Six Pitching Tips for Entrepreneurs
By Susi Graf,
Director of Memberships & Sponsorships, Keiretsu Forum Central Canada
It’s 9:30 am on the second Thursday of the month and I’m sitting with fellow angel investors at the IBM innovation Space in Markham listening to entrepreneurs pitching their innovative ideas for growing their companies. We’re part of Keiretsu Forum, the world’s largest angel investor network with over 3,000+ accredited investor members throughout 52 chapters in 23 countries on three continents. Member investments are typically in the range of $500,000 – $6 million.
Pitching angel investors is very different than selling to customers. Most entrepreneurs are unprepared for the harsh truth. Angels want to invest in a company that will quickly grow in order to scale up to become a large enough and well run business to attract a buyer – a buyer who will give that angel the return on investment they are looking for. This is the famed exit strategy. Angels need to understand how that exit strategy is attainable almost more than we want to hear about your business. With that end in mind, here are six pitching tips:
1. Prepare, Rehearse, Prepare Again!
Our pitches are a 10-minute presentation and 10 minutes of Q&A. Make each of those 1200 seconds count for your company. If you’re using a powerpoint or a video, make sure it is crisp and concise. Practice to varied audiences before you go live. Think of potential questions. Know your stuff, your market, your competitors. Investors do not tolerate ambiguity.
2. Speak and Smile
Speak in a clear voice. Show some emotion. Show some energy. Be confident and convincing. Show some humility. We need to like you, not just your product or service.
3. Tell us who you are
Don’t just recite what you’ve done. Give us your background in the form of a story. Give us reasons to believe in you. Take us on a journey. We all like the prospect of a fairy tale ending.
4. Tell us how you help your customers
Details are important later, but summarize the high value stuff first. Tell us why customers will flock to you and what pain points you’re solving. We need to be clear on that before we want to try to understand exactly how your product or service works.
5. Focus on basic economics
Be clear, specific and real on the size of the market for your product or service. We tune out when the superlatives come out. Help us understand your calculations of market size and convince us with actual numbers and examples, not just words.
6. Define your value
Know your current and future company valuations. Be non-apologetic about your reasoning. We need to believe your calculation if we’re going to buy into it. Pitch how your exit strategy will work for us; be real about the timing.
Pitching well takes some practice and sometimes some constructive coaching. However, it may just be the most important thing you ever do for your business. Remember, if all else fails, go back to #2.