Pitch perfect: How startups can reach investors successfully

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Géraldine Andrieux, at Blumorpho, shares her top tips on getting investors’ attention as a startup 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve been invited to join a pitching competition at an event. After the excitement of receiving this news – and before thinking about what you are going to wear for the occasion – the key question is: how to introduce yourself and your company?

Let’s be honest, pitching events have been springing up regularly over the last few years. Being able to pitch sharp and smart is part of what is expected from a CEO, and recognised as a key entrepreneurial skill. But it is not just a storytelling issue. Indeed, very often investors tend to think ‘well, here is a person with great presentation skills, but what I am seeing now seems to be more like a show than a real business’. So, your main objectives are to catch both the attention of the jury, along with interest in your value proposition.

At Blumorpho we are working closely with investors, startups and corporates to support the emergence of new concept products, ventures and collaboration schemes. We have developed a good understanding of the startup and investor spheres over the years, and we are always happy to share some tips for a killer pitch. 

Be yourself

Most of the time when you participate in a pitching event or competition, you receive some guidance on selection criteria and typical templates to use. This is always good information to start with. But more than checking all the boxes, the best chance of catching the jury’s attention is to be yourself and to let your own personality make the difference.

Be sure to comply with the expected format and other requirements, but more than anything else remain yourself and be authentic when you speak; explain what you do, why you do what you do, and interact with the jury. Never forget that, at the end of the day, the investors base their decision on their trust in you as a founder.

‘Why’ is important 

Figures are always nice, but first things first, explaining ‘why’ should be a major part of your presentation. If you can convince the jury why your value proposition answers a real market need and represents a solid societal trend, then you’re halfway there. The other half will consist of demonstrating you and your team – it’s a collective game – have a specific alignment in terms of values with the challenge you are addressing. This is what will make you unique. Be specific: why are you ready to give all your energy and time to address this challenge? Spell out why your solution is distinct from existing ones, and show that you are customer-centric and focusing on market demand. Adaptability is key.

Know your figures

You have to be convincing on your figures: the size of the market, pricing, awareness of competition, various business model options (combining a product with a service), generating repeat business, general market trends, potential evolution, and always try to show an attractive revenue stream. Also, be specific on the amount of investment you want, and link it to a tangible action plan. Bear in mind investors are looking for scalability, not a high fixed-cost level. Your pitch should sound to the jury like an obvious and demonstrated investment opportunity.  

Show you have got the ball rolling

You have limited time to convince, effectively only a few minutes. This is the tricky part. But never think there’s not enough time to demonstrate to the jury you are the best person to be successful in this business. Focus on what you have already achieved and what you have in the pipeline. 

This is how we recognise an entrepreneur: he or she has to be a doer, first. So, show your determination, show your knowledge with well-selected figures, examples, and company name drops. Show you already have committed potential customers and partners, show you have a better competitive position, and most importantly show you have already engaged the best team to work with you, as well as a strong advisory board. 

Don’t forget appearances

What you are wearing was not only a joke to introduce this article, it is also part of the game. The way you are behaving, moving or showing a product on video is also key. Adapt your presentation to the jury’s expertise and expectation; provide them with what they are looking for. Technical experts will evaluate the value of your technology, market experts will assess your market knowledge, financial experts will assess your growth and value potential. 

Also, do not miss the opportunity to highlight the pertinence of the jury’s points, especially when you don’t have an immediate or definitive answer to them. Use it as a peg to continue the exchange and build up a relationship. Remember that it is not what happens during your pitch, but how you react to what happens during your pitch – you will also be judged on that. 

Finally, images are always nicer than text. Images illustrate your pitch and keep your audience focused on you and what you are saying. Text tends to distract attention. The same for financial tables, which are less attractive than graphs illustrating the potential of growth. But again, what is most important is the energy you are transmitting, as well as your expertise. Give before you get!

To conclude, here is a suggested pitch structure, to be adapted to the requirements set by the jury: one third of the presentation on the opportunity and market (Why: values); one third on your solution and competitive positioning, who your customers are (What: differentiation); and a third on your team, partners and growth strategy (How: action plan) as a unique investment opportunity.

Last tip: practice, practice, and practice again!