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11 Business Pitch Tips from Unicorn Companies

A Thought Leader Guest Post from Judd Hollas on EquityNet:

11 Business Pitch Tips from Fundraising Experts

There are many reasons to pitch your business — investment, sales, customer acquisition, recruiting, and more. In this article, we will focus on strategies to pitch when raising early-stage angel or venture capital.  11 Lessons from Famous Business Pitches

We cover some of the high-level considerations and tips for pitching investors, an outline for early-stage pitch decks, and advice gathered from watching and reading the pitches and pitch decks of the most well-funded and successful startups. 

Tips to Deliver a Business Pitch and Pitch Deck 

The goal of any business pitch to investors is to raise money — that’s pretty obvious. You are selling investors on the vision of your company’s growth prospects and why the future you plan to build will come to fruition. However, sometimes the goal is simply to establish a second meeting.

With that in mind, here are a few high-level tips that are essential for business pitches. 

1. Let the Forum Inform the Format

Where you will be pitching your idea or business will determine the level of detail that is expected from your presentation. If you are among multiple companies pitching to a group of investors in a demo day scenario, a high-level overview of your company is advised. The goal here is to get a meeting where you can go into more detail.

Alternatively, if you are raising a Series A round from venture capitalists, a ten-slide deck might not be the ideal level of granularity unless you can accurately talk through each metric. This is why you should understand the forum your pitch will be delivered, and optimize the depth of discussion based on what is expected.

2. Tell a Compelling Story

This piece of advice will never go out of style as long as you are pitching a human being. Even if only in a few slides, piece together a cohesive story of the problem, how you are solving that problem, why you are the right person to solve the problem, and what the world and your company will be like if you win.

We could probably copy and paste the essential elements of a short story, script, or novel and make a good analogy for your pitch deck. Just know that you will likely have a higher success rate with investors if they are told a story they can relate to, remember, and reinforce with their own experiences. 

There are some components of a pitch deck that are simply non-negotiable. The pitch must be able to quickly and clearly inform the uninitiated about who you are, what you do, how you do it (or plan to), why it’s lucrative, and a call to action.

Below are some of the key components and slides to include in your pitch deck: 

  • Slide Template: It’s helpful to have a standardized slide template that includes the basics such as company name and contact information. With this in place, any slide that catches an investor’s attention allows them the opportunity to get in touch with you later. 
  • Title Slide: This should be a basic slide with the name of your company, logo, and a one-line slogan, mission statement, or description of what your company does. 
  • Problem & Solution: Outline the problem and how you came to understand the problem better than anyone which gave you an advantage for discovering the ideal solution. 
  • Team: Depending on your industry and other factors, team could be very important to include, but if the forum is a quick elevator pitch, a single slide of the team and brief resumes will suffice. 
  • Market/Competition: While these are important considerations to be aware of, having a grasp of the total market size and competitive landscape is only helpful to show that you are thinking about the big-picture. Most early-stage investors will want to know how you plan to compete for market share at all. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to be prepared with market data or competitor analysis, just wait to focus on it if specific questions are asked.
  • Go-To-Product-Market-Fit: We are combining two buzzwords (Go-To-Market and Product Market Fit) to keep your pitch deck concise while still explaining how you plan to move up or down the value chain, starting with who you’ve found product-market fit with. 
  • Demo Slide(s): This could be a pre-recorded video or a physical demonstration of the product. Avoid detailed screenshots that are difficult to decipher at a moment’s glance and don’t try to manage both the pitch and the demo unless your product is patently simple to use.

11 Lessons from Famous Business Pitches

1. Keep Slides Simple (GitLab)

When watching GitLab co-founder Sid Sijbrandij pitch at Y-Combinator’s Demo Day in 2015, you quickly recognize how powerful simple slides can be. Understanding the forum of your pitch will be important for guiding the depth you go into with each slide.

At its last fundraising, GitLab was able to raise a whopping $268 million Series E at a $2.75 billion valuation.

Sid’s pitch was delivered on stage and viewed from afar on a large projector, which certainly called for a simplified presentation. The entire presentation was nine slides, with an average of seven words per slide. If you are planning to pitch in a demo day format, sticking to an average of seven words per slide is a good constraint to keep in mind.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures advocates his portfolio companies keep pitch decks to six slides.

2. Demo Your Product (Wrapify)

When James Heller, the founder and CEO of Wrapify, pitched at Launch Festival in 2016 he waited less than 10 seconds to say “let me show you how it works.” Heller did an amazing job of telling a cohesive story from both sides of the platform (drivers and advertisers) while including a few smooth transitions to important slides regarding market, traction, and growth. 

To date, Wrapify has raised $9 million from 14 investors.

Everytime you pitch in front of an audience, even if only one investor, have one person manage the actual product demo, while the other person does the talking. If you try to manage both simultaneously, you’re almost certain to...

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Thanks for this Guest Post and its graphics to Judd Hollas on EquityNet.

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