8 Tips for Nailing Your Startup Pitch

If you’re a startup founder, sooner or later you’ll likely want to deliver a bang-up pitch to someone whose support you seek. Whether you’re making your case to a venture capitalist, angel investor, banker, startup accelerator, or even just rich old Uncle Morty, you’ll need to put your best foot forward.

Some of the audiences you’ll pitch to—like VCs and angels—are famously hard to read. Their decision-making may be based as much on hunches or inspirations as it is on hard facts. There are many factors in funding decisions that applicants aren’t privy to, from bad moods to prior successes and failures. And many of those you approach will say no. Some 0.05 percent of startups get VC funding every year.

While you can’t read these people’s minds and you may feel intimidated by your odds, there’s tremendous value in crafting and delivering a solid pitch you’re proud of. Not only will it increase your chances of gaining support, it will help you refine your own understanding of your business operations and goals.

Here are some tips for making the best pitch you can to help you nab one of the almost 3,700 VC investments made every year or support from another source.

  1. Make a great pitch deck. Refine, refine, refine. Think short and sweet: 10-12 slides at most. A power-packed presentation should make your mission clear and include the targeted specifics important for your proposal.
  2. Get to the point. Funders are looking to be wowed. When planning your presentation, get to the meat of it right away. Make your most important point first and then use the rest of the time to explain and bolster your point.
  3. Know your audience. Do some research on the funders you’re meeting with before you arrive. Check out their portfolio: What is the size of companies they tend to fund? What stage are these companies in? Do they fund at the level you’re looking for? What topics interest them most?
  4. Understand your market. Go deeper than knowing what types of people you think will buy from you. You should present specifics of how your market will likely look in three or four years. Your audience will be much more likely to fund those who have great clarity on where they see their business going in future years.
  5. Define solid financials. Do the hard work and get your financial house in order before pitching. Give them the metrics they’re looking for—don’t do any sleight of hand like substituting quarterly MRR for monthly MMR to give the illusion of higher numbers.
  6. Be transparent. Funders want those they fund to be up-front about the details of their business. Arrive ready to talk about your customers, including details of how many there are and which ones are paying you what.
  7. Admit your vulnerabilities. Funders want to know where you’re vulnerable, and they want to know you can see it too. You should present information about what advantages your competitors currently have or could have if the market winds change direction.
  8. Be a pro. Of course, you want to catch your audience’s attention, but make sure not to overwhelm them with overeager enthusiasm. Approach the situation with restraint, confidence, and professionalism.

Following these tips will put you on the right footing to present your idea with power and passion. Make it easy for discerning investors to say ‘yes’ by thinking carefully about why your company should inspire them with confidence. Bring your A game to your startup pitch to give yourself the best chance of finding a deep-pocketed backer.

Katherine Gustafson is a full-time freelance writer specializing in content for mission-driven changemakers such as tech disruptors in fintech, healthcare IT, and B2B SaaS. She also does corporate work on business topics including accounting, management, and innovation for companies such as KPMG, TD Bank, Workday, Avalara, and Adobe. She is the author of a book about innovation in sustainable food, and her writing has appeared in a wide variety of sites and publications including QuickBooks Resource Center, Business Insider, and Forbes. Follower her on Twitter @k_m_g.