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New pitching power grows opportunities for rural start-ups, attracting legendary investors and big money

The story begins

Google for Entrepreneurs has been using Amplify as pitch coaches for their start-ups for years, and at a recent San Francisco demo day this sparked off a whole new partnership. Steve Case, the founder of AOL, was in the audience and was so impressed by how brilliant the pitches were that he was inspired to begin his own start-up seed-funding programme – and asked us to come along for the ride.

The result, Rise of the Rest, is designed to find the best and brightest start-ups in unexpected places. So many opportunities like this are based in big-business cities like New York or San Francisco, yet buried in smaller cities and towns across the US are some brilliant ideas that just aren’t getting any airtime. Rise of the Rest offers those start-ups two days of expert input, before giving them the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges and potential investors.

Enter Amplify

Our role is to work with the start-ups over the two days to get them pitch-ready. We begin with them all together, looking at general presentation techniques, storytelling skills, and confidence-building, before splitting off for some 1-1 time with each start-up. There we can help them hone their individual performance, using a mix of exercises depending on what each presenter needs. We cover everything from storifying the pitch itself to shaping their speaking technique and helping them overcome their nerves.

Then we work with them again through the dress rehearsal and pre-pitch jitters, warming them up and psyching them up before the final demo day pitch.

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Transformation time

Rise of the Rest has taken off and is now in its eighth round – giving us a chance to coach in some interesting and beautiful places off the tourist track, across states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

The quality of the pitches has attracted some talented and high-profile investors – including Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Meg Whitman, and Eric Schmidt – and the fund is now up to $125 million. It’s providing a unique opportunity for start-ups without the resources to base themselves in the big-city hubs to connect with people and opportunities they would otherwise never have access to.

The verdict

Rise of the Rest has a strict no-testimonials policy, so sadly we can’t quote them here. But we’ve had great feedback in person from both the organisers and the start-ups themselves – and the fact that we keep getting asked back to coach would suggest they think we’re doing a pretty good job!

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