- every founder thinks their idea is disruptive/revolutionary
- every founder says their financial projections are conservative
- explain your validation & customer traction
- explain the assumptions underlying your projections
- focusing extensively on the product/technology rather than on the business
- misunderstanding the purpose of financial projections; they exist in a pitch deck to:
a) validate the founders understanding of running a business
b) provide a sense of magnitude of the opportunity versus the amount of capital requested
c) confirm the go-to-market strategy (nothing undermines a pitch faster than financial projections disconnected from the declared go-to-market approach)
d) generally discredit you as someone who understands how to build a company; for instance we'll capture 10% of our market, 1% of China, etc. Top down financial projections get big laughs from investors after you leave the room.
bonus) don't show 90% profit margins. Ever. Even if you'll actually have them. Ever.
- avoid false precision by rounding all projections to nearest thousands ($000)
- include # units / # subscribers / # customers above revenue line; this goes hand-in-hand with building a bottom up revenue model and implicitly reveals assumptions. Investors will determine if you are realistic, conservative, or out of your mind based largely on the customer acquisition numbers and your explanation of how they will be achieved.
- highlight your assumptions & milestones on first customers, cash flow break even, and other customer acquisition and expense metrics that are relevant
- thinking about investor money as your money
- approaching the pitch from your mindset (I need money); investors have to be skeptics, so understand their perspective.
- bad investors; it's tempting to think that any money is good money. You can't get an investor to leave once they are in without Herculean efforts and costs (and if you're asking for money, you can't afford it). If you're not on the same page with an investor on how to run/grow the business, you'll regret every waking hour.
- it's their money; tell them how you are going to utilize their money to make them more money
- you're a founder, a true believer. Your mantra should be "de-risk, de-risk, de-risk". Perception of risk is the #1 reason an investor says no. Many are legitimate, but often enough it's simply a perception that could have been addressed.
- beyond the pitch, make the conversation 2-way. Ask questions of the investor (you might learn awesome things or uncover problems) and talk to at least two other founders they invested in more than 6 months ago.
Tyler Crowley's famous storytelling video should give you some really useful directions. I cannot find the video reference but a quick summary of what he says is available at: http://pollenizer.com/pitch-clinic-summary-tyler-crowley/
A few keywords from what Tyler says are: Personas. First 15 seconds to engage. 8 out of 10 rather than 2 million users. Mental movie to setup the context.
PS: I have not pitched for myself but I have helped companies prepare their most important slide deck!-
I look at dozens of pitch decks every week and by far my #1 pet peeve is the comparison reference or the "we are the airbnb of xxxx"
I ran a small VC firm with a regional focus and reviewed over 1500 business plans/pitch decks.
The worst failing in most pitchdecks is the lack of sensible summary financial projections. By this I mean, financial projections that omit working capital requirements, that underestimate costs, that underestimate capital required, that overestimate revenues--in short financials that are just a series of straight line projections. Projections dont have to go down to the level of how much you will spend in year 22 on stamps, but they do need to have coherence.
The second worst failing is a failure to appreciate the nature of the competiton chasing the same idea or the same customers.
The third worst failing is keeping everything secret. The truth is that most likely somebody far smarter than you probably already has your idea and your next idea too. You make money by planning and executing, not by ideas.
Fourth is ludicrous ideas about valuation by unproven teams with vaporware or brochure ware or an imaginary test bed level product. All of those things can become a successful business, but not if you start out imagining that a couple of patents or patents pending are worth $100 plus million.
Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss this further.
Plenty! Let me list a few:
1. Wasting time by talking about your history, your products history or the company's history, or talking about how much you love this or that. The first words out of your mouth should be about what you have.
2. Spending the whole pitch selling the product but not the company. Investors only care about one thing, and that is whether an investment in your company will make them money. The product itself isn't as interesting as the company. Therefore, do not spend all your time telling us what a great product you have -- that's a sales pitch. Instead, tell us about how much money your company will make.
3. No experience in selling, and no plan for marketing.
4. The financials are bogus. Any one who thinks that the financials are just made up numbers anyway, so you can just throw up anything that looks good will not get any funding from any real investor. Make your financials as real as you can by having a CFO experienced in the industry.
5. Not making the "ask." Surprisingly, a lot of pitches forget to ask for money and how much they need, and fail to explain what that money is needed for.
6. Finally, do not ever say you are "passionate."