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Billionaire Reid Hoffman Reveals LinkedIn's 2004 Pitch Deck Along With Invaluable Startup Advice

October 17, 2013

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"In 2004, the consumer Internet was just beginning to rebound," writes Hoffman. "We had no revenue...Investors see a lot of pitches. First, understand your audience. Research prospective investors thoroughly. Second, understand the broader financing climate."

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"Open with your investment thesis, what prospective investors must believe in order to want to be shareholders of your company," says Hoffman.

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"The general rule is one business model drives the business. It's tempting to list multiple revenue streams because you're trying to prove that you will be big. Yet when consumer Internet companies do this, investors generally see a red flag."


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"Steer into your investors' objections. There will be one to three issues that are potentially problematic for your financing -- address them head on."


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"Show, don't tell. Again, your pitching goals are to increase investors' confidence in your investment thesis and lead them to a shared view of your company's problems."


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"In the early days, you want to use analogies to successful outcomes to describe what your company is and what its potential could be."

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"Understand where analogies apply and where they do not. Pitch by analogy but don't necessarily reason by analogy."

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"When pitching by analogy, anchor your business to other valuable businesses to signal that your business will be valuable, too."

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"It's better to have no analogy than a bad one."

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"Any good idea has legitimate reasons why it won't work. In order to achieve real success, you need to be contrarian and right."


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"Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching?"

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"LinkedIn's Series B was a concept pitch because our data at that point wasn't impressive."

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"One ingredient this pitch lacks, which I now think is essential to modern pitches, is our risk factors. Experienced investors know there are always risks."

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"Explicitly identify the risks that could thwart your success and how you will mitigate them. And instead of waiting until investors ask about your risks, share them proactively so you build trust."

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"Express your competitive advantage."

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"This is mostly a mistake slide because customer slides are more appropriate for enterprise pitches."

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"You want to show focus in your decks by emphasizing what you're really betting on. However, show some maneuverability."


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"It's always better to have less slides, but it's much more important to have a great deck. A great deck needs to address all important concerns and tell your story effectively."

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"When pitching VCs, think about the individual partner in the context of their partnership."

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"People frequently think the most fundamental strategy of a startup is its product strategy. In fact, the most fundamental strategy is the financing strategy."

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"Always think about the next round. The usual tempo for raising money from venture capital is at a minimum of a year between financings."

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"Reinforce key concepts when delivering a concept pitch...It's helpful (but not mandatory) to put your thesis in each of the titles."


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"Show a focus on bottom-up tactics for your strategy."

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"Show your product rather than saying you intend to build a best-of-breed product."

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"When in doubt, lead with what will make the most sense to investors."

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"It's more important to have the right person say yes than it is to have everyone say yes...How do you know if an investor will add value? Pay attention to whether they are being constructive during the financing process."

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"Internal data is preferable over anecdotal third party data...Also, be wary of confirmation bias. It's only natural that an entrepreneur wants to hear that their idea is great, but you don't want people telling you that because it doesn't help you."


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"Take competition against your potential revenue streams seriously" and "identify the right metrics for success."

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"Underpromise and overdeliver...Also show you're paying attention to the market."

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"One of the virtues that entrepreneurs get from talking to many investors during the financing process is a wisdom of crowds that helps you figure out what the real risks are."

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"Be decisive and ship...While it's important to think carefully about your future, don't think too far into the future."


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"Be wary of adjectives and especially adverbs."

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"Have reasonable numbers and assumptions that can pass the blink test during the pitch."

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"A successful financing process obviously results in you raising capital for your company, but it also results in a partnership that delivers benefits beyond just money."

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"You have the most attention from investors in the first 60 seconds of your pitch, so how you begin is incredibly important. One common mistake is putting the team slide early in the deck."

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"Approach your likely investors and your ideal investors at the same time, because your likely investors provide a temporal forcing function by which you might end up with your ideal investors."

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"It's okay to be hyperbolic, to be aggressive, to be visionary."

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"You should end on a slide that you want people to be paying attention to."

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"You don't have to have an appendix, but if you anticipate serious questions from the kinds of investors you want, preparing appendix slides with structured answers is impressive."