Startup Pitch Tips (Part 1)
December 11, 2013 | By Kevin Vela
I believe that I have a unique entrepreneurial perspective.
On a small scale, I’ve been a part of three true startups – the first when I was 22 (full-time), the next when I was 28 (full-time, though I was in law school as well), and the last a few years ago (part-time) with a few business partners. None of those ideas worked out and I lost some real money.
I would also consider my law firm, VW a startup turned small business. Considering we’re about to hit year five and we are still growing, I would consider this one a success.
Moreover, in my role as a startup attorney, I receive a handful of business plans/pitch decks each week, and see hundreds of pitches each year. I see these pitches in my office, at pitch days, at startup events, at workshops, etc. As a co-founder of the Dallas Angel Network, I help to put pitches in front of our investors and I’m regularly asked to judge and provide feedback on pitch sessions.
Based on my experience above, I’ve come up with a list of 10 points to follow for your pitch. I have set forth the tips 1-5 in this blog, and my next blog will include tips 6-10. Hopefully these will resonate and help you for your next pitch.
1) If you have a product, especially a cool one, show it off.
I once saw a pitch by an entrepreneur who had created a beautiful wireless device. He didn’t bring it. He could not for the life of him explain how it worked during his pitch; though he could have demonstrated it in 30 seconds. I don’t think he received a single follow-up call from an otherwise pretty active angel group. Investors love things that they can understand.
Explain things in a way that makes sense to your investors, not to you.
2) If you’re not good at pitching, get good, or find someone who is.
This can be your co-founder, your advisor, your friend, your mom, etc. There is no rule which says the main founder must pitch. You need to be there to answer questions, but nothing derails a pitch more quickly than poor presence or shoddy speaking skills. You have to convince people to invest in you.
If you can’t communicate clearly, investors won’t want to put their money behind you.
3) Dress appropriately.
Suits are nice and all, but if your only suit is the one from senior prom, and your only tie has Snoopy on it, don’t wear them (to a pitch, I’m all for the Snoopy tie otherwise). You won’t be comfortable up there, and it will show. There is nothing wrong with slacks and a button-up, and I know a lot of groups who are just fine with jeans and a dress shirt. You can look sharp outside of a suit.
It’s imperative that you are comfortable when you’re up there pitching.
4) Know the format.
Ask the moderators how much time you get, if there will be a projector or TV with hookups, and if there will be a Q&A. If there’s a Q&A, it’s usually much better to just do a high-level overview and then let the investors drill in during the extra Q&A time.
DON’T GO OVER ON TIME. It reeks of unpreparedness.
5) Bring handouts of your slides.
Pass them out to everyone. This is very easy. Staple your handouts or bind them. Don’t make your investors do any unnecessary work or get distracted by loose pages.
Make things easy for your investors – from your pitch to your leave behind materials.
I’d be curious to read your feedback below. I’m happy to expand on any of the above as well. Tips 6-10 are coming in a few days.
Kevin Vela is a managing partner at Vela | Wood and focuses his practice on startups, corporate law, and capital raises. You can contact Kevin by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.