Free Advice: 5 ways to improve your start-up pitch

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Brian Vierra, EDCO’s Venture Catalyst, provides five ways to improve your business pitch. Vierra has both pitched — and sold — a business to investors. He exited a corporate training company he founded in 2007. He also happens to be on the investor committee for the Oregon Angel Fund. In that capacity, he reviews dozens of pitches a month to determine whether they are worthy of investment.

And finally, as the organizer of the upcoming Bend Venture Conference, he’s currently helping review pitches from both the launch and concept stage companies. It’s basically all pitches, all the time. So here is Vierra’s free advice for making your pitch stand out.

1. Clearly state the problem your business is going to solve.

Before you even go into what your company does, Vierra wants to know what problem you’re addressing and why your business is coming into existence right now. “I’ve gone through a couple of companies where it doesn’t look like there’s a problem to solve,” Vierra says. “You have to hit people at their pain points. That’s one of the success factors.”

2. Use more pictures in your presentation.

“Every once in a while I’ll see a slide that is 10 different bullet point,” Vierra says. “No one is going to read all that.” Vierra likes to see pictures, graphs and charts that illustrate the problem your business is trying to solve and your solution. “Investors want it to be easy to move forward,” he says. “If it’s a struggle and they need to make a huge effort to understand what you do, you decrease the odds of them becoming involved.”

3. Assume in your revenue projections that you’ve already received funding.

“I’ve seen two kind of projections, one that shows what happens if they get the funding. And another where the founders assume they won’t get any funding and then project what their numbers are going to look like,” Vierra says. The latter fizzles because it reveals no ambition. “If you’re asking for $500,000 or $1 million, I want to know what you’re going to do with it and what that will look like,” he says.

4. Focus, focus, focus.

Entrepreneurs have big ideas. Usually lots of them. But they often forget that this is the first time an investor is being exposed to their first and best idea, and the speed right past it.

“You can’t immediately jump into your other streams of revenue and other partnerships and how you can do this thing or that,” Vierra says. “Slow down. Go back to what is the first business idea and how big can that get.” Once you set the hook, you want to reel those fish in, instead of trying to bait them with even more hooks.

5. D.U.A (Don’t Use Acronyms)

Investors consider lots of pitches from a wide variety of industries. It’s challenging to stay current on the all the acronyms and jargon in your business. Instead of boggling their mind with an alphabet soup, make it easy for investors (and, ahem, bloggers) to understand what you do. “As an investor, when you start hearing about things you’re unfamiliar with, you begin to question whether you know enough to jump in and be of help,” Vierra says.

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