Tom Britton is the co-founder of SyndicateRoom, an equity crowdfunding platform. In this article, he shares his top advice for founders looking to pitch to investors.
The proof, as they say, is in the investment. Often companies have great products, great teams, and great business plans but strike out when it comes to getting the investment they need because their pitch just didn’t deliver.
After working with companies on their presentations for the past four years I can honestly say that there is no silver bullet to convince investors to part with their cash. But if you keep the following points in mind when preparing for, and then delivering your pitch, I think you’ll be tipping the scales in your favour.
Focus is King
The average person can keep between four and seven things in their mind at any given time. You need to make sure those four are the most important stats/ideas that they can take away with them when they go back to their yacht and think about investing in you.
So, don’t over complicate your pitch with too many “less important” facts. Of course you could include more than four but don’t over emphasise those that aren’t mission critical. Prioritise the top four and build your pitch around them and don’t be afraid to reiterate certain points should the opportunity arise.
Know your audience and adapt what you say
One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen entrepreneurs make when they pitch is not knowing their audience and not adapting what they say for them. And no, I’m not advocating lying in any way. What I am suggesting is that the audience is taken into consideration and the language used is adapted for their understanding of your industry.
Avoid using complex industry specific terminology, acronyms and abbreviations that they may not understand. The easiest way to lose an investor’s attention is to make them feel dumb, and speaking in what is effectively a foreign language does just that. But it’s a balancing act. Don’t dumb down the language too much because you still need to show you’re an expert in the field. Just keep in mind that they may need an explanation or two when things get super technical, just don’t do it in a patronising way.
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Numbers are good. Lots of numbers are bad
You’ve done a lot of research into your industry, the market size, the competition, forecasts upon forecasts of revenue scenarios, obscure case studies that clearly show your product as the only solution to an ever growing customer need. You’ve got stats upon stats and other numbers that could fill up your entire solid state drive and your keen to show what they all mean. But, keep in mind the first point, focus is king, particularly with stats.
You don’t want them to get lost in a sea of stats that aren’t all super important so, instead of making sure they are all in the presentation, move the vast majority of supporting stats to an appendix section of your deck. Inevitably interested investors will ask for further insights on your figures and you can impress them with your preparedness by quickly clicking through to the appendix where the numbers already exist, as is by……..Magic!
Investors back people, not robots
While it’s not a popularity contest, you have to remember that investors ultimately invest in people so it’s important that you engage with the audience as much as you can instead of just pitching at them. And, the best way you can do that is by telling your story and letting your personality come through in the presentation. Investing in startups is a long term game so the investors need to feel that they can trust you and work with you for the long haul. They might like the efficiency of a robot but they prefer to work with humans so make sure they know you are more than just the images and stats in your deck. And, it goes without saying, confidence is good, arrogance is bad.
Transparency, transparency, transparency
Working with some of the most notable angel investors in the UK has left me with an impression that they are all born with a gene that gives them a heightened sense of BS detection.
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They’ve heard countless entrepreneurs pitch before you and done countless hours of research. They’ll know not just when you are lying but when you are even in the slightest bit stretching the truth so don’t.
Investors want entrepreneurs who are honest. Your humble sales figures for the last couple of months and a realistic projection on what you can achieve in the next six are much more powerful than slightly obscured previous figures and unachievable forecasts. They are not going to invest if they don’t trust what you say and it’s not just stats. Do your homework on competition and be upfront and honest about their strengths and weaknesses vs yours.
A well prepared entrepreneur who knows the market and all the gaps is much better than a naive one who things they don’t have any competitors.
Presentations shouldn’t be templated so don’t try to follow exactly what others you’ve seen pitch have done before. Take on board what I’ve said above and be genuine in all parts of your presentation, even the format.