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Congratulations!  You’ve finally gotten the chance to make your pitch to some VCs and you can sense the opportunity to scale your business is just around the corner.  So, what do you do next?  Surely there must be some kind of expectations that the VCs have for startup pitches, right?  They’ve been doing startup pitches for years, so they must have some expectations for what you are supposed to be doing.  As your excitement at receiving an invitation to pitch to VCs turns to dread over not knowing what to pitch or how to pitch it, you start searching the internet looking for advice on what your should do next.  Here are five keys to organizing your startup pitch for your big day.

1.  Make your elevator pitch – then get it tattooed on your arm  

Tatoo your startup elevator pitch on your arm

Your elevator pitch is the clearest, simplest, most persuasive tool at your disposal.  But your elevator pitch is so much more.  It is the presentation structure and framework that will form all key points you can expand on during the VC pitch.  An elevator pitch, and the key points you put in it, are a map that prevent you from rambling on incoherently while the VCs check the clock and countdown the minutes until their next (hopefully better organized) pitch begins.

2.  Research, research, research

You have an advantage going into the VC pitch.  There is significantly more available information about the VCs you are pitching to than there is about the product you are pitching.  You should spend time looking up the VCs you will pitch to.

  • What deals have they done in your industry before?
  • How much is their average investment?
  • What can you learn about the companies that successfully pitched to them before?
  • Are they technically-focused, interested in disruptive innovations, or looking for user bases?

3.  Know exactly what you are asking for, and why! 

It is frighteningly common for founders to pitch to VCs without having a clear understanding of what they are asking for as an investment amount, and WHY they need it.  No VCs want to hear that you are raising money to just in general have more money and grow.  That doesn’t make any sense and it doesn’t build confidence.  You need to think very clearly about the investment and have a very clear slide or two that covers the following points:

  • What your objectives are for raising money now?
    • Are you looking to build a new prototype?  Scaling up production of a successful market-tested products?  Do you need to hire human capital to increase your capabilities?  Are you expanding to a new market and investing in a future long-term revenue stream?
  • How much do you need to raise to achieve your objectives? 
    • It is critical that you can actually answer this question, AND have a calculation method for why this is the amount you need.  VCs love to know that the companies they are investing in have a clear plan for how the money will be spent and why.
  • What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you will be using to measure the proper usage of the VCs investment? 
    • Set the VCs concerns at ease by showing that you have a plan and metrics in place to manage their investment.

4.  Start with the standard startup pitch deck

Start with a standard pitch deck that at a minimum makes sure you check the boxes for what NEEDS to be covered.  Then, add highlights around it depending on what your research shows about the VCs you are pitching to.  Here is the standard pitch deck outline:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Market and opportunity size
  • Business Model
  • Competition
  • Founding Team
  • Marketing Plan
  • Fundraising

For each section of the pitch deck, there are strategies for adding eye-catching and memorable content.

5. Build the presentation foundation on FACTS 

Use real and meaningful facts as the foundation of the presentation.  Then build on them throughout the presentation.  Expert use of facts builds trust and creates a sense of expertise.  Show enthusiasm for how you make incremental and measured improvements on your product or performance through use of facts.  VCs love hearing that founders are passionate about factually improving their business performance by analyzing and iterating on the achievements and performance to date.

It goes without saying that above all else, you need to practice your pitch.  Practice it every free moment you have.  Test out lines on your friends, family, or anyone (other than your competitors) who will listen.  The feedback and questions you receive practicing your pitch are instrumental in helping you deliver a smooth answer to any questions the VCs might ask.  And if things don’t go the way you hoped they would, do not give up and quit.  VCs hate quitters, especially quitters who have taken significant amounts of funding from the VCs before quitting.