How To Get The Perfect Startup Pitch?
Pitching a startup to venture capitalists is like online dating but not like eHarmony, where soulmates are matched through a complex lattice of interests and compatibility. It’s more like Tinder, where only one thing matters: Are you hot or not?
People are going to make an instant decision about your pitch. They’re not going to want to see your entire background, they’re not going to want to get to know you, they don’t want to be your friend, you are either hot or not, interesting or not. It’s that quick.
So what makes your pitch grasping and to the point?
Do Your Homework
It is important to scout your audience before working on a pitch, it helps in formatting it better. Using social media has made it easier by folds, all you need is LinkedIn and you can easily figure out who are you pitching your idea to by looking up everyone in the room and research their background to find points of common interest. But you also want to find where you’re not relevant in order to into a firm standing and understanding.
Set the Stage
Asking these three questions will help you build a strong foundation during the pitch:
How long do I have?
If you built your whole assumption upon being there for an hour and you only have half an hour, you’re really going to be stuck, so it is always smarter to ask the time duration available to you.
What are the three most important things that I can explain?
Asking this question saves you a lot of time and confusion. Maybe the investors only care about the market and the technology. Meanwhile, you’re thinking they want to know about the team, and then you will be skewing your presentation completely wrong. But this question also creates a verbal commitment from your audience. If they say, ‘We’re only interested in technology and market and competition,’ and then you address those three, they cannot complain because you did what was asked of you.
Can they hold their questions until the end?
This is an important rule to establish because you want to fly through your presentation as fast as possible. You don’t want to take questions because they’re going to send you down rat holes.
Tell a Story
Fight the temptation to talk about your patent-pending, curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting, enterprise-class, scalable product, or service. You’ll sound just like every other company the VC is meeting that day. CEO after CEO will try to throw everything in there because you want to use shock and awe to convince these investors to write you a check at the end of 60 minutes and that is not the right way. What you want to do is tell stories about why you created the company.
Observe the 10/20/30 Rule
The optimal number of slides is 10. You should be able to give your whole talk in 20 minutes irrespective of the time you have in hand. And the ideal font size is 30 points — though you can fudge that a bit. A very good calculation for your font size is to figure out who the oldest person is in the audience, then divide his or her age by 2.
Also, make your slide background dark. Dark projects seriousness and gravitas. Dark says that I did not boot up PowerPoint, got a white open new document, inserted a new text box, and started typing.
Let One Person Do the Talking
You know that standard nuggets of advice that investors are really investing in your team? It’s a trap, says Kawasaki. When you parade your CEO, CTO, and CMO in front of investors in an attempt to show off how dedicated, hardworking, and brilliant you all are, you really just end up with an unstable, jagged presentation.
Somebody’s going to blow it. You’re not all equally rehearsed. You’re not all equally good. Just let the CEO do the talking if your CEO cannot present everything about the 10 slides you’re going to see — the market, the technology, the marketing, the product introduction, the financials — if your CEO cannot cover those topics, you need a new CEO.
Pitching is an acquired skill, not an innate talent, Kawasaki says. It takes practice. And yet, he says, the tendency of CEOs is to assume they’re somehow the exception to that rule and can get up and just wing it. It takes about 25 times giving the pitch until you’re really smooth with the pitch. This means you have to pitch all the time.
Start from Scratch
Your pitch is a constant work in progress — which is both good and bad. After meeting with a VC who’s concerned about the team, you add a team page. The next one is interested in the technology, so you add a bit about the optimal programming language.
And then someone wants to know about the marketing plan, so you add a marketing slide. Pretty soon your talk is the equivalent of a jeepney, Kawasaki says, referencing the postwar Jeep hybrids common in the Philippines. They take fenders from a Mercedes, an engine from a Chevrolet. And it’s quite beautiful, actually, but at this point, a jeepney bears no relationship to the World War II Jeep that the Americans left.