When you think of the startup pitch you probably picture a room full of people with investors judging you in a high-stake, modern-day equivalent of the colosseum.
Let’s change that assumption first. Most startup pitches happen behind closed doors in one-on-one conversations. Or perhaps, with a few founders and investors gathering in a conference room.
What does this mean for you? It means you should stop thinking about your pitch as some future event that you’re looking toward — the climax of your entrepreneurial journey thus far (if successful). This is the Hollywood version of the startup pitch that even we at The Pitch tend to perpetuate. But in reality…
Your pitch starts today
Start building relationships with potential investors right now. Entrepreneurs tend to idolize the most famous investors, and they forget the investors, founders and business mentors they already have in their existing networks.
Do not post on social networks (even on LinkedIn) that you are looking for investors to talk to. Even if they do see your post there’s a good chance they will ignore it.
Do email. Start with short email conversations (or phone/Skype calls if possible). These one-on-one channels are what investors are comfortable with, and they want to meet on their terms.
While building your product, whether in alpha, early prototype, or after launch, I recommend that you spend one hour a day reaching out to people. Use your existing network and ask for introductions. Get scrappy and start talking, privately, to the people you want to know.
Don’t be desperate. You don’t need the money bad enough to settle for an investor that’s a bad fit for your team. One bad investor can spoil the whole experience. And yes, you should try for a good experience.
Talk to a ton of investors. Way more than you think is necessary. This is why you want to start now. By the time you are ready for the money, you should have a few investors you like best. And, hopefully, they like you. Find one investor who really likes you, and if you’re lucky, they’ll lead the round and bring in the other investors for you.
Investors choose their investments based on how well they like the founders as much as they do on the idea itself. It’s human tendency. Of course, we want to do business with people we like. Investor-founder relationships are no different.
Be honest and transparent
You probably shouldn’t air all your dirty laundry in the first meeting. But in general, be open and honest about where you are in your journey, what challenges you are facing, and what makes you passionate about the problem you are solving.
Do not spend a bunch of time on your deck. If you are going to be presenting on a stage, use pictures with a simple heading on each slide. Then talk about the details during your presentation.
Better to have a kick-ass product demo than a deck that Steve Jobs would use.
In general, more results, customers, traction, and one-on-one conversations will make the biggest difference when pitching your startup. If you can build momentum with real people, then the conversations with investors will get a lot easier.
So start now. And always remember, more money doesn’t solve life’s problems. You may be better off NOT raising money right now. Or, perhaps, ever.
But it never hurts to start the conversation. Oh, and when you do start the conversation, whether via email or in person, be concise. Do not ramble on about features or some tangent that pops in your head. Rambling is a sign that you are nervous or insecure about your pitch. Get to the point and then shut up. And if you don’t know the answer to something, say “I DON’T KNOW, but I’ll look into it and get back to you.”
Josh Muccio is a co-founder of the US based The Pitch, a podcast where startup founders pitch to investors and get live feedback. He also runs the Daily Hunt podcast.