Unless you are Angelina Jolie, raising capital is one of the hardest things you will ever do as an entrepreneur. If there’s one thing that has become unequivocally clear, it is that with so many great startups the competition for funding is far greater than ever. This means you really need to differentiate yourself.
Squeezing in passion, data and complicated work into a few key points is no small feat, but it’s imperative for introducing your startup. So those 15 minutes while delivering your pitch are of utmost importance. So, before you head into that boardroom with a presentation in hand, read on.
Avoid death by a presentation
At times it turns out that people don’t know how to present without PowerPoint. But talking investors slide by slide through your deck, would be the best way to bore them. You must understand that PowerPoint is not your presentation. It is you. It is the way you use your content and visuals, and how you deliver them to engage and persuade investors.
So rather than slides, your pitching tools should be visual aids or handouts. But remember, visual aids exist for the investors understanding, not as a crutch to help you remember what next to say. Handouts are to be read at a desk, later on. And you can always come up with your own creative ways to get things across.
The importance of projecting warmth and competence
Might be that you have the credentials to deliver on your words, but so do many of your competitors. Then what sets you apart? Your passion, integrity, realism, and warmth do. In other words, being likable – is just as important.
Many founders appear more likable by making small alterations such as asking more questions, maintaining better eye contact and smiling. Whether you have traveled halfway around the planet to attend a pitch, or if it’s your fifth meeting in one day, you need to give your potential investors a positive feeling about what it will be like working with you.
Give a narrative
More important than anything else to convince and inspire your audience that you are going to build a successful business. This is not about a made up story or crazy theatrics. It’s about how you weave the facts and data together to sell a vision. When investors understand and believe in you and your vision, it tells them that it was a winning idea and team.
Then, your pitch needs to be tailored to your strengths as a business. It could be built around your team and how you’re a fit for the market and the opportunity ahead. Or could be about your unique insights and take on a problem. Finally, give it a personal touch. Most successful entrepreneurs are great storytellers.
Cut the crap, I mean the jargon.
The startup world is flooding with buzzwords, and most certainly you feel the urge to use these ‘industry terms’ in their presentations. I’ve seen many such presentations rendered incomprehensible because they were a cram full of jargon.
Lots of big words, but essentially hollow. So drop the jargon and explain what you do like you would to a friend who wasn’t in the industry. It is the originality that breathes life into a story. Tell your story simply, directly and with as few slides as possible.
Embrace the Competition
It will be a blunder of a lifetime to ignore your competitors. You must look under every tree and rock to find your competitors. And always forbid from talking trash about them. You don’t know who’d be sitting in that room. It also gives a wrong impression that you have to belittle your competition to make yourself look good.
Hiding from your competition won’t help. Instead, use their presence to show that the market is hot. Talk about the bigger players in the market too. As much as you don’t want to compete for head to head with the Microsofts, Facebooks, and Googles of the world, it is going to be worse if they have absolutely no interest in your space.
Shut Up, Take Notes, and Follow Up
Having gotten to the end of your presentation and while fielding all those questions, take notes. Fake notes will do the magic equally well because this communicates that you’re taking them seriously. It is even more important when they are giving you some feedback and raining all that wisdom on you.
And, you’d better follow up on those questions. It’s amazing how many people say they would get back to with the answers and they never actually do. The clock starts ticking from the moment you walk out of the door and expires in 24 hours.
Finally, never thank them for their time.
Your time is as valuable as theirs. One should be appreciative of the opportunity and demonstrate humility throughout the interaction ─ but never thank your investors for their time.
VC’s are in the business of saying no. They get thousands of deals every year but only invest in a handful. So being turned down should be a reason to get upset. Their feedback is valuable (your notes will come in handy), so pay attention to it and use it to brace your story and pitch. When you put yourself out there, you’ll hear many no’s. But learning from these experiences will give you a better chance of that one elusive YES.