Common mistakes founders make when pitching (August 30, 2016)

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As an angel, I have had to sit through many presentations, and many of the powerpoint pitches I have suffered through have put me to sleep.

One of the reasons founders find it so hard to deliver a compelling pitch is because they try to cram too much information in it. They try to dump huge amounts of data into the investor’s head in their allotted 10 minutes. They know a lot about their company and domain, and want to demonstrate their mastery of technical minutiae in order to impress investors with their expertise . Sadly, this usually backfires, and just causes brain freeze. Typically, the investor has had to listen to lots of other founders as well in the same session, and often all the pitches start getting blurred together in his mind, with the result he doesn’t remember any of them.

What can you do to stand out ?
You need to learn to simplify !

Your goal is not to transmit your profound expertise to the funder in 10 minutes. Your aim is much simpler – you just want to capture his interest, so he will want to reach out to you to learn more about your startup. All you want is permission to send more information, so you can have a more detailed one-on-one discussion later.

Instead of thinking about what to put in your presentation, your focus should be on what to leave out. All you want to do is to provide a big picture in a few strokes.

It’s very helpful to start out with a slide which will intrigue him. This will engage his brain, so he will start paying attention to you, rather than to his mobile !

It’s very helpful to pose a tricky question . For example, one of our startups which provides supplies for breakfast daily to families starts by asking – How can we deliver milk and eggs daily for less than Rs 2 per day, and still be
profitable  ? The presentation then goes on to answer this question !

How can you apply this model to your pitch ?
What is one thing about your domain which most people think is true ?
Now you need to show that this commonly held assumption is wrong.
You will need to prove why it’s wrong, and how you’ve learned this lesson.
You then need to show how you’ve used this insight as your magic sauce in order to create a competitive moat

One of the biggest worries investors have is that if you are successful, other competitors will spring up and drive you out of business.

You need to share your real life challenges , and tell stories of how you have overcome them. Emphasise your mistakes , and what has failed, and then talk about what you have learned from these. This will demonstrate that copying you in a non-trivial task.

Finally, end with some common concerns and objections which investors often have, and answer these proactively. This will demonstrate that you are thoughtful, and that you have a plan to overcome these challenges. Please also highlight what you will not do – investors are happy to see a founder who has focus, rather than someone who will try to do everything and anything – which can be a very expensive exercise !

These are my personal views. Which  are the best presentations you have heard ? And which ones put you to sleep ?

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