One of the blandest bits of advice that I always hear for pitching to angel investors is to “stand out.”
I think I’ve rolled my eyes at that tip so many times that I’m beginning to worry about my vision. Of course, you want to make a memorable impression, but at the end of the day, you want to be remembered for your amazing idea, not for a flashy gimmick.
I had the great pleasure of spending a year as a member of the angel investor group Tech Coast Angels, where I heard numerous pitches from entrepreneurs. During my time there, I discovered that the best pitches have five elements in common.
1. They connect with the heart.
Pitching is about understanding what the investors are most interested in and developing a conversation that connects on an emotional level. Tell a story that’s relatable, inspirational and addresses the marketplace problem you’re solving. Let them see every ounce of the passion that drives you.
Your passion will differentiate you in their minds because it’s an admirable character trait that shows promise. It makes a statement that you’re going to make your dreams happen with or without their help, and that will make them want to be a part of your success story.
2. They connect with the head.
Telling an inspiring story won’t get you far if your idea is still floating in the clouds. It needs to be firmly planted in the ground where it can grow. You have to prove very quickly that you know your stuff, or the investors will stop listening.
I once saw a pitch for a waterproof case for iPods. The entrepreneurs utilized fun, attention-grabbing tactics, but what I remember most was their unique value proposition and business model, which involved a good sales distribution strategy that allowed faster time to market. They knew exactly how they wanted to build a company around a product they loved.
Investors want to know why your product solves a problem or is a “must have.” Be ready to answer all sorts of questions: How large is your market? Who are your competitors? Why is your product better than the others? What is your customer acquisition strategy? Is there a big enough market and customer base for the idea? People are often rejected due to overvaluation or the lack of a competitive advantage, so be careful in those areas.
3. They don’t mimic a spreadsheet.
One of the biggest mistakes I saw in pitches was incorporating too much data and statistics. You want to include the market size and analysis, but don’t spend too much time on it. It’s more important that you convey a value-oriented, compelling and memorable message, so be precise and simple. Don’t come with a 30-slide PowerPoint; use 10 to 12 slides, and make each slide count. A simpler idea is easier to understand and buy into.
4. They have a great team dynamic.
Investors are looking at you and your management team. They know a bad partnership can ruin a business. Your partners and the team dynamic should help inspire confidence, not raise questions. If investors sense any friction, they’ll fear your failure. If you have an experienced, seamless team, it’s easier to win over investors.
I once saw a pitch from a company that had developed a diagnostic device to detect diseases in women’s reproductive organs. This company had an extensive advisory board supporting the product, and the CEO had solid experience in taking a company to the next level. The people behind the product made me want to invest.
5. They leave investors wanting more.
Angel investors invested more than $20 billion in 2010. To get a slice of that pie, you don’t just need a strong conclusion -- you need an exit strategy that informs investors how they’ll get their money back. They could love your idea, but if they don’t think they’ll make money off of it, they’ll share their wealth elsewhere.
Pitching your idea to investors is daunting. But when you have a great idea, a smart business plan and amazing people backing you up, you can wow investors and get the financial backing you need.