With btrax’s annual JapanNight startup demo competition coming up, I thought it timely to share proven tips on creating a high-impact pitch that gets investors excited and sharpens how you think about your own startup.
This slidedeck outline is based on my experiences working with startups of every stage and across many verticals over the past 8 years, combined with best practices from influential investors Dave McClure, Paul Graham and more.
Although our event is focused on top Japanese startups trying to make it big globally, these are designed for entrepreneurs anywhere.
1) The Vision
Photo by: Andy Rennie
“As a founder, it’s important to have a big, bold, and ambitious vision for what the future looks like.”
– Matt Miciewicz, Co-founder & CEO of Hired
Goal: Grab the attention of the audience and give them a reason to listen to the rest of what you have to say.
Distill your company’s vision into a few sentences:
- How will your idea change the world?
- Why are you so passionate about this?
- Why will you stick with this idea through thick and thin to achieve success?
Be compelling and present your core value of your idea in the opening of your pitch.
2) Define the Problem
Photo by: Bright Vibes
“Every startup should address a real and demonstrated need in the world. If you build a solution to a problem lots of people have, it’s so easy to sell your product to the world.”
– Kevin Systrom, Co-founder of Instagram
Goal: Get your audience to relate personally to the problem or understand the target user’s pain.
After conveying the core value of your startup delivers, you have to define the problem that it solves:
- Who has this problem?
- How many people?
- How do you know?
Make sure you have real world examples and statistics to back you up.
3) Your Solution
“Live in the future, then build what’s missing.”
– Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator
Goal: Show why real people would pay for your product or service.
Having identified the problem, you need to explain the value you are creating with your solution. Your solution should satisfy one or more of the following:
- Ease or solve a specific pain or problem
- Save money and/or time
- Meet an unrecognized need
- Offer escape or entertainment
- Create social connections or memories
Also note that there is a hierarchy to what is most compelling to users. As Dave McClure likes to say, vitamins are great, but you NEED painkillers.
4) Market Size & Opportunity
Photo by: torbakhopper
“People who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”
– David Ogilvy, Founder of Oglivy & Mather
Goal: Show that there’s actually a sizable market out there that will be interested in the solution to the problem you proposed.
Okay, you have a problem and a solution, but do people care? Clearly define whom you will serve from either credible external sources (like Forrester or Gartner) or your own calculations:
- Is this space or need growing?
- What is the potential size of your customer base?
- What is the total market size in dollars per year?
- What is your niche?
5) Business Model
Photo by: Startupolitanos
“The internet wants to be free, but you need to get paid.”
– Andrew Chen, Advisor for AngelList
Goal: Show investors your startup can make money.
Describe a clear business plan that includes diverse, realistic and proven revenue streams. If you have customers or users already, advertise it upfront. Showing that real people are taking a chance on your product or service is a solid endorsement of your business model.
Use metrics and visualize growth whenever possible:
- What are your top revenue sources ordered by size, growth and potential (e.g. e-commerce, subscription, ads, affiliates, and so on)?
- What is the pricing model?
- How will you break even? Become profitable?
6) Unfair Advantages
“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”
– Jack Welch, Former chairman & CEO of General Electric
Goal: Demonstrate how you will outmaneuver potential competitors.
Explain areas that make you more attractive: proprietary technology, big market lead, team background, other famous investors, valuable partnerships, etc.
If you have a patent, let your investors know. This puts them at ease about potential lawsuits that could crush you later and have potential value for an exit.
- Why is your solution better than the alternatives?
- And more importantly why is your team capable of doing it better than anyone else?
7) The Competition
Photo by: Christian Dalager
“The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors … is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.”
– Bill Gates, Co-founder & former chairman of Microsoft
Goal: Show that you know your competitors in detail.
You can’t beat someone if you don’t know their capabilities, offerings, backing and market positioning. Investors expect you to keep up to date on what they are doing.
Show your audience you know who you are up against (even if you don’t provide the exact same service) and why you can beat them. Don’t spend time talking about how bad your competition is, but don’t ignore them either.
- Are there any proven companies in this space or similar business models in other industries?
- Who are the top players and why have they succeeded?
- Where do you exist in the big picture?
- Why is your solution better than the alternatives?
8) Marketing & Growth Strategy
“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”
– Zig Ziglar, Best-selling author & world-renowned salesman
Goal: Communicate a thoughtful and creative plan for growing market share.
How will you get more people to know about your product and start using it? Include not only user acquisition channels like ads, but also strategic partnerships that will introduce you to wider circles.
Consider these questions:
- Where are your customers and how will you get in front of them?
- What are your top choices from the many marketing channels and why? (E.g. PR, direct, radio, print, online ads, telemarketing, sales, business development, contests, etc.)
- What are the potential costs for the volume and conversion?
9) Team & Talent
Photo by: Credit
“You need a team that’s going to care about this thing as much as you do.”
– Scott Heiferman, Co-founder of Meetup
Goal: Give investors confidence in your team’s skills, passion and ability to execute the vision.
Investors mainly invest in people, not ideas. Who are you? Why are you the best person to execute this vision? A team of solid talent has monetization value for acquihires.
Highlight the key team members, their expertise and prior experience:
- How do you have currently on your team? As advisors?
- What kind of people do you need to make your business model succeed?
- How will those people catapult you to success?
It’s bonus if you can show that you have specific candidates lined up as soon as you get funding.
10) Money & Milestones
Photo by: Dave Barger
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
– Leonard Bernstein, Legendary composer & conductor
Goal: Convince investors that this is an opportunity they won’t want to miss.
This is the wrapup and chance to seal the deal. Make things specific about how you will spend their money to make them money:
- Exactly how much time and money do you need?
- Where will you spend it? (E.g. New hires, marketing, operations, infrastructure, etc.)
- Over what timeframe?
- How much have you raised already and from who?
- How will this money create exponential growth and get you to your next milestone?
Some Final Pitch Tips
- Show the need through a good story
- Have only one takeaway per slide
- Keep slides to only a few words
- Use visuals to simplify explanation
- Demonstrate passion & expertise
- Use eye contact & gestures to engage
- Review your deck after each pitch to update and improve
Have any tips of your own? Questions that helped you focus your own pitch deck?
Share in the comments box below and we will update this post with the best ones!