Tips on pitching to investors

Among the key things to remember entrepreneurs pitching their ideas for the first time need to be able to explain their idea as simply as possible, and outlining a clear exit strategy.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

You have an idea, you've developed a great product, but many a times, finding and pitching to the investor is a challenge for many new tech startup founders. It could be due to lack of experience, confidence, the nerves and many a times being unaware of what investors would really ask them.

Problem + Solution = Opportunity.

Within the startup circuit in India, I've had the opportunity to work with a few of my friends to figure out what kind of business plans to prepare for their startups, some of them haven't even made it yet! Ive also had opportunity to get insights from a few founders who've got successful seed funding or Series A investments, and perspectives from investors such as venture capitalists.

More often than not, it all boils down to fundamentals of how well do you know your startup, your goals your vision and how easily you are able to convince and showcase that either on paper or talk to the investors and nail the deal.  

Do your homework

As cliche as it sounds, doing your homework is on the top of the list obviously. But specifically what I've learnt from the experience of others and talking to them is that a lot of the challenge arises there to begin with. You may be technically sound or have an idea about what the "problem statement" is and how your startup is addressing it. But a lot of the challenge comes on finding the answer to the question, "what next?". Before you answer that, it's important that you know every minute detail of what your startup stands for. 

Another aspect that you'd want to cover as part of doing your homework right is at least have a clear goal of what kind of resources, money, time, efforts you're going to put in at least for the first three years before you begin working on that pitch. It helps you simplify things and gives you that confidence to pitch to the investor.

  • What problem does your startup solve?
  • What is it that you can offer and no one else hasn't or why are you better than them?
  • What kind of knowledge and experience you bring to the table to help solve this problem?
  • Lastly, and most importantly, how will you intend to make money or do you intend to make money right away or are building traction?

Explain in as few words as you can

One of the interesting things to always keep in mind would of course be the simple formula of Problem + Solution = Opportunity. Of course, if you know what problem you have and how you are going to solve it, it makes the rest of your job easier. What entrepreneurs might find hard is to simplifying your idea, product or startup to this simple equation.

At the end of the day, the investor of course would look at what you're doing at the end of the day and how you're going to solve the problem.  It also helps if you are able to explain it to the investor as if he/she's a four-year-old. Remember the movie Philadelphia? Well, given that most investors might be smarter than you think, the key lies in being able to explain the simplicity and novelty of your startup in as few words as you can.

Don't throw jargon

You don't need to sound all intellectual or have a strong dictionary of jargon orwords to prove your superior knowledge on a certain subject matter. Try to dumb it down if necessary. If you have to use technical terms, or refer to professional credential or association, don't assume your audience will know what you do. Try to make it as easy as possible. Also don't assume that investors will be domain experts in your field or will have end to end knowledge about everything. It's okay to speak "plain" English.

Pre-pitch validation is the key

This one always helps. In order to ensure that every aspect of your pitch is perfect (Design, finance, marketing, and etc.) talk with two types people that you trust about each of the fields. Let them critique the simplicity as well as clarity of your message. This could be typically someone with core knowledge of the field and someone without the core knowledge of it. It helps you get a better perspective of how your idea fares with both the types and gives you valid insights on how you can make it better.

Dry runs & practice pitches 

Once you've pitched to your friends, family and close advisers or network of people whom you trust, try sharing the pitch to someone whom you may think aren't ideal to begin with. Don't go for the top investor immediately. Once you keep receiving feedback, you'll get better practice pitching you'd get more confidence to deal with the top rung better. Also your pitch would keep improving further to feedback you have already received and you'll notice.

Don't overdo elevator pitch

A lot of times, the elevator pitch goes beyond a minute and it sounds more like a detailed discussion. Avoid that. It's a crisp idea of what you want to do and how you'll achieve it. Period. Remember you don't need a hundred slider deck either!

Exit Strategy

Last but not least, this is always the burning question and something very difficult to answer most of the times. For an entrepreneur the dream is always about changing the world and solving problems to create a long term business to be successful and help himself grow rich as well.

Many times, contrary to that thinking an investor is always focusing on "making the money in a short time and exiting". Hence, one of the key things that you should consider and figure out how well your exit strategy is defined and is addressed during your pitch.

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