If there’s one thing I’ve learned from a couple decades of talking to small-business owners, it’s that entrepreneurs are always excited about their business. But translating that enthusiasm into a pitch that makes investors plunk down their money is a whole different ballgame.
Appealing to investors is a skill unto itself, but it can be learned. Here are ten tips on how to craft your investor pitch:
1. Keep it short. You should be able to quickly describe what your company does and why it’s innovative in 30 to 60 seconds. Be engaging and let your enthusiasm show.
2. Pitch the right investor. Most venture-capital firms and angel investors have an industry they know well and they make most of their investments there. Concentrate on finding an investor who knows your business and can offer expertise, not just cash.
3. Know the competition. Be prepared to describe the size of your market, who the major players are, their market share and how your offering will be different and make customers want to switch.
4. Have your numbers ready. How many customers do you have? What’s your customer-acquisition cost? What are your revenue projections? How much free cash flow is the business generating? If you can’t supply these basic financial metrics, you’re in trouble. Or as Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary likes to say to entrepreneurs who stumble on their figures: “You’re dead to me.”
5. Pitch your experience. Many investors want to see that you have prior experience that will help keep you from making newbie mistakes with their money. Previous leadership at a startup that successfully went public is ideal. Though, if you don’t have that, pitch your team’s collective attributes. For instance, experience in the industry, experience in business management at a bigger company or at a previous startup can also look attractive.
6. Don’t sit on your assets. If your company has valuable intellectual property — a patent, trademark or proprietary piece of software, for instance — play that up. Investors like a company with a hard asset that could be sold off if the business doesn’t make it on its own.
7. Mention your own investment. Investors like owners to have “skin in the game” – that is, their own money on the line. When you invest in your own company, outside investors know you’re committed to your idea. The pitch “I have a great idea but no money, why don’t you give me yours?” doesn’t usually get very far.
8. Make realistic projections. Investors are often skeptical about hockey-stick shaped growth charts. Be ready to explain your forecasting methods and why you’re confident sales will rise.
9. Know what you’ll do with the money. How will this funding help your company grow? Provide a precise answer, as in, “With this money, we’ll hire 50 new sales reps in new territories.”
10. Make an “ask.” Have a precise figure in mind, and close by asking for it.