Pitching investors is daunting. You have to tirelessly arrange meetings, only to hear people tell you why your company won’t work. Even successful companies (that eventually end up raising millions of dollars) hear the word “no” dozens of times when fundraising.
Pitching has its upsides though: In addition to the whole potential money aspect, you get to develop your company’s story and talk about strategy with a bunch of smart, experienced people—and that can only help you in the long run.
And while the most important part of any pitch is the company itself, putting together a great presentation can help you get both initial meetings and eventual term sheets. Here are a few tricks to get you started on the right foot.
1. Scrap the Business Plan
Investors hear from dozens of companies every day (sometimes more) and don’t have time to read through bulky business plans, as well-thought-out as they may be. Instead, focus on telling your story through a short deck—about 8-12 slides (more on what you should include in those below). When it comes to pitching, this will serve a dual purpose: You can email it to investors to pique their interest and then use it to tell your story while meeting in-person as well.
2. Start Early and Get Feedback
While you may have been able to pull off last-minute presentations in college, your company’s pitch will benefit greatly from forethought. Ideally, you should go through 10+ rounds of showing and giving your pitch to knowledgeable friends, mentors, and other entrepreneurs before pitching your first potential investor. Each person you show it to will be able to provide new tips and ask new questions. I spent about two months gathering feedback from people I trusted before showing our deck to a single investor.
3. Answer the Important Questions
There are lots of great resources out there covering what should be in a pitch deck, each a little different, but all of them focus on getting to the important stuff as quickly and succinctly as possible. In a nutshell, you want to anticipate the questions potential investors will ask, then answer them in your presentation.
Here are the questions that we answered in our seed pitch deck, each with a single slide.
It’s tempting to put a lot more information in your deck; after all, there are many more things that you’ve been thinking about (e.g., your product roadmap, more detailed go-to-market strategies), but keeping your messages crisp and concise is important to make sure that you drive the most important points home. A good solution is to create the additional slides you want to fit in but don’t have space for, and then put them in an appendix at the end. That way, if those topics come up in conversation, you can flip there for a visual guide.
4. Refine, Refine, Refine
Don’t be afraid to adjust your pitch as you talk to more and more investors. You’ll see what piques people’s interest, where there are often questions, and where you tend to get out of order, so make use of these learnings for the next meeting. I liked keeping our deck as a Google Doc so that anyone we’d sent it to always had the most recent (and theoretically, best) version.
Putting together a great pitch can be time consuming, but it’s well worth it. Remember, it can save you dozens of hours of meetings if it helps you land the right investors sooner!
All dressed up and nowhere to go? In my next article, I’ll provide some tips for landing investor meetings.