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10 Tips For Pitching Potential Investors

Tenscores co-founder Chrétien Mwizerwa pitching at Atlanta Startup Battle 6.0. His company was one of five finalists to take to the stage for the event

Picture this.

You have a great invention idea. You start working on it in your spare time. You do some market research to find out if your invention is something that people want. The results are promising.

You get a prototype built and file a provisional patent application. You form an LLC. You’re feeling really good about your progress – you may have a viable product on your hands. Then, reality hits. Patents cost thousands of dollars to get and even more to enforce. Mass manufacturing your product won’t be cheap, either. What about sales?

Unless you sell your product, you just have an expensive hobby. At this point, you may consider pitching your product to investors, who can provide the necessary funding. What should you keep in mind during your pitch presentation? Here are 10 tips.

  1. Get the audience’s attention within the first minute, as you typically have this long until they tune out. Also, if you have an hour for the pitch, do it in 20 minutes, leaving the rest of the time for Q&A.
  2. Tell the audience a story. While investors need data to make an informed decision about your product, couch the data in stories. Kids like stories. Adults do, too.
  3. Know your audience. The story that the audience wants to hear will vary. The technology-minded will want to hear a technology story. The business-minded? Surprise – a business story. Find out beforehand who will be in the audience to tailor the story to the audience.
  4. Always have backup slides with more detailed information on hand. A pitch audience is often mixed. If scientists have technology-related questions, have slides available that address their questions. Don’t present those slides unless asked, especially if the majority of the audience is not science or technology savvy.
  5. Be honest about challenges. If you tell the audience that you have no issues, they won’t believe you. There are always issues to overcome. Be honest about them. The investors may be able to help.
  6. Don’t claim that you have no competitors. The audience will take that to mean either you didn’t do your homework or you’re lying to make your product seem more novel. Acknowledge the competition. It makes you seem more knowledgeable of the market.
  7. Focus on your strengths, not your competitors’ weaknesses. Don’t disparage the competition. Chances are that the pitch audience knows your competitors and all their warts. Focus on the benefits of your product and how it addresses the problem you’re solving.
  8. Be confident, but not arrogant. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The line? Listening. Confidence is quiet. Arrogance is loud. Listen to learn the audience’s needs. Be receptive to feedback.
  9. In your presentation, don’t include financial models with dramatic increases. So many who pitch have a slide in their pitch deck that includes a graph that resembles a hockey stick, rising uniformly over 10 years before leveling off. Ditch that slide. 2-3 year financial projections are the best you can reasonably estimate. 10 years? 15 years? No way.
  10. Don’t try to get married on the first date. The purpose of a pitch is to start a conversation, not end it. Investors don’t typically write a check at the end of a pitch. You’re merely trying to get to the next phase of the investors’ selection process. Closing the deal will come soon enough!

Neil Thompson is an engineer, patent agent, speaker, and writer. He also has a YouTube channel where he interviews STEM professionals who engage in public speaking. 

Follow Neil Thompson on Twitter@teachthegeek 

Main Image: Tenscores co-founder Chrétien Mwizerwa pitching at Atlanta Startup Battle 6.0. His company was one of five finalists to take to the stage for the event

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Neil Thompson
Neil Thompson
Neil Thompson is an engineer, patent agent, speaker, and writer. After one too many failed presentations in front senior management, he knew he had to get better at public speaking. He steadily improved and took everything he learned and turned it into an online course, Teach the Geek to Speak. He now is dedicated to helping fellow STEM professionals with their public speaking. Neil also has a YouTube channel where he interviews STEM professionals who engage in public speaking.
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