No matter whether you are trying to land a big contract with a corporate, whether you are hoping to secure VC funding, to win a Startup competition or are looking to hire a star developer – you will need a convincing pitch in order to win them over. We have often seen brilliant minds presenting a promising business model, but unfortunately many of them lacked the ability to pitch their startups passionately and convincingly.
There are a few things which can be easily improved with some careful crafting and consideration. So, here we put together a list of top tips.
By the way, at this year’s EU-Startups Summit, you can take part in pitching crash courses and learn from experts like Beth Susanne. Check here to find out what else you can discover!
Do your homework
Just like you would do research on a company before applying for a new job and how during the interview you’d present yourself as the perfect fit, prepare to know your stuff before a pitch. Who are you pitching to? Why are you their best match?
This can be because they have already invested in companies in your sector, or they themselves come from that sector and could be a strategic partner – think about what you can offer them, and what they can off you. What do you have in common?
Roberto Magnifico, Partner and Board Member of the Italian Lventure Group, stresses the importance of research:
“ALWAYS do your homework on the investors you are about to meet (and this applies to any stakeholder you may interact/meet with) and adapt your pitch accordingly. Founders should keep in mind that business angels are a very different animal from VC fund managers, which have funds with different investment strategies. And Business Angels differ a lot amongst themselves and may all be motivated in different ways – the one thing that unites them is that they all invest from their pocket. Not quite the same for VC fund managers. Of course, ultimately they all want to see founders succeed but to get them to invest is a different story.”
Know your why
Too many founders are only talking about their “what” and “how”, while the power actually lies in your why, your calling and your purpose. What makes you get up excited every morning to wake up and work on your startup? This higher cause makes you unique.
Imagine you would start your pitch by simply stating what you do. You say: “We have developed an easy-to-use App that helps analphabets learn to read and write.”
But, what if you started by saying what really drives you, your mission: “We believe that learning how to read and write, no matter at what age, is a basic human right. We believe education means freedom, we believe it means empowerment. Therefore we have developed an easy-to-use App that helps people to read and write.”
See how much more impressive this statement becomes if you add your “why”? Try it to see what it does to your pitch opening line.
Make sure you are clearly and comprehensively communicating the problem you are dealing with. If you don’t get that one right it will be a tough sale.
What is the pain point? Which target group is feeling those pains? And then of course: How exactly do you intend to or how are you already solving their problem?
Just by adding a few sentences, you can paint a bigger picture that shows more context and the gravity of the problem you are setting out to solve. You are creating urgency and showing the importance of your startup – an emotional connection that can seal the deal.
Proof of concept
Many founders that are super early stage are missing a traction slide. “We don’t have any traction because we’re pre-launch”, they might say. But what they can and should demonstrate is their proof of concept.
This could also involve including feedback from focus groups and solid market research reports. It demonstrates nicely not only that people must find you to solve their problems, but also how closely connected you are with your target audience. If you are already active in the market, make sure to demonstrate that you are on the right track.
Roberto Magnifico also highlights this: “It is important that founders put more emphasis on traction they have achieved and to also include the metrics used to measure it.”
This is where you are hitting the sweet spot of the investor!
An investor does not only want to know how you do it and why you do it now but why your team is the most likely to succeed in this endeavour.
Your team slide should help answer the question: “Why this team?”.
List the key people within the team, think about which superpowers they have and why they are a crucial part of your company’s success.
Especially for early-stage startups, the team slide should take more priority and be mentioned early on. You might not have crazy growth figures to dazzle the investors, but an impressive show of who you are and what you’re capable of can be very appealing.
After all the best investors will invest in the people.
Identify why now is the moment
A fantastic slide that can do so much to make your pitch stronger is the “Why now” slide. Timing is one of the most underrated factors of success in the startup life circle and in the investment journey
With the “Why now” slide you will lay out, why today is actually the day for the VC to invest in your startup or for a partner to jump on board.
Lay out a few reasons that create urgency; that make VCs feel like the timing is just perfect, the momentum is there for your startup and they just cannot miss out on this opportunity. This can be market dynamics, new EU or national regulations that work to your advantage, new technologies, your flywheel that is starting to really take off, etc.
Elon Musk did this very impressively in his Tesla pitch. He showed the critical point in the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration stating that if we do not act now, things get worse, and fast. Musk then says, “We should collectively do something about this,” and wins the audience over.
A clear demonstration of your milestones is crucial.
Show that you know exactly where the journey leads you and your team and what you will achieve, in terms of metrics, revenue etc. This will also make it a lot easier to later reason how much money you’re looking to raise and why. Besides plainly stating your ask, i.e. how much funding you would need, it also should be described how you have arrived at this number and how my money will be spent when. It often enough comes across too randomly.
Think about slide design
There is absolutely no way that, while you are pitching, VCs or potential partners will read anything else than maybe the headlines and potentially a few bullet points
The easy solution: keep slides simple. Have your title, a couple of short bullet points and then opt for graphics or images rather than heavy text. Watch Steve Jobs presentations for example- or take a look at Ted talks. You will never see anything else other than a few words and photos on the slide.
A good test is to actually do one pitch without a slide deck. If your wording is sharp and precise you will notice that you need it less than you may have thought. Then take a look at which points of your pitch really would strengthen it – for example if you show a financial projection. Then you add the respective graph.
Always keep in mind: The PowerPoint is there to complement what you’re saying, not make it redundant!