Pitching tips

I spent the morning at the Collider practice pitch session kindly hosted by Taylor Wessing, like so many other startup events. They are both doing a great job for the software startup ecosytem in London. Thank you!
I was impressed with the quality of the startups that pitched, partially because I had been led to expect them to be much earlier than they were (they weren’t ideas, they were all post MVP with pilots or paying customers) and partially because they were all good ideas.
However, there were some things they could have done better – all of them didn’t do at least one of the below.

  1. Always articulate the pain you are solving with a real commercial example, ideally one your company has fixed. Make the pain sound, well, really painful, and this usually means expensive. That can be in money or man hours (which is money). Everything valuable either makes your customer more money or saves them money, often in man hours. If you can put a £/$ number on the pain and explain how your solution can cut that number in more than half (especially if it’s a really big number), all the better
  2. Explain how your service works for all those who use it. Sounds so simple, but a number of the pitches today didn’t articulate this well. Treat investors like they’re your grand-mother: assume they won’t understand the process/tech. It’s safer that way. A good way of doing this is quickly going through a user-journey, showing the important steps. Use screen shots. Don’t do a live demo unless you really have to. They rarely work smoothly and screen shots would do just as well.
  3. Market size is really important. But please make sure it’s directly relevant to your business. If you are a social media advertising analytics company, the size of the social media advertising market is only relevant if you can articulate how much advertisers spend on social media advertising services. That detail is important.
  4. Sound excited. If you’re a terrible presenter, improve or find someone who is better. If you don’t sound excited, you’re going to find it a lot harder to excite the audience. If you’re not sure whether you’re good or bad, ask someone who is honest. You can come and pitch to us at our Open Office sessions if you fit our investment criteria
  5. Explain how you will scale. At the early stage of a business, it’s relatively easy, in many ways, to get early adopters. Scaling is tough and we need to at least see you have a plan to scale.
  6. This can include identifying adjacent markets that are relevant to your business but are not yet being addressed. Investors all want to see big markets being tackled. If you can convincingly add adjacent markets to the one you are currently addressing using your tech, then great. CONVINCINGLY is the crucial word, of course
  7. And most importantly, make sure you explain why you and your service is special. There will always be competitors in the market. We need to understand why your tech and your team are special and will out-execute the competition.
  8. It’s not important at the seed investing stage to talk about exits. They are too far away. If you can build a big, profitable business, someone will buy it.

And finally, take a look at this doc we put together about pitching.
And really finally (because I just read this as it popped into my inbox), check out this blog on making your pitch a story-telling exercise by Oren Jacob of Pixar/ToyTalk.

Adrian Lloyd
Half Swiss. China obsession at Oxford. Tech obsession at Stanford GSB. Strategy consulting to Venture Capital. Tennis, skiing, Cresta riding. 4 young children, a boxer. Fabulous artist wife, Print-maker.



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