Investors have limited time and short attention to focus on your pitch – they are very busy, and receive thousands of pitches each year.
Many have a screener, often called a “D-Girl” (regardless of gender – this term from Hollywood, when the Development Girl screen potential film ideas). Your pitch, if not “walked in” by someone who knows an investment partner (always the best way to get considered by the partner), must get past the screener and handed along to the partner.
So, here are the strategies for writing an effective pitch piece, from my years of working with entrepreneurs and investors, and from reviewing and re-writing so many pitch pieces.
I must admit that founders have real difficulty creating a short and effective pitch – as they are too close to the information and want to tell the whole story. And they are usually under time pressure, which makes everything worse. I understand their dilemma, and they have my sympathy. Years ago I tried to train my clients to do this, but soon I simply took on the task myself, as it is easier for a writer outside the company, with industry experience, to create this for review by the founders.
So, here goes:
1. You get 12 slides or 3 pages of text. The 12 slides are actually 10 slides, because one is a beginning cover slide and one is an ending “call to action” slide at the end with your contact information.
2. If you are writing 3 pages of text, then you must sound bite the entire business plan (each chapter gets one or two succinct and assertive statements) into those pages, with a summary 5-year projection. Detailed financial projections can be additional.
3. You must focus your value proposition and information on what the investor wants to know, not what you want to tell him.
4. You must focus your pitch to the investor, not to the customer or the strategic partner, or the development team. Each one of these others gets a different deck with a different focus.
5. You must minimize your focus on the product (1-2 slides only) and maximize your focus on the return on investment (ROI) that your company will create for the investor.
6. It is helpful to have researched the investor and his other portfolio companies, so that you might suggest some synergies or strategic alliances between your company and his other companies, to drive up the value of each.
7. It is useful to remember that investors (particularly venture capitalists) are the brokers of other people’s (actually, institutions’) money, and so have an ROI to bring to them in order to justify the funding of their next Fund. So, no matter how personable or involved your investor may be, he likely reports to someone else about the performance of your company.
And here are the issues that investors care about, which should become the content of your slide deck or 3-page summary.
1. The ROI that your company can bring to the investor’s portfolio.
2. Your product is unique in an empty or near-empty market sector, which minimal competition. Here you can define your product in one or two slides, including this uniqueness, market sector, and competitive advantages.
3. Your product is defensible against the Big Guys duplicating your idea after you have proved its worth in the market and its revenue model. This may include a patent (which takes years to obtain, and which reveals details about your product to the world), but rarely includes the “first to market” argument, unless you have access to significant marketing funds or a strategic ally who will access that market for you.
4. Your product will prove that your company is scalable – it will grow fast on the top and bottom lines, minimizing the risk of the early capital. This includes understanding what market segments you can penetrate in your market sector, the size of the segments and the sector, and how you will reach that market.
5. Your management team has deep expertise in all the areas that are needed for all the above issues. Preferably, some of the team have had successful exits in prior companies in the same market space.
6. You are asking for enough capital to succeed. This indicates that you understand how to use the capital you will receive, and have delineated in your financial projections the uses of the capital, and the costs and results of achieving various benchmarks. It may be wise to ask for your current funding needs, and suggest an amount and timing for the subsequent round, defining what benchmarks you will reach in what timeframe with the second infusion of capital.
7. You can demonstrate your ability to control your capital. Recently capital management (this means getting a long way along the risk curve on bootstrapping) has become a key criterion to investors.
Adding to these issues a slide on summary financials (and full projections ready to be sent along if requested), and perhaps a slide on competitive advantages or market size (see #2 above), and you have used up all your slides.
Remember when writing these slides to use large typefaces and bullets, and do not explain or present details. Just assert the issues and the value. The first pitch is to achieve a face-to-face meeting, or more information, not to close the deal. You all need to pass the sniff-test of looking each other in the eye and wondering if you want to partner with each other for the next several years. Remember that exits are now assumed to be 6-8 years from initial professional funding, so you will be with your investors for a long time. Be succinct, but don’t hurry.
Get that meeting to present, based on your short pitch piece that tells your story without explaining the details.
Next week we will cover how to present this pitch to investors.