How to craft the perfect pitch for potential investors

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You’re a founder with an idea primed to transform an industry, deliver incredible results for users, and yield top returns for investors. Now, you may know that, but unless you’re in a position to bootstrap your growth, you’ll need to prove it with a well-crafted pitch. Getting that pitch meeting on the calendar is just the beginning — the real challenge is presenting the investment opportunity in a way that gets investors excited about establishing a long-running relationship with you.

Earlier this year, Mercury invited Saba Karim to share his time-tested expertise on how to craft the perfect investor pitch. Saba is the founder of Favs, a social network startup currently operating in stealth. Before starting Favs — which happens to be his fourth company — Saba was sourcing startups worldwide for Techstars as their head of pipeline and was often called upon to speak at events like TechCrunch Disrupt. Always focused on the consumer space, Saba was also on the founding team of Evolve, the world’s first dating CRM, which went on to be acquired by Hubspot, as well as Orai, an AI-powered public-speaking app.

As someone who has arguably seen more investor pitches than anyone in the industry, he knows a thing or two about what makes a strong one. Read on for some key tips on how to craft the perfect pitch, as outlined in Saba’s own framework.

Make the most of investor meetings

It’s a big moment when you can finally share your magnum opus with investors, but it’s also important to remember when preparing for this meeting that investors and VCs have limited time to lend you — and lots of founders vying for their attention. An effective meeting starts with a well-crafted pitch that takes this into account. This tip cannot be overstated: Don’t wing it. You’ll need to be selective about the information you share and clear about what you want to achieve to maximize your time with investors. Here’s how to begin putting your pitch together:

Have a clear objective

Ultimately, you’re looking to raise venture capital or venture debt — but that might not necessarily be the goal of this first meeting. This is just the first step in building what will hopefully develop into a long and mutually beneficial relationship. At this point, you’re looking to pique investor interest and secure the next meeting. To achieve this, it’s useful to remember that you’re not selling a prospective investor or VC your product or service — you’re selling them on the opportunity to be a part of your business. If you succeed, they’ll be interested in following up.

Follow their lead and listen

Launching right into pitch mode is tempting, but don’t do away with pleasantries just yet. Different investors and VCs will have different styles and preferences when it comes to pitch meetings. It’s a good idea to take a moment for introductions and to simply ask, “How do you prefer to run these?” They might like to ask questions throughout, they may want to cover certain topics ahead of others, or they may prefer you talk it through without relying on a deck. A pitch can be more interactive than you might imagine — be sure to listen and follow their cues.

Be focused and patient with your delivery

Rather than overwhelm your audience with tomes of information, remember to be deliberate about the details presented, and patient with their delivery. Speak clearly, be conversational (rather than read straight from your deck), and leave moments for clarifying questions if they come up. Imagine your goal is to toss someone a ball from across a room. Are they more likely to catch one carefully thrown ball at a time or ten launched at once? Too much information, delivered too quickly, can result in a muddled pitch leaving potential investors holding onto very little by the end.

Memorize your pitch

Chances are you’ll be sharing your startup’s pitch hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Even if you’re well acquainted with the details, it’s best to memorize your pitch rather than present off-the-cuff. This way, you can be sure to cover all the mission-critical details in every presentation and continue to hone your pitch over time.

Did you know?

The venture capital relationship is not just about money. Venture capital investors can also act as mentors, help connect startups with their network, act as legitimacy stamps, and aid with hiring.

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How to piece your pitch together

We’ve covered how to begin to think about an investor pitch, now we’ll explore how to build one. At a high level, a pitch should be memorable, educational, and actionable. These are the key ingredients, but how you assemble the recipe for maximum impact is up to you.

Grab attention with a hook

If you’ve been wondering when your charisma or knack for storytelling would come in, this is it. Explore ways to engage investors with something impactful and memorable about your startup. It could be a remarkable number, the name of an influential person on your team, a well-placed joke, or human insight that demonstrates the value of your product or service. If you’re not sure where to start, try asking yourself “What’s one fascinating detail about your company that you could relay in passing on an escalator that would stick with someone all day?” Chances are, therein lies your hook.

Back it up with proof

Now that you’ve captured your audience’s attention, it’s time to prove the opportunity of your startup. An overview of the topics you’ll want to cover might look like:

  • An introduction
  • Your team
  • Your audience
  • The problem you're solving
  • Your solution
  • Your customer acquisition strategy
  • Your business model
  • Size of your addressable market
  • How you compare to the competition
  • Your traction so far
  • What you're asking for

The basic structure of a pitch may look like this framework Saba created called the ClearPitch42:

[Name of your company] is my [#]th startup. I/we have [#] co-founders and/or [#] people on our team. We’re headquartered in [city], and we were founded [#] months ago.

We’re focused on [target audience], helping to solve [the problem], by offering [the solution].

To date, we’ve had [measure of progress/traction, e.g., revenue, funds raised, risers, signups, letter of intent, etc.]

My/our ask is [what you’re looking to raise/the next meeting].

Assembling the perfect investor pitch is part art and part science. You’ll need to grab investors’ attention with a human element and hold it with your business fundamentals. Remember, you’re looking to sell potential investors on the opportunity your business presents to them to earn a return on their investment — and to establish a lasting relationship.

For more insights on assembling the perfect pitch, follow Saba on Twitter or subscribe to his newsletter. And if you're looking to raise your Seed or Series A round, check out Mercury Raise for warm intros to top investors and guidance from fellow founders and industry pros. You can also explore our investor database to begin building out your list of prospective investors.

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