Investor Pitches – Do’s and Don’ts

After many years of pitching, it’s been fun (and surprisingly normal) to be on the other side listening to pitches. Over the last few weeks, the Real Ventures team has met with easily 50 companies. I took some notes on some great things to do in pitches and some things to avoid. Here they are:

DO

Talk about yourself: Before getting into the wonders of your product or technology, tell us why you started this. What burning need did you see? What is keeping you awake all night thinking about this? As seed investors, it’s all about the team. And a big part of that is assessing your passion for the problem or opportunity and picturing you as the ideal person to make that happen.

If you read an article recently and decided to go after this opportunity that is nowhere near as compelling as if you come from the space, know the players and know what needs to be done.

Summarize: Investors meet a lot of companies. We need to walk away with a clear soundbite. We need that one liner that captures your company. ¬†One thing the folks coming out of places like Launchbox and Techstars do really well is grab your attention right away with their one liners. You immediately get it. It’s powerful.

Be different: There is a litany of knowledge out there on how to do the standard 10 – 12 slide pitch. Assuming investors are going to hear those all day, why not try something different? The few that did this out of the 50 we met really stand out for me anyway.

Tell a story: This relates to being different. Personalized stories of why you started, the problem of a typical user, etc are really powerful.

Educate: If I walk away from the meeting knowing more about a space than when I went into that meeting that’s valuable and is much likelier to see our discussions continue than if I am the one telling you about the space. Domain knowledge is so important. Even for 1st timers. Get mentors, study the direct and indirect competition. Know your space.

Get users 1st: If at all possible get your product or service out there before you raise $. Nothing gets investors’ attention more than traction!

DON’T

Disagree with yourselves: It can really kill a meeting when two founders disagree with each other all the time. For me anyway, this is a red flag. I worry that you will spin cycles trying to reach decisions. I am not saying you should agree with each other all the time, but you should be aligned and there should be a clear, positive working dynamic visible to investors.

Build for yourself: If you build a product because you want it, that’s fine, but investors want to know that the market wants it. And in today’s World of lean startups, customer development and the ability to drive traffic to fake landing pages to gage demand, we increasingly expect some market validation before even the seed investment.

Target everyone: If you tell me all you need is 2% of the market to make a gazillion $, then I want to invest in the company that owns the other 98% of the market. Be focused and define a market segment that you can be the leader in.

Be an Island: Anything worth doing has competition. If you tell investors there is none, then they will conclude their is no opportunity.

Make me read: If your slides are full of small text, investors will more likely look at the small text on their iPhones.