Jul 8, 2008

Perfecting Your Pitch

There is no perfect pitch. When I was raising money, every investor responded to something slightly different. Ultimately, nothing speaks louder than a winning team, product, and market. But a good pitch deck can really help you tell your story.

Each pitch is unique. They vary by category. Content matters more than format. With those caveats, below is the outline for a deck in the B2B space. It’s the composite of slides used in pitches that resulted in investment from us.

When it comes to presentation, it goes without saying that the best pitches:

  • Tell your audience what you’re doing, why the market will be big, and why you will win.
  • Provide an imperative and a sense of urgency — they answer the questions “Why now?” and “What’s changed?”
  • Provide real insight — into the market, customer pain, or a unique approach.
  • Hook the investor — with compelling customers or user numbers (unless it’s a seed stage deal — even then, potential numbers or customers are helpful).
  • Are delivered with knowledge, passion, and conviction by the entrepreneur.

The Outline

0. Front slide
YourCo — Vision Statement or The Leading XX for YY — Your name(s)

1. Company Snapshot
What you are Key Figures
Customer painpoint/Your value prop
Sales (if you have them)
Selected (potential) customer logo’s
Recent product milestone
Key accomplishments
# Employees

(It’s great discipline to have a Company Snapshot outside your deck – a dashboard that you use internally to monitor your business and track progress.)

2. Team

Entrepreneur / CEO
VP Marketing
VP Sales
Etc.

Highlight a few key accomplishments for each person listed. Focus on the core team — that’s who your potential investors are funding. If there’s a key adviser or two, speak to them.

3. Market Overview — Your Market $X Today, $Y Tomorrow
Insightful market statistics or top players and key stats
The big market you’re playing in, even if you’re in a small segment of it today
Why it will be big
Why investors should care

4. The “Disruption” or “Driving Force”
What’s your insight? Talk about your insight into disruptions taking place in your space.
What do customers care about this?
What’s different now than five or ten years ago?
What’s changed (human behavior, sales model enabled by Internet, utility computing, how people spend their time, etc.)? Often this is a statement like X combined with Y means…
What is this a must-have?
Why now?

5. Screenshot
Do more than just show your product — use the screenshot to highlight one key element of your approach. For example, take a specific product feature and use it to emphasize a pillar of your whole approach — agile development, ease of use, automation, user-generated content, etc.

6. Proven Success
YourCo is Winning
Key metrics for customer painpoint and your value proposition (value delivered – however you measure it, cost savings, etc.)

7. Business Model
Keep it simple – Illustrate via two or three graphical boxes and arrows
Pricing model
Stats on sales cycle
Chart on number of users/customers/objects/transactions/etc. growth over time (depending on your stage)
Go to market – direct / channel / etc.

8. Your Customers
Customer logo’s and compelling numbers, if you have them
If possible, show by vertical or solution area (shows you are thoughtful about and a leader in given areas)
If you have a customer sat number that is compelling, include it

9. How Customers Use Your Product
3 or 4 case studies / use cases on a single slide — what was the use, revenue value, etc.
Use this to really drive home your value proposition, customer pain points/value

10. Product
Key tenets of your product
Relate to earlier screenshot slide — what drives you? Value proposition? Key features? Fast iteration? Ability to scale? Customer sat?

11. Product Futures
Cross of go to market combined with product roadmap
Where things will be when you’re bigger — good place to talk about platform/API’s, vertical solutions, partner strategy, mobile, or just your next version

12. Competitive Landscape
Suggest a 2 by 2 matrix with your company in upper right
Pick axis’s that highlight your strengths and your competitors’ weaknesses
Put a few companies that are really relevant and speak to them knowledgeably.

13. Your Competitive Advantages
Re-emphasize your advantages over the competition
Why you will win
Don’t leave the competitive slide out there without speaking to why you will win

14. Financials – A $XXM+ Business in 5 years
Last year – This year – Next year (depending on stage)
Use a graphic to show the ramp for next 5 years (include previous years if possible)

15. Use of Proceeds
Size of the raise
What three key things will you accomplish with this round of funding?
How do you capture the opportunity and remove risks that will lead you to a successful next fund raising round? Hiring? Product? Key customers?

16. Backup Slide – Bottom Up Analysis
Bottom-up analysis of the market in support of slide 3, if asked.

Manage Your Time
A big part of delivering a great pitch is managing your time. Investors ask questions — your goal should be to answer these questions but deliver your key points. A good slide deck can help you with the message but also act as a framework to keep things on track for both you — and your audience.

Conclusion
A compelling product that delivers real customer or user value, and an entrepreneur with a vision for that product, is at the heart of every great company. Without a product customers want to buy, or a site users want to use, there is little to talk about. But with that in hand, a great pitch can mean the difference between interest and commitment from potential employees, customers, and investors. As the old saying goes, always put your best foot forward

11 Comments

  • Nice post…I’m starring this in the Reader.

  • Thanx for letting us see what VCs’ really pay attention to!

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  • This is a good post because it provides insight into what hooks investors. The points that help me the most are the company snapshot, Market overview Manage your time. The timing is great too because I have presentation in two days… I’ll go over my deck with a fine tooth comb.

    What I like about high tech is the combination of lots to learn, smart people and the resulting incentive to learn and perform. Thanks for the insights.

  • Nice writeup Dave. Having recently completed two pitches successfully, not achieving financial help from the VC’s but getting some great feedback instead (hence the success), I can only add one thing to this article. Stress #14. Stress it and don’t be afraid of it.I was afraid to talk money, for whatever reason, and didn’t wind up selling the pitch as solidly as I could have. I sold my ideas and they are, I feel, firmly embedded in the back of my potential investor’s minds. But I didn’t say what I could be making or what the financial size of the market was that I was tapping into. I had three minutes and I spent it talking about my wonderful ideas. This is not to say that I don’t have wonderful ideas; I do. But if I were to have talked money, and not been scared to do so, I would have had them hook, line, and sinker (and funding). That being said, next time I will talk money and I will walk away with a startup investment!

  • 16 slides? You must like hearing people read their presentation deck to you while you read along from the printed copy they handed you. Build 16 slides and print them, then drop ten slides and actually _talk_ to the people you are pitching…

  • Great write-up, but I was thinking — would companies like Facebook pass these requirements for a good pitch? What I’m trying to ask is that is there a correlation between a good pitch (as measured by your post) vs the success of a startup?

  • Great write-up .. I think the outline can be generalized and used not just for pitching VCs but also when selling a product/idea to someone else. Thanks for the tip!

  • [...] your pitch – http://www.vcdave.com/2008/07/08/perfecting-your-pitch/.  Notice how the company snapshot and team are the first parts of the slide deck?  Thats [...]

  • I’m a serial entrepreneur and I found this article very useful. Thanks, Dave!

  • [...] Perfecting your pitch [...]

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