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Capital, , , — March 9, 2011 10:00 — 71 Comments

How to Pitch to Investors Unreasonably Well

Next week, I’ll find myself in front of 200 Angel Investors for about 30 minutes.

Although I’ve pitched many ideas before, I thought that for this post, I might search out a bit of advice from seasoned professionals on how to best approach the situation. That’s when roommate and Unreasonable Institute Co-Founder Daniel Epstein walked into my room and dropped Guy Kawasaki’s book, Art of the Start into my hands. Like Daniel advised, I read through it and I’m convinced that if you ever plan on starting anything, you should read this book too.  Although the book is a little outdated as it was published 5 years ago, it is still filled with invaluable advice for any entrepreneur.

Guy offers plenty of relevant advice for the startup process in general, but I really enjoyed the chapter titled The Art of Pitching.  In it, Guy offers a lot of great advice, much of which I will utilize when I’m pitching to a room full of investors next week.  I will highlight here what I believe are the most useful points that Guy makes in regards to The Art of Pitching.

Explain Yourself in the First Minute. The one question your audience is wondering while you’re sharing your life story in the first few minutes of your presentation is “What does your organization do?” As Guy suggests, “Do everyone a favor: Answer that question in the first minute.” Once your audience understands what your organization does, they’ll be able to give you their focused attention. I couldn’t agree more. If you can get this done in the first 30 seconds, you are doing something right.

Answer the Little Person on Your Shoulder. Imagine that there’s a little person sitting on your shoulder during presentations, asking you “So what?” every time you say something. The best way to answer that little man’s question is by giving examples that illustrate the significance of a claim.  Utilize the simple phrasing; “for instance…” to offer concrete examples.

Know Your Audience. Before the pitch, learn who you are pitching to and what is important to them. What are the most important things your audience wants to know? What issues and landmines (tough questions or concerns) should you be prepared to address? What does their organization do? If they are investors, what do they like to invest in?  Speak to these questions in your pitch and tell the audience why it is you are meeting their wants, desires, or needs.

Keep Your Pitch Short & Your Powerpoint Simple. “I’ve never heard a pitch that was too short,” reveals Guy. A good pitch should pique curiosity and invite follow-up questions from your audience. Keep your powerpoint simple to this effect: keep it to 10 slides, 20 minutes, and make it “sticky.” (We wrote a post on how to make an idea / presentation sticky in this previous post).  Below, I’ve outlined how Guy advises you to structure your powerpoint to investors.  This structure is great, but there is always room for creativity on your part:

  1. Title – organization name, your name and title, and contact information
  2. Problem – what’s the pain you’re trying to alleviate?
  3. Solution – how do you alleviate this pain?
  4. Business Model – how do you make money?
  5. Underlying Magic – what’s your secret sauce?
  6. Marketing & Sales – how will you reach your customers?
  7. Competition – who else does what you do?
  8. Management Team – who are the key players in your organization?
  9. Financial Projections & Key Metrics – what’s your financial forecast and how will you measure your efforts?
  10. Current Status, Accomplishments, Timeline & Use of Funds – How are things going and what do you expect in the near future?

Set the Stage. When you are presenting, whatever happens during the presentation (whether good or bad), including technical glitches, it’s your fault. So be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If you have them, bring multiple laptops, your own projector, a USB drive with your presentation, e-mail your presentation to yourself, and bring handouts in case you can’t get your powerpoint to work. Most importantly though, know your presentation well enough that you don’t need the powerpoint. Your powerpoint should be nothing more than an enhancement to your pitch.

Let One Person Do the Talking. If your team is on the stage, let the CEO / President / Executive Director do 80% of the talking. Other team members can present one or two slides on their specific expertise. Often times it is even more effective just to have one person on the stage.  For the pitch I’ll be giving next week, we decided that I should run the entire presentation because we only have 10 minutes on stage.

Get to 1,000 Feet and Stay There. Neither fly too high with your pitch nor get mired in details. Stay above the ground, but still think about tactics. “Provide enough detail to prove you can deliver and enough aerial view to prove you have a vision.”

Pitch Constantly. Most people need to practice their pitch 25 times to feel really comfortable with it. I hope to practice a few times in front of our dog, Kaya. Keeping her attention for 10 minutes will be a good test of how compelling my pitch is.

Be Comfortable, Be Yourself, Be Passionate. Guy never directly touches on this in this chapter of his book, but this is critical to your success.  Don’t be afraid to show people how passionate and obsessed you are with the venture that you are pitching.  In fact, this is something every investor is going to look for.  Furthermore, always remember that at the end of the day the investor is investing in you and not just your idea.  Make certain you know your pitch well enough and have practiced it enough times that you can be yourself on stage. An investor would rather invest in a great entrepreneur with a descent idea than an mediocre entrepreneur with a great idea.

Other Resources:

Canaan Partners and PopTech designed an excellent slideshow detailing the important parts of pitching. I recommend blowing it up to Full-Screen so you can read it. But it’s got everything you need to know! Check it out:

A Tale of Two Pitches – Entrepreneur turned VC Mark Suster tells two stories of entrepreneurs who pitched to him – one a 10 out of 10 and one a total flop.

Angel Funding Advice – Mark Suster overviews how to pitch to angels, with whom you should do it, and how to find angels who will listen.

David S. Rose on pitching to VCs – Pitch Coash David Rose gives a 15-minute TED talk on the 10 things you want to convey to a VC



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I want to live in a world where every human being can be the master of their own fate, unbound by the chains of poverty, oppression, or injustice.