Research shows that in many types of sequential competitions, the order of competitors can have a significant effect on judges’ evaluations. But what effect does competitor order have for startup pitch contests? We conducted four pitch competitions with business student entrepreneurs as a field experiment to determine whether — and how — the order of pitches affects investor interest. Pitch competitions could be similar to persuasive arguments, where the first contestant enjoys a primacy advantage because evaluators often anchor on the first argument, making them less open to different ideas. Or perhaps we would find no order effects at all. Unfortunately, you don’t often get to choose your place in the pitching order. But if you can, do your best to avoid pitching first. This may feel counter-intuitive for some entrepreneurs, as going first may feel like a move that signals initiative and a go-getting attitude — traits that are generally a positive for startup founders. But the research shows that when it comes to pitch contests, jumping into the shark tank first doesn’t pay off. Investors strive to make rational decisions about where their money goes. Once you become aware of the existence of order effects, you can deliberately counteract them by revisiting your initial judgments after all the pitches are complete. Don’t let something as meaningless as pitch order impact your evaluations and cause you to overlook a good opportunity. Read More >>

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