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What I look for in a pitch

Over the years, I’ve gotten many requests from people wanting help raising funds.   Most of the time, I find that they have failed to do their homework and that even the most basic elements are missing from their pitch.   I recently posted in a forum describing what I would look for in a pitch, so I thought I’d re-post it here, a bit cleaned up and expanded.

What I look for in a pitch

A pitch is several stories.  It’s the story about how you will successfully run your company if you get money and it’s much like a sales pitch.   But it’s not just your company’s story, it is also the story of you and the people on your team, the industry you are targeting, the story of your customers and finally, the ending chapter of your company.   Like every good story, these should have arcs that meet at some logic point.   And, like most good stories, it needs to be cogent, logical and progress along path.   All that said, what are the tangibles that I would look for in a pitch?  Well, here are some:

  • Entrepreneurs should know everything about their business/market and I consider it a bad sign if I know even just a little more
  • Know who I am, why you are talking to me and what your expectations are from me
  • Have done their homework about investors, funds and criteria.
  • Polished presentations & financials
  • Business plans in the traditional sense are a waste of everyone’s time – I don’t really care if you have one
  • A good, clear slide deck that lays out the future of the company (the story, see above)
  • Detailed financials that are in sync with the deck
  • Polished, articulate delivery of both the deck and financials (you need to know this stuff cold)
  • A clear understanding of real and potential competitors, with a view of competitive differentiators
  • A clear and complete executive summary that someone can grok in less than 10 min.
  • A good website
  • Finally, there should be some sort of working prototype or demo, esp. if it’s software.

There are tons of online and offline resources for learning how to do all of this and there really is no excuse for not doing it.  I would also point out that I don’t expect everything to be in the deck, just a good, compelling story about the future of your business, industry and customers.  That said, I expect you or your team to be able to answer every question I ask, in detail if appropriate.  And if you don’t know, don’t make it up.

So there it is, a basic outline of what should be in the pitch.   I would point out that there is a lot of other detail about what should be in there and that you should understand what your target investors are looking for when putting together your pitch.