In a recent Angel investors’ meeting where three pitches were made, I could not avoid thinking about the football movie, “On Any Given Sunday”, where the coach talks about the “inches” being too short, or their being too long, and that mistakes in that lose a game are measured in inches. Similarly, these fund raising pitches suffered the same mistakes measured in inches. One presenter’s posture with his hands in his pockets was not a favorable look. Imagine Steve Jobs doing his product pitches stuffing his hands in his pockets.
Another had too much content on a slide to show the thought process being impressive. It was full of connected boxes with many connecting lines. However, for the total number of years in company’s operation, the company only earned several thousand dollars revealed after questioning. In other words, complicated Powerpoint slides do not attract investors. A history of profitability does.
So, apparent, little things can have palpable impact on being funded during a fund raising presentation. Whether it is the physical presence. The colors or backgrounds or the presentations. Or the content being shown on the slides. Yet many startups seem to ignore these few inches.
As a comparison, let us look at Wall Street investment firms, which have been in the business of raising money for years. Beyond the bankers, these offices are littered with writers, Powerpoint experts, graphic artists, and applications specialists. They worry about the background of the slides that should have the appropriate shade of blue. They can put together strong graphical representations of the business, without obfuscating or distracting the viewers. Charts and spreadsheets should be simple and direct.
Effective presentations should be rehearsed, with all the essential numbers known by heart. When delivering the presentation, the basic points must always be addressed, while highlighting the most important information – burn rates, margins, cash positive. I have seen the Wall Street presentations by leading CEOs, and they all hit the same concepts raised by startups. These CEOs are pitching their company to financial analysts in the audience very familiar with many presentations. Startups should not present any differently.
What to present I believe I mentioned in earlier blogs. Be cognizant that the slides should exceed 15-20 in numbers, and when rehearsed, the timing should not exceed 20-25 minutes. Why? The rest of the 55 minutes are dedicated to questions and introductions. Slides should be simple with sizeable fonts and with the key elements of the strategy.
But breaking away from this mold can be fatal as the “few inches” of mistakes attest.