The most Common Mistakes that Startup Founders make when Pitching to Investors?

Source | Phineas Barnes |

Overall, my perspective is pitching is a skill and it can be learned. However, it takes a lot of practice to be good at it and this time can feel like a tremendous tax as a founder. You are

You are running a company and handling all the challenges and stresses of that reality and finding the time to really practice your pitch and think about the tough questions you are likely to get asked and the ways you want to answer them feels important, but never urgent (until you are in the pitch and then it is too late).

The most common mistakes in the pitch meeting itself really boil down to time management
Burying the lead – if you get more than 3 minutes into your presentation and it is not clear to everyone in the room what you are building and why, you are lost.

Starting the pitch with a clear statement of the problem you are solving (including a well defined customer) and the solution you are building (with a strong link to your broader vision) frames the rest of the conversation and gets the investor’s mind working with you not against you.

Humans like narrative and we will fill in the gaps in a story with assumptions (in entertainment they call it suspension of disbelief). If you start with clarity on the vision and illustrate the problem/solution, your audience will work to tie everything you say back to this starting point. The audience will work with you to make the story make sense.

If you don’t do this, the listener is left to fall back on the default storyline that is most common and fill the narrative gaps with assumptions that support that narrative. In startups, the default end state is failure and for most investors, the highest frequency outcome of a pitch meeting is a decision not to invest.

BioHazard – The investor should have read your bios before the meeting, done some light weight internet stalking and used this as a primary reason to take the meeting in the first place. Any investor who doesn’t know who you are when you walk in is probably not the best partner for you anyway. Push the team slide towards the back.

Lost in the weeds – no matter how much you practice your pitch, when you talk to investors (who have a pulse and are paying attention) you will have to go off script and answer questions. It is critical that you have thought about these burning questions prior to the meeting and have concise, direct and clear answers. Equally important to practice is ending answers with natural bridges back to your narrative and the deck you are using to drive the presentation.

Many founders will over answer the question, go far far to granular in their answer, and spend 10 minutes on details when a one minute version would suffice. The challenge here is that you will always know more about your business than the investor and while going deep to answer a question can be a way to illustrate how much you know, more often than not, I have seen founders lose their audience in the details and struggle to get the story back on track and back to a level the investors can understand.

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