Pitch Perfect – How to Ask for what you want

startup pitch to investors

Warning: Longer post than normal ensues…

None of these thoughts are my own. I went to a pitching seminar at the Innovation Centre of Western Australia recently. I found it helpful, so I thought I’d share my notes with you.

——————— Presentation #1 ————————————————

Sam Birmingham – startup coach at Pollenizer Global and founder of Startup Weekend.

Startup is not about a business plan. It’s an iterative process – everything is a learning loop. Get your product out to the market and start learning.

Uses tools like Lean Startup, Lean Canvas etc.

Start at the problem. Don’t get wedded to a solution.

Problem –> Product, USP, metrics etc

Market –> Customer.

Constraints bring out the best in people.

Do a “twitter pitch”. Confine your concept to less than 140 characters.

e.g. “If Apple designed Salesforce” or “Google Analytics for Offline Stores”.

Gaddie pitch – confine yourself to answering 3 questions, in this order:

1. You know how …. What is the problem you are solving? Help them feel the pain of it so they know you understand it.

2. Well, what we do is …. Introduce the solution. Describe how you solve the pain.

3. In fact …. Provide some strong validation as to why you’re so awesome. Blow them away with a snippet of information e.g. “we’ve connected more than 1,000 people to jobs in the last 6 months”.

Universal Startup Pitch Deck – a simple framework they designed to get some consistency in pitching. But it also helps you think through the strengths and weaknesses of your startup business.

  • Hi, I’m ……
  • from ….
  • The problem we’re solving is ….
  • Our solution is ….
  • We do this by….
  • This is a big opportunity because …  (feel free to get people excited!)
  • Our target market is …
  • Our customers are ….
  • We acquire customers by …
  • We make money by…
  • Our key competition is… (never say you don’t have competition – you must show you understand the market).
  • But we’re better because…
  • Our team is….
  • So far, we have ….
  • What we’ll do next is …
  • What we’re looking for is….

Did a demonstration using a new startup TechBoard (which is similar to Crunchbase and AngelList).

Note: Sam says acquiring Customers (not just users) is the most expensive part of any startup – never underestimate how much it will cost or how long it will take to get to profit.

——————— Presentation #2 ————————————————

Toby – now works with KPMG – formerly worked in Silicon Valley (Is a Cal Bears supporter), responsible for Billions of Dollars in deals.

Mr Right’s best pitch won’t work on Miss Wrong.

Whenever you pitch, make sure you understand your audience. Do your homework before hand if you can, if not, actually ask them questions before you start.

Pitching to get interest (a date) is different to pitching to get an offer (a marriage proposal). Know what you want – they might just say yes!

Different types of investors:

Seed Capital – usually from family, friends, banks – beg, borrow, & steal.

Angel Investors – usually wealthy individuals with higher standards than your family and friends.

Venture Capitalists – institutional investors who have to answer to their shareholders.

It’s not about who you are attracted to, it’s about who would be attracted to you. So look up their website and research them on Linked In, your network etc. Who have they invested in in the past? Who are they investing in right now?

Find a way to get introduced. You shouldn’t have to cold call, if you’ve done your research and networking right.

The Investor is only ever asking one question:
“Why should I invest in you?”

So, no matter what they ask, you should always answer THAT question. For example, even if they ask about current economic problems (e.g. interest rates, share price etc) you should answer “I’m so glad you asked this question, because actually we’re a solution to this problem because…” then tell them what they really want to know:

1. Do you have an experienced management team they can trust?

2. Is there a predictable customer demand (i.e. revenue stream)?

3. Does the product/technology solve a legitimate problem

4. What is the market size and competition

Know where you stand in regards to your:
1. Access to Capital

2. Access to Customers

3. Access to Talent

4. Brand

Other questions that you should think about (and have an answer to) will help them to answer “yes” to their main question.

  • Where did your startup come from?
  • What got you started?
  • Were you in the industry before?
  • Were you a consumer of the industry before?

Use Robert Cialdini’s laws of influence e.g. reciprocity, authority etc.

Have email templates ready to use that implement the Laws of Influence. e.g.:
“Given your interest in Uber and AirBnB, and the current market around this type of domestic-based solution in previously commercial markets, I thought you might be interested in 2015Jobs.com.au, Australia’s leading technology for private and domestic employment, as used by ….

Use Social Proof even when talking about your market e.g. “the market everyone is investing in at the moment”.

Talk about your future before it happens “2015Jobs is well-positioned for international market expansion…”

Elevate61 is an incubator to help people raise funds in the USA. Many USA investors aren’t allowed to invest beyond the borders of USA even if they really love your idea – so you need to be setup there to even start talking to them.

Energise is an accelerator in Australia – that has 12 supporting companies e.g. BHP, Shell, Worley Parsons etc – that will test and possibly use the products being developed by the mainly natural resources and energy startups.

The main thing he looks for in startups is self-awareness around coachability. You’re not able to be good at everything. So knowing your weaknesses can be a real strength.


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