You have a great business idea, but you need funding to get it off the ground. At this stage, your pitch deck to investors is make-or-break for your business’s success.
Ok, let’s pause a moment and take a breath. You are a visionary and pioneer, but still, it’s important to start with grounded expectations. Likely, investors won’t be throwing cash at you as soon as you finish pitching. This is not a fairy tale. Those raising money have probably had tens if not hundreds of meetings first, and some of them have gone through this with a company or two. Your aim is not to walk out of a meeting with a fat check, but rather to simply get your foot in the door so the investor requests another meeting where you can go deeper into detail. Your pitch deck is your opportunity to make a great first impression that could catapult your exciting journey.
The real problem is that 99 per cent of pitches fail to get funding. Investors hear so many pitches that it’s hard for you to stand out in their minds. Your strategy should be to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes to a meeting — and you can do that by crafting your pitch like a story so that you’re memorable. Humans are hardwired to love stories, and venture capitalists are human too.
The story should always start with the need: What’s the problem that needs to be solved? A startup can’t be based on a cool innovation if no one will actually buy it. Set the scene with anecdotes, ideally your own, a friend’s or a family member’s. You can even use something from the news or a made-up story to illustrate if you think it gets across your point better. Also, to highlight the veracity of the problem, find statistics to back up your anecdote and show it’s a much larger issue. Think about Amazon Prime and all the different stories you can come up with to explain why someone might need next-day delivery. Maybe you tell the story of an elderly person who needs something urgently but is unable to travel easily or a husband who has forgotten his wife’s birthday. These examples immediately make it clear why someone would need a solution. The cherry on top would be to use a statistic to show how common this problem is, such as 75 per cent of spouses have tried to get a birthday present at the last minute.
If the “need” is the villain, your product or service is the hero of the story. This is the time to introduce your solution and show how it helps those in need. You should be able to do this through a simple solution sentence: We’re doing X (solving a problem) for Y (for a specific audience) by Z (in a nutshell, what are you? A platform, app, tool, etc). Make sure to make your explanation so simple that anyone understands. (Try it out on a child to test for clarity). An investor won’t invest in something if he or she is confused about what your startup actually does. Yes, investors are very smart, but even they can get overwhelmed by too much technical jargon. This is especially true for deep tech startups, as not everyone in the meeting will have a PhD in computer science. If you can include a demo, you should. It’s so much easier for an investor to be shown what you do rather than told. Steve Jobs introduced the iPad at a conference and immediately showed a prototype. If anyone was struggling to imagine a use case for his new product, after the demo, he or she would have been convinced. It doesn’t have to be a costly demo video — a series of screenshots or mock-ups showing the user journey can be just as effective. It shows off the “wow” factor of your product while revealing your deep understanding of your user base, ticking off two important boxes with investors. Bonus points if you show it with an actual user and his or her story along with the impressive results you’ve brought him or her, signed with a glowing testimonial.
Here is where you dive into all of the details of where you currently stand in terms of serving the needs of your future customers. You want to talk about your milestones up until now, including details about the size and makeup of your existing team and whether you already have funding, an MVP/Beta or a launched product, revenues, IP, partnerships, etc. You want to give a clear overview of the market — talk about how the market as a whole is doing, especially if it’s growing. You can choose to go top-down or bottom-up, but you must show you have a huge potential market. An even more powerful piece is to show the trends that make you a very timely investment opportunity; behavioural, regulatory and/or investment trends can serve up a nice hot dish of urgency. It’s important to discuss your plan for penetrating and winning these markets in your go-to-market strategy slide. Don’t forget to touch upon the competition here and what makes you different from everyone else. It’s important not to say anything bad about your competition, as it makes you look bitter. Rise above instead. Leverage their success to show that you are doing it in a better way.
The final building block of your investor pitch deck is the vision for the future. Imagine this like you’re a hero trying to recruit others to help you on your mission. You’ll need to tell the exact plan if they come on board and what milestones you want to reach. You need their investment to slay the villain of the story. But it goes well beyond this. Your superhero has bigger and better horizons to conquer; once you are finished slaying this villain, what’s the even bigger plan? Investors want to see the moonshot, the north star — what your guiding force is. Even if it seems like a far off dream, don’t be afraid to take them on that journey into the future and show them how you plan to get there. You should leave no room for ambiguity about what your ask is. Use a clear statement starting with, “Seeking $XX million for…” Include the main allocations such as R&D and sales and marketing, team expansion, etc. State your “Round Objective” — what you believe the money will help you achieve in what timeframe. And once you have your pitch scripted out, practice being expressive and passionate in your delivery. You want to inspire them to work with you! Another factor they are looking for is stellar people to work with, people who will give their heart and soul, people who will be great to work with in the good, the bad and the ugly. People who are flexible enough to take guidance and advice. After all, they’re not just putting in money, they are partnering with you for the long haul — so make sure you are a great travel partner.