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Over the past six months I have writing about various experiences as an entrepreneur during my journey as Brndstr Inc.’s CEO and Founder. With the recent opening of our first international operations in Istanbul, together with a solid number of clients under our wing now, I wanted to discuss my experience on what it takes to actually pitch. From raising your seed to closing a deal, the wonderful world of pitching is the backbone to success. For those of you who watch Dragons’ Den or are familiar with Y Combinator and 500 Startups, being able to deliver your idea is the door to startup success.
The number one rule is to keep it simple. There is something called the KISS effect: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Now I am not calling any one stupid, these four magical letters should be written in front of you when composing any pitch. I have previously spoken about best practices for raising money and a simple pitch deck will always win. Some of todays largest companies raised their first money on just six slides. By keeping everything simple and to the point, you’ll maintain audience interest and focus on the areas that matter. Keep in mind that you may have lived and visualized this for many months and what may seem obvious to you is not always obvious to an external audience. This will be the first time a person has met you and heard about what you have to offer, so it’s worth reminding everyone that first impressions count. Make your first impression one to remember.
My second tip follows my first suggestion. Before going to your meeting with potential investors or clients, practice on someone you know who doesn’t have a clue what you are doing business-wise. Family and friends are good for this as they will be honest, and there is the additional benefit of the fact that they want you to do well. Keep a couple of friends in the dark when starting a new project, and test your pitch methodology on them.
In order to make a good impression go that extra mile. Before every meeting, I pen a welcome note to the person by hand- it’s a personalized touch that reinforces the idea that I am grateful for their time, and that I take my professional relationships seriously. To lighten things up and pre-promo my idea, I include some groovy Brndstr stickers and swag with the note. Breaking the ice with your audiences can be a simple personalized gesture that will go a long way both to make your pitch a memorable one, and to demonstrate your ingenuity.
It’s extremely important to know who you are meeting with, and understand why you are there. Whether it’s to raise money, close a deal or open a new office, the bottom line is always the same. You need to get the person to understand what you are offering and jump on board your ship- this requires background knowledge on your audience. Research the people, companies, countries or anything else you believe might be relevant to this meeting. Standing in front of someone armed with solid facts and knowledge puts you in a stronger position and helps you ooze confidence. If you treat it as a first date you can’t go wrong- after all you are hoping to build a relationship and future together.
My final point is about taking pride in your appearance and in your presentation. There is a saying, “For business be 10 minutes early, and for pleasure be 10 minutes late.” (The latter is to look cool, I guess). Make sure you know where you are going, and give yourself time channel calm and focus before going to pitch. Prepare your material well and if you are using a laptop have all the right connectors- a little extra foresight goes a long way. I always take a printed copy, but present it at the end of the meeting. The reason for this is that you don’t want to give the details away too soon.
As always I can only offer advice and commentary based on my personal experience. If you don’t make a successful first pitch or even third, keep trying! Today, I’m the CEO of my own company and I have raised a large amount of seed funding, but I’ve made mistakes along the way. As long as these mistakes are used as learning opportunities, you’ll improve each time. Good luck at your next pitch, ‘treps. I’ll see you next edition!