off a pretty good first-ever pitch and walked away empty handed. But losing was a gift.

And every Pitch Competition we have lost since then has been a gift. It pushed us so much harder to be better, to get better, to practice harder and to seek out coaches who gave us advice and mentored us long after we thought we were golden. Because the truth is, in the startup world, no one is ever golden…at least not for long.

It’s similar to sports. You work hard to reach your goals but you still need to keep practicing and improving because the other team or the other players are going to be bettering themselves too and they will catch up if you let your guard down. So practice we will.

Two days after winning our first Pitch Night, I pitched FanSaves at the biggest SaaS Conference in Canada, Saas North. Our business was chosen as one of eight semi-finalists to pitch on this huge, national stage. We were ecstatic just to have been chosen and we went into it with high hopes but the wherewithal to withstand losing again.

But we won our round! Four esteemed judges picked FanSaves and we made it to the finals to face-off against another amazing startup in a 90-second rapid pitch dual. I found out seven minutes before I had to take the stage that we had won and everything happened so quickly. I was whisked onto the stage and, with all the practice I’ve had, pulled out one of my best pitches to date. Under pressure and in front of almost a thousand people, I pulled it off with confidence. It was an adrenaline rush for the ages and despite only knowing five people in the audience I got 38% of the votes! Not enough to win, but definitely enough to be proud of. A first and second place win in just two days, amazing!

Had we given up after losing our first, second, third, fourth, umpteenth Pitch Competition we never would have known that we could actually win! We never would have known the determination is takes and how much better we could be. We never would have polished our presentation, improving it time after time and loss after loss and we never would have gotten better.

So maybe you just lost your first or your hundredth pitch competition or maybe you lost out on something you had worked really hard for and are feeling discouraged. It’s okay to feel down about it; it’s okay to wish you would have done better but at the end of the day it’s about progressing. It’s about being better than you were before, improving every day and beating your own goals and personal bests.

Take the losses to heart, let them push you harder than you’d have been pushed had you won, and get better. Do whatever it takes to keep improving and then when you finally reach your goals, improve more. Most of all, never give up.

-Shannon Ferguson
FanSaves, Co-Founder & CEO

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