What do investors want?
That is the “golden question” we often hear in the startup community; a topic that headlines several pitching workshops. However, that is not the question entrepreneurs should be asking. Regardless of what the investor wants, there are a few fundamental techniques entrepreneurs must master before going out and pitching their startups. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
1. Master your one-liner
If you can’t describe the entire concept of your business in one line, you’re not ready. This is one of the toughest exercises entrepreneurs have to endure, and for some, one of the longest. A one-liner is not a summary though- it’s an opener for interesting questions. The best one-liners are the intriguing ones; they contain one or more attention-seeking keywords that make people want to learn more about the startup.
A one-liner is the essence of your startup: what your product is, how users use it, and how big the opportunity is for this product. Throw in the keywords that are dealmakers: these can relate to your USP (how is your product or your model different), or to the cutting-edge technology that you are introducing.
The difficulty in doing this lies in squeezing in and structuring a great deal of information in a logical, impactful and audience agnostic manner. Anyone, regardless of how tech or business savvy they are, should be able to understand what your core concept is.
For instance, a design software startup can be described as follows: a cross-platform plug-in software that allows any user to perform this action in less time/less cost. You can choose to add the size of the market you are addressing or how innovative this solution is.
2. The dominator effect: show off what you’ve got
Tactfully and modestly, guide and accompany your audience at your pitch to their own conclusion, which should be one that contains statements and assumptions such as “this startup is going to dominate the market,” or “this team is on to something big.”
But remember that showcasing ambition can sometimes be irritating to your audience; you need to learn how to package it. You need to show them that you have what it takes to dominate the market. You want to make them feel that they should be part of the success you will become, thanks to their support.
To dominate your market, you need to understand it. Design thinking is one of the best methodologies that help you understand your users and develop solutions they will want to use. In this regard, talking to your users is beyond crucial; it should be mandatory.
To dominate is to win over your competitors. One of the best strategists out there, Sun Tzu, once said: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat.” But knowing your competitors doesn’t mean a mere listing of who they are and what they offer; it’s a thorough understanding of why users select them, and what you need to do to attract those users and retain them.
We often meet entrepreneurs coming up with solutions to problems they have never faced. Before you launch your MVP, take the time to experience and understand your users’ journey. Become your user, and invest time and effort in demystifying the smallest and most boring of tasks or users’ constraints. By doing so, you will discover new ways of innovating both your product and your model in a manner that ensures growth and scalability.
The founders of a tech startup I mentor developed a product they assumed all developers would die for, until reality hit and no sales deal was closed. The tech team then revisited the complete user journey and engaged with many of their customers to identify the gaps in both their offering and their marketing techniques. As soon as new iterations were rolled out, sales started coming in.
As an entrepreneur, remember to avoid isolating yourself. Surround yourself with key mentors and advisors who truly add value to your work and your entrepreneurial journey. Select them thoughtfully and carefully, but be open to accept their feedback, even if harsh, and implement their recommendations. Coachability is a trait investors appreciate and look for.
4. Narrate it like a boss
Pitching is basically telling a story, one that keeps your audience hooked. The flow of your story is paramount, no flashbacks or long descriptions allowed. It should be as easy as 1-2-3, even if your product is heavily technical.
The story needs to be about you (and your team) and what inspired you to come up with a solution to a problem a group of people face. It is about how you will reach those people, and convince them to purchase your solution, and drop the competitors- for a certain amount, that will, hopefully, make you rich! The end of the story is the purpose of telling it.
The best pitches are the ones that make your audience the heroes of the story. If your product is an app, then tell it from a user’s perspective, and invite your audience to be the lead user in your story. If your product is B2B software, you can trace the story from a before-and-after angle.
It takes time to master the above pitching techniques, and if you need help in this, make it a point to network more. Attend events, join a community of likeminded people, like, say an incubator center, or a co-working space. Entrepreneurs are often some of the most supportive people you can come across- those who went through the same challenges and mastered the above techniques will surely help you. Good luck!