You will certainly be presented with some jargon terms in both the fundraising space and this article, but this is largely unavoidable and I hope to myth bust some and explain others. Either way, I hope there is at least one nugget that you can take from this, whether you’re a start-up, entrepreneur, putting together an elevator pitch or simply looking for some ideas around pitching.
I’d like to make 4 observations at this stage of my career around pitch ‘deckery’ / pitching for fundraising, which I’ll interpret into overall pieces of advice:
Your pitch to investors needs to be as clear and explicit as possible
In the theoretical eyes of William of Occam or Occam’s Razor Theory (Google it), ‘simplicity’ will always be the purest and most successful approach to anything and this goes for elevator pitching. From the business idea itself to the presentation pages of your deck, keep it “unfluffed” and to the point, your ability to add flare and ‘patter’ will come, however in simple terms, always think how to be as explicit as possible.
In line with this simplicity, remember how close you are to your business and concept, we have witnessed many overviews and presentations that are very murky on what the idea is or what the business achieves. You know your business intimately but others do not have a clue and can quite often be time poor and patience low. Don’t leave them in the dark or you may have lost that opportunity from the outset. Enter every instance with clear intent, know what you want to achieve from any presentation and try and keep jargon out and intelligentsia in, multi-syllables aren’t always as attractive to read as when you type them.
Your start-up pitch deck must be truthfully compelling
What do I mean? Never, in any way, feel you can bend the truth in your content or approach. Even a slight ‘err’ from that path and your wheels will come off. Not from my own experience but from other pitch decks I have witnessed it is glaringly obvious when something has been polished beyond reasonable truth. This does not however mean you cannot be as compelling as possible. In some instances funds can be raised by the compelling nature of the pitch before the product has been fully developed…rare of course, but the point being is to be as compelling as you like, just ensure it marries with the truth.
For a successful elevator pitch you need to have all the answers
It sounds obvious, but I really can’t emphasise this enough. In any situation, pitching can be successful in five meetings or just one, in reality it’s usually the latter, so prepare as if you’re only getting one shot to impress! To that end you never know exactly what someone’s sweet spot is going to be – they may want to see an investable team or incredible post revenue figures…either way if you hesitate, guess or wildly deliver incorrect answers, you may just have lost that opportunity.
Much like any subject you loved at school, revise your content before any pitch or meeting. If you can, research your pitchee in advance in order to get a feel for where they are coming from or themes and ideas that have resonated with them in the past. It may be that you know someone who has an inside track or suggested you speak to them. Don’t be shy and ask as much questions as you need to in advance, be that boy scout.
Share your pitch deck with trusted like-minded individuals and entrepreneurs
Test out your presentation on friends / mentors or business type folk who regularly attend presentations and make sure you rehearse your pitch. When practising with a business or mentor type, note the questions they would ask and rehearse your responses. It’s likely that questions from like minded people, will be similar to the questions the pitchee will pose. Your preparation will aid your confidence and avoid you being stuck in a situation where you’re having to ponder a response.
We can now venture into more granular aspects of an elevator pitch:
You must prepare the different elements of an elevator pitch
Two Decks – we have found a lot of merit in two decks. The first is your snapshot, the second is your detailed exploration. For the first, you will hopefully feel comfortable to be able to send this to parties you trust. The second I’d recommend under NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). Granted, there is some argument as to the credence of these agreements but that’s one for lawyers, not my pay grade.
Deck One should be a brief overview to your idea / business / problem solving genius, perhaps some industry statistics and the top level team involved. A phrase I learnt in this process is ‘don’t drop your trousers too early’ which is in relation to this first overview deck – don’t automatically send an interested party every detail of your business, despite your passion for your business. This deck has the intent of ‘teasing’ if you like but also acts as a safety barrier for not disclosing too much on your business plan, financials and any copyable IP.
Deck Two – this is your full fundraising deck, granted it’s not the whole business plan but it certainly allows interested parties after your overview to get analytical and critical. I will go more in depth to this deck below.
Make sure your pitch deck design is appropriate
The Work of Art. Look, I am a designer so I believe a successful deck marries beautiful content with beautiful design and here is where I will explore the art of the deck…Right, for starters we have all seen them…the death by powerpoint! Powerpoint is not the most robust of design tools by any stretch and I recognise that not all instances warrant a designer, but I will make a point of saying – a deck that could have a unicorn tech idea behind it (jargon alert!) that is badly designed Vs the same but beautifully designed…well I think the latter will always win. I am sure there are many who would counter my argument. My point?? If you can achieve both – content and design then I believe you will have a more compelling case for fundraise.
So what is an investor looking for? Well that question is vast and completely bespoke to each situation but let’s break it down really simply (thanks William of Occam!). An investor – be it private or institutional is looking for a return on investment…if they’re not well then for starters you shouldn’t be talking with them and secondly they will not last long in the business. So we have agreed they’re looking to make money, so we need to present them with that possibility. What constitutes that possibility? The Business Concept – sounds obvious but let’s face it, this is clearly the root of what is investable. The problem, is there a rational problem you are solving? Or ‘the market demand?’ The Competition – who else is doing this. The Uniqueness – why should they invest? The People – good calibre boards or people engaged will excite an investor. The financials – what can an investor make? You will generally see financial data of varying complexity in a deck – this is really dependent on how much is necessary to reveal at the point of that meeting.
Either way, to get into more meaningful conversations there will be an ‘X’ or a multiple relating to your investment request. 10X refers to an investor making 10 times their investment – winner! 5X 4X etc etc. This is where you will be scrutinised the most.
Like any start-up, investors will challenge your figures, be ready for it
Show your figures and know your figures. Make sure you know all variations of your figures and talk with knowledge and confidence about them – at the end of the day 99 out of 100 investors will question your figures whether or not they’re highly optimistic, or genuinely conservative. You need to know what your pre-money value is, whether you’re revenue or pre-revenue and how that sits with your CapEx forecasts. The investor wants to know that you understand your projections more than the projections themselves. Don’t be afraid to be pre-revenue offering, but appreciate this changes the types of investors who will be happy to talk to you. There can always be compelling reasons for why you are raising pre-revenue. Make sense? Easy right?
To summarise, fundraising and pitching is very exciting but in the voice of Dylan Thomas “do not go gentle into that good night” it is a place to be brave. I believe in reciprocity and fairness and let’s face, it in the world of fundraising all parties are looking for their win in a negotiation. Put your grown up pants on and strap in because you’re certain of an interesting ride. If it all aligns, then trust me when I say, you can have the ride of your life!
I shall keep this in normal sized print rather than small but this really comes from a place of limited but realistic experience and I hope you find your morsel of advice from this – if not troll me on social media.
Ed Prow, Founder at TEKEX
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