You wouldn’t take on Mike Tyson in his prime if you couldn’t block a left hook. So why are you showing up in a venture capitalist’s office with a pitch you can’t defend?
There’s one thing worse than watching an entrepreneur crumble under a fatal barrage of questions. It’s being that entrepreneur. Want to head off the devastation? Do this:
1. Start the party. Show me you know what customers crave before they do. Produce a prototype. Steve Jobs didn’t wait for an evite to launch the iPhone.
2. Flash your unfair competitive advantage. Distill why your product is different and better -- in a line or two. Pump that message into your marketing materials. Haven’t figured how you’ll leave competitors reeling? Then don’t expect me to bet on you.
A CEO recently pitched a group of friends on why she was different and better than anyone else in her industry. The problem was that her definition of better was not what mattered to the industry. Keep it relevant.
3. Graduate from the gumball machine. Throw the hoodie in the laundry. Nothing says credibility, authority and certainty better than a suit or a jacket and slacks. And get a good haircut. Recent MIT research shows that entrepreneurs investors considered attractive had a 36 percent better success rate in pitch competitions than their rivals.
4. Crib the answer. “Ummm…” isn’t the right response if I ask which customers you’ve pitched and how they reacted. Produce some real sales numbers or interview decision-makers to get qualitative data.
One entrepreneur pitching us continued to answer the same question with the same answer, but in a slightly different tone. He didn’t get it.
5. Quit hyping your pie chart. Sure, you’d be golden if you nailed 1 percent of that global market, but why include data that begs for debunking? Show something real in your pitch deck, like how you’re going to grow for the next year or two. That tells me you’re ready to execute -- not get executed.