Pitching your startup is a nerve-wracking process, whether you’re (literally) pitching it in an elevator, pitching an angel investor in a 1:1 meeting, or pitching in front of hundreds of investors at Demo Day following a successful accelerator program. Everyone has their own idea about what makes a great pitch, and it can be confusing navigating through the sea of suggestions. But with the right research and preparation, you’ll be one step closer to sealing the deal. Here are a few tips for successfully pitching your startup:
The 60-Second Pitch
When you walk in the room, be prepared to be able to pitch your business in 60 seconds or less. Sure, you’ll go into detail throughout the duration of the meeting, but it’s crucial to capture their attention early on. Potential investors should be able to know the who, what, and why of your company before the full presentation has begun.
The first twenty seconds involves showing passion and explaining what and why your business is worth investing in; the next twenty seconds should be numbers-focused (current sales, projections, market statistics, etc.); and the last twenty seconds should be dedicated to you explaining why you’re worth investing in and why you’ll be the perfect person to see the business through.
As you’re writing your pitch in preparation, continue shaving your word count until you’ve reached just enough to fit into that first minute. Focus on what’s most important: for example, perhaps there are a handful of numbers-focused bits you want to include in the introduction. Refrain from doing so, as you’ll be able to do this later. Pick the most important one, and go with that. For instance, perhaps you had $30,000 in sales your first year, but what would be more impressive is the list of big-box retailers interested in shelving your product.
In most cases, you’ll have a presentation or “pitch deck” prepared for the room. When it comes to creating a great pitch deck, consider creating an animated presentation, rather than the typical slide-by-slide Powerpoint. Investors will appreciate the effort that went into it, and it’s much more entertaining than going the stereotypical route.
Decks take time, and the stress certainly builds up, but this is natural. Use Prezi to create awesome presentations (go the DIY route or hire a freelancer/agency), or have fun with a personalized whiteboard explainer video from a company like The Draw Shop. Additionally, check out this roundup of pitch decks from companies like Facebook and Airbnb to give you an idea of what other companies have done in the past.
Don’t Worry So Much About Your Business Plan
Most investors understand that, as a startup, your business plan will likely change over time. Therefore, what’s more important is the overall vision for the startup, the traction you’ve made with your existing customer base, and your plans to continue growing. There’s less emphasis on metrics and projections. In a nutshell: prepare to prove that you have momentum, rather than a rigid outline of what’s to come. Additionally, flexibility with the business plan is also a pro: investors want to know you’re open to receiving feedback, bending your current strategy, and listening to new ways of generating revenue.
Show Your Passion
While the product or service must be something a venture capitalist or angel investor can see themselves investing in, what they’re really buying into is people. Even the greatest products will prove futile in a meeting or Demo Day if the founder isn’t an evangelist for their business, and doesn’t demonstrate a serious passion for their work.
Fans of ABC’s Shark Tank see this time and time again: an entrepreneur comes in with a great idea, but their execution and passion are lackluster. Conversely, entrepreneurs come in with so-so ideas but are so immensely committed to putting in the work and defending the product, that an investor will buy into the person, rather than the business. You’re not just selling your startup; you’re selling yourself.
Watch Other Demo Day Videos
There are hundreds of demo day and tech conference videos available for public viewing (like this 2-hour Demo Day video from TechStars). Use these as inspiration: look at what’s working for other people, and what’s not. Shark Tank is also a great show to watch to learn more about how entrepreneurs are quizzed during a presentation and the kind of questions that are important to investors.
Pay special attention to product pitches that fall within your industry. As an outsider, this is the perfect time to watch body language and social cues from a viewer’s standpoint. Be sure to take notes as you watch, and bookmark videos that are especially inspiring.
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