Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Brag When Pitching Investors
I've sat through countless pitch decks over the years, and too many founders focus on their idea rather than their execution. Humility isn't going to get you funded, so here's how to advertise your accomplishments to investors the right way.
It's human nature to want to share great news: getting a new job, buying a new home, having a new baby on the way. The glow of all the good wishes from friends and family is an intrinsic reward.
So when sharing good news when the stakes are as high as winning an investment, why would you not be shouting it from the rooftops?
I've sat through countless pitch decks over the years and seen too many founders focus on how amazing their idea is rather than how great their execution has been to date. If you've had recent breakthroughs like closing big contracts or launching an exciting partnership, don't wait until slide 17 to show it off — some investors might have already lost interest by then.
Right after your title slide, you should go straight into what I call the "brag slide." This is all about getting the investor's attention immediately and keeping it throughout your entire pitch. You've got to make a strong first impression, especially in conditions where interest rates could be on the rise and money will be harder to come by.
It's doubly crucial if you've already raised your Series A or beyond. By now, you've had significant capital injections, so your results need to be spectacular to convince investors to give you even more money. I'm going to share with you how to make an effective brag slide so you can get the funding you desire.
Humility won't get you funded
I know a brag slide might make you feel uneasy, as some founders I've worked with don't want to seem arrogant by listing out their wins right away — yet this isn't about stereotypical vanity metrics, but sharing meaningful progress updates which are useful to investors.
For instance, investors don't need to know how many followers you have on TikTok unless they are converting to paid customers. I'm suggesting you put your real accomplishments, the numbers you've worked so hard to achieve. This is your blood, sweat and tears — why shouldn't you brag about it?
It's okay not to explain the basics of your product first, because most investors will have done at least a little homework on you before the meeting, so they have some idea of what it is that you do. If they haven't, then you get the opportunity to wow them instantly and make them curious. Once you hit them with big numbers, they'll be dying to know in the following slides what your underlying business is to have generated such amazing results.
Disclaimer: Don't call it a "brag slide" — that's just our little secret. Calling it a brag slide could come off a bit, well, braggy.
What investors really want to hear
There are three things that investors are constantly listening for: credibility (how much you and your team truly know about this space and your credentials to prove it), likeability (how pleasant an experience it will be to work with you as a long term partner) and momentum (how far you've gotten so far in your quest). The brag slide is a great way to touch on these from the get-go.
You should aim for around six to eight killer numbers on the slide that are relevant to your business's financial success. Here are some ideas of what you can use:
- Top-line revenue growth: Past growth isn't an indicator of future growth but you're anchoring investor expectations in a positive way. Show them you know what you're doing. You can use MoM (month over month) QoQ (Quarter over quarter) or YoY (year over year), whichever is the most impressive overall. And you can also show user growth, even if it's not all paying yet.
- ARR/MRR: For subscription-based companies, a strong annual or monthly recurring revenue shows stability and stickiness. In particular, tell investors about any long-term deals or deals that have a long lifetime — some enterprise deals are signed for three to five years, and that's great, because it shows inherent stickiness and predictable revenue.
- Intellectual property: Any patents approved or pending show your business has a competitive advantage over others looking to do the same thing.
- Big partnerships: When big brands treat you as a trusted partner, you benefit from credibility by association so use it as leverage.
- Pipeline: Have $17 million in contracts to be signed in the next year? No investor dislikes a startup with a strong sales pipeline. Make sure you emphasize your future plans.
- Current funding backers: If you've already had commitments from big venture capitalists to invest in you this round then shout this from the rooftops. Investors often respect the opinions of their peers.
You might have looked at the list above with a sense of dread. Maybe all of those numbers look pretty ugly for you right now, and that's understandable — it's a tough economy out there. Businesses in this situation have even more reason to start on a positive note though. In this case, don't feel the need to start with a brag slide as described in the previous section.
Your savior could be in the form of testimonials from customers. For B2B companies, the more respected the source of the review, the better. Let's say last year you had five customers, but only one lasted the entire year. If this customer happens to be Slack, for example, and they love working with you, then a few investors don't need to know much more.
A positive review from a valued customer demonstrates product market fit and stickiness. You're proving your product solves a pain point in the real world, not just in theory. This can make a huge difference in how investors perceive your product, and you want to get eyes on these testimonials early on in your pitch.
If you have a strong team with multiple exits, extensive industry experience and strong logos of places they've been affiliated with, you can lean into your team's credibility by making your second slide about them. Boast about how capable they are and make your audience see that this is a powerhouse team who can execute the vision you are selling.
The brag slide gets you a fast start out of the blocks but you have to maintain this momentum throughout your pitch. You should be front loading all the information that makes you or your business unique. Investors know they'll need to work with you and your team if they invest so try to come across as likable and trustworthy as you can.
While the idea of bragging might put you on edge, when doing the venture capital round, it's your responsibility to ensure every investor knows the good news so you can raise a successful round.
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