The Perfect Pitch Works

“He cared; more than Harvey Ramos” – quote from this blog’s author.

I know what you are thinking – he has run out of quotes so now he is quoting himself. So before you get the wrong impression, let me explain.

As part of instructor training at EY, we were told at cocktails when we arrived that the next day, we would be asked to introduce ourselves with the proviso that our presentation had to end with what we wanted scripted on our tombstone. (BTW I suggest you try this sometime.) Well I tossed and turned that night and after trying what I felt were thousands of iterations, I finally settled on “he cared.”

The next day we are going through our presentations and preceding me is Harvey. He comes to the end and announces that his tombstone will read “he cared.” The instructor thanks Harvey and immediately calls on me. My readers are pretty smart so you know how this concluded. So why the long lead in?

If nothing else, this exercise caused me to reflect deeply on what I really wanted to say about my life in simple terms and owners do the same for their company each time they make a pitch for investment. Lately, I have been through a couple of failed funding attempts and I wanted to better understand why investors said “no.” I reached out to some of the investors that passed and also saw a couple of recent articles on the subject. Always searching for a new angle, I gathered about a dozen or so different reasons but was disappointed to find they really had not changed in the last four decades. Some common culprits:

  • Barriers to entry not highlighted
  • KPI failure – either don’t know them, they are poorly defined or poorly measured
  • Shallow knowledge of competition – and the always fatal “we have no competition”
  • Economics – not clear how investment will be used or no “paying” sales channel presented
  • All OPM – where was founders’ buy-in?

I then looked at our “Perfect Pitch” guidelines (available @ withum.com) and realized all these points would have been addressed had the founders done a deep dive into what they were presenting. To draw the analogy, had they invested the same level of thought into what their pitch “said” as I had in doing the simple tombstone exercise, all of these points would have been addressed.

Your “pitch” is your chance to show your best. I really do not care if you use what has worked for us over the years or another guide, when you are preparing it, invest the time to completely address what is suggested – – there is a reason for it. This is not the same as being at a New Jersey diner and spending the time figuring out what you want from the hundreds of items on the menu. This is not a checklist; it is a starting point for you to shape the future of the economic life of your company.

So please when you put the meat on the bones of your pitch, think about what it says about you and your company; what it stands for and what it represents. Don’t get turned down just because you did not do your homework. Think about how an investor sees it, because properly prepared, the Perfect Pitch does work. Good luck.

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The Perfect Pitch – How to Avoid Those Painful Pitfalls (Part II)

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” –  Old proverb from the mid-1500s.

In Part I of this blog, we covered some general pitch deck guidelines as well as some helpful presentation hints. As noted there, I cannot emphasize sufficiently the importance of the substance of your content as the critical element of a perfect pitch. So, I have taken the liberty of assuming you have content covered and you are not trying to use these guidelines to invoke the old proverb noted above.

So, you now have the content and some ideas on how to present it, but what you are missing is a framework. How do you organize these thoughts to present a coherent picture?  This suggested “deck” is one I have used successfully for many years. I have updated it when something new comes along (like embedded videos) but the core has remained tried and true. Without further ado, the 15 slides are:

  1. Company name, location, logo and website.
  2. Overview what you plan to present – a contents page.
  3. What is your product / service and why do we need it? – What pain does it relieve; what usefulness does it add?
  4. What is your business model and what are your summarized projected financial results? – freemium, subscription, SaaS, licensing, advertising. Be realistic as to the eventual number of users and price per use, for example.
  5. Market – realistic assessment of the size of the segment you are going after
  6. Customers – who are they and how will you “go to market?” – make sure it ties into #4; address one shot transactions versus stickiness.
  7. Competitive advantage – what differentiates you?  A grid showing key product components versus a competitor’s are helpful – this is a make or break slide for many.
  8. Barriers to entry – IP, processes, unique features, etc. that will help keep others out.
  9. Current state as to product status (beta?), current usage / revenue (key point), people (current mgt., employees, advisors) and funding (friends and family, angels, etc.) A brief embedded video is a real plus here.
  10. Near term (build team, develop mobile app, test market) and longer term (number of users, other key points to measure success) milestones.
  11. Current and proposed management and key advisors including relevant past experience.
  12. Financial overview for next three years with some key assumptions – and be prepared to defend them.
  13. What you are looking for in terms of investment and how you will use the money?
  14. Summary of what was presented.
  15. Next steps with full contact information for one or two key management members.

So, there you have it. The two parts of this blog should be sufficient to get you on your way and help you avoid the painful pitfalls of so many others who have sacrificed to give you the opportunity to succeed. We do learn from our mistakes. Good luck !