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5 Things You Shouldn't Forget When Pitching Investors

Forgetten by Taz

I'm not an investor but I've seen hundreds of pitches while running Springboard's accelerator programs for the last five years. There's a lot of good advice out there for how to construct an investor pitch, and like any advice you should think critically about whether it makes sense for you to follow it.

Sometimes you'll do yourself a favor, and stand out, by taking the opposite approach.

I don't believe in relying on Pattern Recognition to invest, but I do believe that thinking in patterns can be valuable. I've noticed a few recurring patterns that can cause an investor pitch to flop, and each of them is something that the entrepreneur forgets.

Remember these five things and while your pitch might not be perfect you'll at least avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

1. Don't forget the first pitch is the trailer, not a full length film

Solution: Focus on highlights and creating interest for a follow-up meeting. Every pitch has an ask. When you are pitching an audience, no one will come up to you after with a checkbook ready to invest in your round. (If they do in today's market, you should question whether they are the kind of investor you want. You should always diligence your investor and you can't do that in a 5-minute interaction.)

Pitch sessions like the ones we run at Springboard are opportunities to start or build relationships. Success is pitching an "interesting enough" story to warrant a follow-up meeting.

Hook them with your trailer, and they will want to see the feature length film.

2. Don't spend too long on the product, and not enough on the business

Solution: Get to the point faster. Too many entrepreneurs are in love with their product, and it often comes through in the investor pitch. Remember that you need to speak the language of the investor, not the customer. The core interests of your target audience are different, which means the key messages of the pitch should be different.

Investors are interested in the business case and their return on investment. They need to know how you make money, your assumptions around the go-to-market approach and speed-to-scale that are represented in your financials, and the key value-inflecting milestones that this round (and future rounds needed) will buy them en route to potential exit opportunities where the investor will realize their return.

3. Don't be uninteresting

Solution: incorporate storytelling. While actual numbers vary by individual and firm, you can be sure that you aren't the only investment opportunity an investor will see that week. You are one of many, and yet from your perspective you are the only one.

Remember the importance of first impressions, and the importance that investors place on likability.

Think about when you're making a new hire. You ask yourself, "can I see myself working with this person" or "are we compatible/complementary/synergistic." While hiring and investing are very different, some of these same questions are equally relevant.

Telling a story makes you human. And people like to invest in humans (they "bet on the jockey not the horse"). If you focus only on the facts and the business, and don't give the sense of where you draw your passion investors won't walk away from your pitch thinking that you are unstoppable. Be unstoppable.

4. Don't forget to say what the company does

Solution: This should be the first thing out of your mouth. Develop a 1-2 line summary of what your company does, and say it the first 30 seconds of any pitch you give.

At Springboard we run many sessions that include a pitch followed by a Q&A and feedback. You would be shocked how often the first comment after a pitch is to say "I still don't understand exactly what your company does." If your company is complex, ground your summary statement with a use case.

When a pitch fails to clearly communicate what the company does, or waits until a minute or two into the pitch to tell me, I find myself hung up on that question, craving the answer and unable to focus on anything else in the presentation.

Your summary statement is the bedrock on which everything else is built.

5. Don't forget to focus on one key take-away

Solution: Think of your calling card. We work with entrepreneurs on a ten-minute investor pitch. Among other things, we advocate for simple, visual slides with titles that spoon-feed the audience each slide's key take-away. But even in a 10-slide deck, 10 take-aways are too many.

Cognitive Psychology tells us the number of items people can remember about a presentation is closer to three. So you want to think really carefully about what your key take-aways will be, and embed them as themes throughout the pitch.

I'd recommend you pick just one. Is it the early exit opportunities? Is it the team that's worked together with similar technology in an adjacent industry? Is it the massive opportunity?

Pick one and make sure your audience will never forget it. Reinforce it throughout the pitch so the take-away is actually taken away. Because if they do, they'll tell their partners and next thing you know you'll have the follow-up meeting you wanted.