Tag Archives: Public Speaking

The Startup Pitch Checklist

Last Thursday, I was preparing to judge a startup pitch competition. I thought to myself, “How can I make sure every startup hits the key points?”

Then, it came to me: a checklist!

Every time you pitch investors, you need to give them certain key pieces of information. Without those details, they may just move on to the next company.

Make sure that never happens to your business! Whenever you pitch, make sure you check off these 6 key elements:

1) ☑️ Problem. What problem do you solve? For example, Uber solved the problem of expensive, hard to get taxi rides.

2) ☑️ Solution. How do you solve that problem?

Uber makes it easy to get a ride with a simple smartphone app. You always know exactly what you’re paying and where your driver is.

3) ☑️ Traction. Show us a chart of your revenue, broken down monthly or quarterly. Also, compute a growth rate using a tool like this.

Investors want to see a strong growth trend. Make absolutely sure you give them that, if at all possible.

Don’t have revenue yet? Show us monthly active users, signups, etc.


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4) ☑️ Market + Competitors. How big is your market? Who do you compete with?

I don’t get too hung up on complicated market size calculations, but here is a resource on how that is typically done.

I’m more interested in your competitors. Who do you lose deals to? Who do you beat for deals? And why?

Hint: “we don’t have any competitors” is rarely the right answer. Maybe no company does exactly what you do, but who is close?

5) ☑️ Team. This is especially critical for early stage startups. At this point, there usually isn’t a ton of performance to sell.

So you have to emphasize the quality of the team. Why are these the best possible people to take on this challenge?

6) ☑️ Ask. Here’s one of the strangest things I see: a founder telling a great story with solid traction, and then saying “thank you” and sitting down.

Umm, don’t you want something from us? 🙂

Never forget to tell the investors exactly what you’re asking for! Tell us how much you’re raising, at what valuation, and specify if that’s pre or post-money. (If the valuation includes the money you’re raising, that’s “$X post-money,” also referred to as “$X cap.”)

It’s also good to specify what type of fundraise you’re doing. Is it a SAFE, a priced round, or a convertible note?

Say something like this: “We are raising a $1 million SAFE at a $10 million cap.”

If you hit these 6 key elements, you’ll have a solid pitch that gives investors the details they need. You’ll also have a leg-up on other founders who provide incomplete or unhelpful information.

Best of luck on your fundraise!


What do you think makes a great pitch? What did I miss?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

How Startups Can Dominate the Elevator Pitch

How to Write a Deal Memo

Startups’ Secret Marketing Weapon: Blogging

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How Startups Can Dominate the Elevator Pitch

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You walk into an elevator. As the doors close, Doug Leone of Sequoia steps in.

Suddenly, a lump appears in your throat. Your palms sweat.

This is your moment.


Last night, I went to a fascinating pitch event at a startup accelerator in New York City. Each one had just a single minute to deliver an “elevator pitch” to an audience of operators and investors.

In this challenging format, many managed to paint a compelling vision. So what key elements should you make sure to include, and what should you leave out?

Here are some do’s and don’ts.

Do:

1) State a company name, clearly. Sometimes the name doesn’t pass the “bad telephone” test. I’m left wondering “did they say ‘Aleck Watt” or “Alley Cot’?” and it’s actually “Aliquot,” to take a fictional example.

Make the name clear and easy to understand.

2) Clearly state the value proposition. Instead of just talking about the market, talk about exactly what you do.

If Uber pitched, they could tell us how broken the taxi market is. True, but what does Uber actually do?

Make that value proposition for the customer very clear. “Uber can get you from anywhere to anywhere quicker and easier than a taxi.”

You also want to identify the customer clearly. Is it individuals, businesses, governments?

3) Explain the business model. Too often, it’s unclear how a startup actually makes money.

To take the Uber example, just say “We take 30% of all rides on the platform.” Keep it simple and avoid discussing numerous different revenue streams.

If you don’t tell us how you make money, we’re left to assume that you don’t make any. No bueno.

4) Tell us what traction you have. If your revenue is growing 20% month over month, definitely mention that.

If you don’t have any revenue yet but your user sign-ups doubled this month, talk about that.

Of all the areas of a pitch, this is the one startups miss the most. Give us a reason to think your product is catching on!

Don’t:

1) Leave us wondering what your product does. If we don’t know that within that first minute, you’ve failed.

2) Don’t talk about Total Addressable Market (TAM). Founders often think they can get investors salivating by mentioning that they’re taking on a $500 billion market.

But we know those numbers are often plucked from the air (or a Gartner report). Save it for a second meeting.

3) Mention other business lines you may pursue in the future.

Just stick to the current business. There’s no time for anything else.

The elevator pitch is simple: introduce the company, what it does, and what traction it has. It should give the investor enough information to say, “I want to hear more.”

Best of luck!

What do you think makes a great elevator pitch, and what should be avoided? Let me know in the comments at the bottom.

More on tech:

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Fathom: The Podcast Player from the Future

The #1 Reason I Say No to Founders

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Photo: “Help is on the way, elevator, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL.JPG” by gruntzooki is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

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This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

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If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

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My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

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I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

How to Ace a 3 Minute Pitch

Last week, I was talking with a young founder who is just starting to pitch investors. She wished she could find a good example of a 3 minute pitch.

So I figured if she was having this problem, others probably were too!

This morning, I made a little video of what I would consider an ideal 3 minute pitch. I used the example of my favorite startup, Uber.

A 3 minute pitch is a key thing to master because startup demo days are often in this format.

It’s also useful if you have brief, individual meetings with VC’s or angel investors like me. You want to pitch in a concise way and leave lots of times for questions.

Why Is This Such a Strong Pitch

  1. It’s short.
    There are just 16 slides with only a little text on each one. It takes under 3 minutes.
    I look at around 25-30 startups a week, so I can only spend so much time on each one.
  2. It clearly frames a huge problem and proposes a good solution.
    Mobility is a big issue, and long before Uber, everyone knew taking a taxi stank. This presentation clearly shows how Uber is better.
  3. It shows a clear growth trend.
    Nothing gets investors salivating like rapid growth!
    Show revenue or user growth in a chart and calculate the compounded growth rate. Make that explosive growth obvious!
  4. It shows the product.
    The same slide deck could describe 100 startups. Showing the product makes it clearer what you’re working on.
    It also shows you actually have something built!
  5. There is a clear request.
    I don’t just say “thank you for your time.” I ask the investors for something specific: $3 million.
    And I make it clear what it can achieve: us dominating the taxi industry.

    A little tip for making sure you hit the 3 minute mark is to have your phone with a stopwatch running right next to you, so you can glance over occasionally.

    I also suggest using this template from Sequoia, as I did. It gives a great framework for hitting the key points in your pitch.

    What did I miss? What questions do you have? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

    Disclaimer: I am not Travis Kalanick 🙂

    More on tech:

    The High Growth Handbook: Scaling Startups from 10 to 10,000 People

    Why I Just Invested in Kippo, Where Gamers Find Love

    How Startup Founders Turn Investors Off

    Photo: “The Ace of Spades” by Toufique E Joarder is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

The Top 3 Startup Pitch Mistakes

You’ve run through your deck a hundred times. You’ve practiced pitching to your cat.

He declined to invest.

Startup founders work incredibly hard to pitch their dream to investors and get funded.

As an angel investor, I see a lot of presentations. So, I thought I’d share the 3 biggest mistakes I see founders making:

1) Not clearly explaining what the startup does. If I don’t understand what your startup does and why within the first minute, you lost me.

Investors are people too, and struggle with attention, especially given the number of presentations they see. A demo day I attended last week had 17 companies presenting.

Don’t lose your audience! Clearly state exactly what you do and what problem you’re solving, ideally within the first 30 seconds.

Being able to clearly and concisely say what you do also helps you attract customers and key employees.

2) Not showing a growth trend.

Don’t make us guess! If you’ve got a strong growth trend in revenue or users, put that graph on the screen.

But don’t rely on our ability to read a graph that pops up for 20 seconds on a slide. Do the math for us.

If you went from $2,000 in revenue in August to $5,000 in November, use a tool like this to find your compounded monthly growth rate. In this case, it would be 36%, which is outstanding.

I saw a founder do this well at a demo day this fall. 6 weeks later, she raised a $3.5 million seed round.

This stuff works!

3) Not taking questions. If at all possible, you want to take questions from your audience.

Even short presentations can allow for this. Some demo days might provide just 7 minutes per startup. But you can present for 3 minutes and take questions for 4.

Every investor has objections you have to overcome before they invest. Give them a chance to overcome those objections by taking their questions.

Answer clearly and concisely. You should be taking about the same amount of time to answer the question as they took to ask it, no more.

I hope this helps! Fundraising can be exhausting and nervewracking, but if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can succeed.

Best of luck!

What have your biggest challenges been in pitching investors? Let me know in the comments at the bottom.

More on tech:

An Investor’s Dream Cold E-mail

The Biggest Challenges for Startups Now

Why I Just Invested in Kippo, Where Gamers Find Love

Photo: “Wrong Way Signs” by Arizona Department of Transportation is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order.