Pitch, Please

Fynn Glover

Founder and CEO, rootsrated
The pitch you design has to be considered a story, a narrative. You want to keep the audience engaged as each slide progresses. You also have to understand what you’re pitching on a very deep level. Once you’ve got that foundation laid, you’ve got a presentation. For me it’s really simple after that—I rehearse until I know it like the back of my hand. You have to be very nimble with your pitch. If you’re demonstrating a product for a customer and they start to interrupt your flow, you have to be able to jump back and forth between different conversations. Part of what allows you to be nimble is preparing in advance for every possible objection you could run into and having a strategy for how you would respond to those objections. It’s a never-ending learning process. You’ll always run into new feedback from the market, your team members, investors, and customers. The more you’re studying what the market is telling you and reflecting on it, the more you’ll be prepared and actually take the time to think about what the market is saying to you and articulating it back in a way that feels cohesive.

Travis Truett

CEO, Ambition

The fundamentals of a pitch are very similar to that of a sale. You must position your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses in alignment to that of your customers’ needs, wants, and pains. The more effectively you understand the investor, articulate your value, and earn their trust, the more likely you are to walk away successful. With that said, understand that a great funding pitch varies from investor to investor. First determine what you are looking for and what you need to be successful. Be honest with yourself. While money is hard to come by and beggars can’t be choosers, giving a significant stake of your company to the wrong person is a lose-lose situation. Do research. Talk to the founders across the portfolios and ask tough questions. Pro-tip: the best investors will see this level of diligence as a positive indicator when making their decision. The point is, before worrying about your presentation’s slide order, focus on your thesis and the rest will become much easier.

Stephen Culp

Co-founder and principal, Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, Delegator.com, PriceWaiter, Smart Furniture, Causeway

The single best slide I ever presented to an investor audience was entitled, in giant letters, “WHAT WE SCREWED UP” followed by “and what we did to fix it.”  It instantly disarmed the audience. It let them know I was leveling with them and that I was humble enough to admit mistakes, teachable enough to learn from them, and hungry enough to fix them. It stood out in the field of auto-generated $50 million hockey stick graphs. That’s how I got my first funding.

Weston Wamp

Principal, Lamp Post Ventures

With rare exceptions, there are other people in multiple parts of the world also working on every idea we are pitched. Whether the founder realizes this or not is key to their success. If they come in thinking they’ve hatched a “get rich quick” scheme that no one else has thought of, it’s an easy no. It’s all about execution, not just being first to market, but being the first in the market with customers. Nothing talks like skin in the game, especially from a young startup founder who has invested their savings or cashed-out a life insurance policy to get their company off the ground. These are people who feel pressure to make it, and they don’t have a parachute if things don’t work—those kind of things matter to investors. Because companies coming to us for funding are signing up for the wildest five to 10 years of their life, it’s critical that they love what they are doing. So it’s up to us to assess why they are doing it. If a music enthusiast is working on a new music sharing platform, it’s obvious. But if the founder only seems motivated because they see money in their future, it’s a strong sign that they won’t survive the early years of building a company.

Ted Alling

Partner, Lamp Post Group

I want to hear the story about what has brought the entrepreneur to the other side of our table. A lot of the best investments we’ve made have been in people who were in charge of their own destiny and we wanted to be a part of the journey. Too often, founders looking for funding ask for an arbitrary amount of money, but don’t really know how to spend it. A plan for how you’re going to use the capital we invest in the next 12 months to build a business is more important than what your five-year revenue projections look like. I want to know who the customer is, how we get to them, and then how we convince them to buy our service or product. We don’t invest in biotech, so it’s not rocket science to grow a company with a legitimate product or service.

Roddy Bailey

Co-founder and partner, Chattanooga Renaissance Fund Partner, Miller & Martin

In that first pitch, you have to connect, compel, and hook the investors. Everybody has the same story—this is my life, this is my passion, and I’ve made sacrifices. You have to differentiate from that common storyline and compel interest. Getting to the point quickly gives you an edge. Here’s my product, here’s my service, here’s how I’m going to make money doing that, here’s why my product or service is needed, and here’s what I want you to do for me. If you can do that in two slides, now I’m engaged. Know your stuff. Get down to it being second nature—know every detail backwards and forwards. You have to know what’s not on the slides and when I ask about that detail, why that impacts you. You can’t just fake it.