A challenge of the premise behind the famous 10 slides; as you prepare to take the stage to pitch, think about how the idea of an elevator pitch (what you say in 30 seconds or less to convince your audience to listen further) factors in.
Generally speaking, if you don’t close a deal in the first 3 bullets, you’ve failed to figure out the messaging as the rest is merely information contingent on the first 3 points.
How to approach your startup pitch
There are many schools of thought on the pitch deck and how to communicate to investors. From Guy Kawasaki’s 10 slides to Onevest’s Alejandro Cremades’ Killer Pitch Deck, most pitch deck advice follows a scripted format evangelized by all the right thought leaders. Naturally, you’re inclined to defer to that and build what is suggested gets you funded, and they aren’t wrong, but frankly consider that it’s a straightforward template popularized to simplify for new entrepreneurs the idea of pitching.
Invariably, the perfect pitch looks something like this:
- Market Size
- Go to Market Plan
Take those slide titles as simply as they are put and you can infer how such direction can lead to a dumbed down story of a venture.
Is there a problem? Yes, of course, here it is. Great, is there a solution? Yep, here and look, we are sure that it’s a billion dollar market and that our competition is behind.
Perhaps that’s the appeal encouraging such a pitch deck; simplification of the story for investors while demanding of the founders pitching that they’ve at least done the minimum amount of due diligence on behalf of their own venture.
Usually in my experience, such communication fails. Think about how easy it is that such simplification leaves a lot of holes: You’ve failed to establish any credibility up front; how can I take the rest seriously? What if I don’t agree that that’s a problem? What if your market size is wrong? What if you overlook a known competitor or the traction isn’t what the audience is seeking?
Rather than merely being a pitch to investors, think of these slides in the context of how you would encourage anyone to engage with you. To close the deal, with who you might be talking, you have to overcome their unique initial objections and answer every conceivable, fundamental question, in 10 slides or less.
Start with WHY? Want some sobering insight? Market researcher Rick Kelley aggregated some PricewaterhouseCoopers data with new business data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that roughly only .6% (yes point 6%) of new U.S. businesses receive venture funding. Now granted, there are many reasons for that but as you head into the most important form of communication in your profession, it’s worth explaining to those who have given their time to listen why they will benefit from the conversation.
Answer that question in your mind, why, in the dozens of different ways it could be asked. Why is this an opportunity? Why will anyone care? Why do you care? Why are you capable? Why would anyone pay you for this? Why should investors get involved? More to consider. A simple (though yes perhaps overly simple) approach that I encourage of entrepreneurs is to map out in a shared spreadsheet every conceivable question and answer stemming from the elementary questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. Those answers, pitched in order, add sophistication to your communication and help ensure you aren’t caught off guard while keeping your as simple as being, well, elementary.While the perfect pitch is debatably perfect, ultimately what matters is that you get funded, should you deserve to be. Having heard hundreds of pitches and developing more than a few of my own that have resulted in venture funding, the simple problem — solution statement generally seems to fall short while what works is the evolution of those bullet points a narrative that’s meaningful to everyone and presented in a way that puts the most important information in the first few moments:
- Team — establish credibility, capability, and commitment
- Market Opportunity — problem and solution blended with WHY
- Product Solution — what it is today and what it will be
- Competition — using a pro/con assessment that highlights where you’re not just better than your competition but where they might be better than you. Explain why.
- Staged and Niche Market Size (and cost/barrier to entry_) — how big is the piece of a market that’s applicable and attainable.
- Roadmap — traction, go to market plans, and inflection points (pivots, investments, etc.) in one
- Engagement Opportunity — why an investor would invest (or why a client would buy, why an employee would join, why a partner would care… your previously slides should have capably set the stage for any conversation).
The process of developing your pitch to such a degree is a little more intense and introspective but working through your communication with such diligence helps design everything from your sales pitch to the messaging on your website.
That consistency and clarity are what drive demand!
Close the deal in the first 3 bullets or you’ve failed to figure out the messaging — the rest is merely information contingent on the first 3 points.