How a startup founder fixed his investor pitch

by | Jul 22, 2017

Last week I helped the founder of a software company with his 15-slide presentation for potential investors. His senior leadership team was there to contribute.

We had already done the work on their focus strategy and growth plan, so the pieces were falling into place in their standard investor pitch deck. It took some work, but the story was finally simple, strong and clear.

As we refined the talking points for each slide, I stood up and delivered a 2-minute version of what I would say for each slide, then the CEO did the same thing.

Our versions could not have been more different.

We each presented similar content, but my delivery was concise and focused. Everyone in the room could tell the difference. We had a few laughs about it.

He was sharing too much of his deep knowledge, using industry terms that required explanation and veering from the main storyline of the presentation.

This is normal for CEOs who are experts in their industries, but not familiar with this specific form of communication–pitching investors. This founder just isn’t experienced at creating and delivering this kind of pitch yet.

He clearly knows more about their customers, products and business than I ever will. But I learned enough about their business to tell a credible story in a way that investors want to hear it.

Finally, he recorded a 20-minute video of me delivering the whole investor presentation so he could learn by example and create a version in his own words.

The investor pitch is not a slimmed-down version of a CEO’s complicated expert knowledge.

For investors, there’s a simple, proven structure to the pitch that answers a set of key questions in less than 30 minutes, with a goal of creating interest and further conversation. I know this because I’ve been around the investment game for 25 years. I understand entrepreneurs, investors, fundraising and the pitch process.

Also, I’m an outsider to this founder’s business. So it was easy for me stay on track with what investors need to hear so they can understand the pitch and develop an interest in investing. I didn’t have the urge to share a thousand unnecessary stories or a mountain of details.

Isn’t this always the case when we have to deliver effective communications that create results? We have a thousand things we could say, but only one headline, 500 words or two minutes to communicate something effectively.

Like this blog post, a podcast interview, a workshop, a textbook or a TED talk, every communication is competing for attention in an overflowing stream of content. Each communication needs to attract, engage and deliver some results for the intended audience.

Your audience is busy and they evaluate everything from where they sit. Your message always needs to be delivered as quickly and simply as possible in a form that works for them.

This is difficult. Knowledgeable leaders struggle with this. I work on it every day. I also get outside help to overcome my own curse of insider knowledge in my business.

Expert knowledge and persuasive communications are not the same thing.

If you don’t communicate well in in your investor pitch, you’ll never have a chance to share your deeper knowledge to close the funding. If you don’t deliver the right sales pitch or website homepage or advertising copy, you won’t make the sale.

Keep learning what it takes to master the key communications tactics required to grow your business. And get as much help as you can.

What happened to the startup founder who struggled with his investor pitch last week? This week he sent me a note. The first potential investor he met with asked for a term sheet. The founder was ecstatic and relieved.