While the heat of the past few weeks may have pushed you to search for a cool respite away from the office, summer is quickly approaching its end. September is right around the corner and, with it, the conference schedule and the race to secure investment will recommence. In preparation for the pitch competitions, demo days, and other networking events you will attend this fall, this week’s post is devoted to the topic of pitching. By no means a comprehensive guide to pitching, ours is rather a summary of the aspects that have stood out from the more than 40 startup events that AtomLeap has organized over the years.
Why it’s important
Whenever experienced investors are asked about what they look for in startups, their answers almost invariably boil down to something along the lines of: I am looking for a simple, novel, and easy-to-use solution that solves an existing problem and that is convincingly presented. And yet ensuring that all these elements are in place at the same time is no easy feat, which is why so many companies fail to attract investment and ultimately to take off.
Given the level of competition nowadays—in 2015, the Süddeutsche Zeitung famously estimated that a new startup is founded in Berlin every 20 hours—even the best of ideas need to be packaged nicely if they are to peak investors’ interest. Below are a series of suggestions to improve your pitch so you can have investors’ ear when you need it.
The basics of pitching
- Preparing your pitch begins way before you even consider taking a stage anywhere, with the preparation of your pitch deck. Make sure you read up on how to prepare a good pitch deck—there are numerous online manuals and tips, what information you need to include in the 11-13 slides it should contain, and how to best present that information (for instance, do not fill your slides with a lot of text in small font).
- Tailor your pitch to your audience. While the gist of your pitch should remain the same, you may want to emphasize different aspects of your startup depending on who you are pitching to. AtomLeap’s managing director, Dr. Robin Tech, recommends that: “Entrepreneurs must always be ready to pitch their startup. But it shouldn’t be the same pitch all the time, though. You will need a pitch for customers, one for investors, another one for strategic partners, one for the elevator, and so on. Naturally, the key message should always be the same. How do you get to the key message? Simple. Start with a five-minute pitch, then cut it down to two minutes, then thirty seconds, until you finally arrive at a five-second pitch—and that’s your key message.”
- Speaking of time, you only have a limited amount of time to pitch your idea—normally five minutes or so for a pitch competition, often less if you are approaching a potential investor at a networking event. Make sure you put it to good use and that you convey all the relevant information your audience needs to hear about yourselves, why your startup is relevant (what problem are you looking to solve?), your technology, financial standing, achievements, and prospects in a concise manner.
- Dare to be different. This applies particularly when you are pitching in a competition or demo day. Your audience will likely become fatigued and distracted after listening to a number of pitches back-to-back.Get creative to attract their attention. For instance, at one of the events we organized, the speaker asked the audience to get up and put their hands up to get their juices flowing upon taking the floor. With this simple, but effective technique, he managed to attract people’s attention instantaneously and maintained it for the duration of his pitch.
- Demonstrate rather than merely describe. If you have a workable prototype, bring it along for a demonstration rather than talk about it or show photos/ PowerPoint slides of it. If you cannot demonstrate your product live for whatever reason, you may want to consider including a video showcasing your solution and how user(s) interact with it.
- Include as many concrete facts and figures as possible when discussing your market (segments), business model, traction, and milestones.
- Don’t get caught off guard by tough questions during the Q&A session. Do not avoid tough questions, because any investor who is serious about financing your startup will likely ask you a number of tough questions before deciding to do so. Look at pitch competitions as opportunities to prepare yourself for such encounters. Be confident about your solution and its relevance, address its challenges and limitations openly, and always follow up with how you are going to address them.
- Practice, practice, practice. You will want to practice your pitch so often, that delivering it becomes second nature and you can do so anywhere, anytime. Get your friends to listen to you and look over your pitch deck, participate in pitch workshops and classes, seek help from actors or other entertainment practitioners with delivery and stage presence, and, most importantly, join an accelerator program like the AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator for ongoing feedback and training.
Are you looking for support to attract investment in your high-tech startup? Then look no further. The AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator is looking to recruit startups for a six-month program starting in November. If you are interested in joining or have questions, apply directly by pressing the “APPLY NOW!” button or get in touch with us using the contact form on our homepage.