I’ve done my own fair share of startup pitching and royally screwed up my own pitch at least one time. That’s why I’ve helped over 500 startups to pitch investors in the last couple of years with Germany’s largest startup pitch event, the Rheinland Pitch.
Here is my list of the top 10 mistakes I see founders make when trying to pitch their startups to investors that you can easily avoid right now.
Running feverishly, jittery, fidgety around the stage instead of calmly remaining in one place. Using filler words like so, yeah, like and uh. Practice! Have a team mate kick you every time you use fillers until you don’t use them anymore.
9. Timing and script reading
Going over the allotted time instead of having practiced to finish convincingly within. Reading a script (in their mind) instead of having practiced a journey of key concepts to move through leads to mental blocks and embarrassing pauses and gaps in the narrative and adds to a truly awful amateur performance. Know and own your shit — don’t write fiction for a fake performance of what you believe someone wants to hear. This is not a school play.
8. Telling instead of showing
Too many startups that have actually built something forget to actually show and demo the product in the pitch. Show, don’t tell. Conversely, they have built something — but they don’t show it. Bad and worse.
7. Video killed the pitching star
Your video will work approximately 50% of the time and will fail when it’s most important not to. Too many startups don’t prepare slides with screenshots of their demo or video, so that they can effortlessly move on to slides if they fail. Which they inevitably will. Don’t be that idiot that spends the whole allotted time trying to get the demo or video to run and failing to get the message across. Make those fucking screenshots and put them in your deck — Your video will not play.
6. Solution before Problem
Don’t be that startup with a solution in search of a problem. And whatever you do, don’t present your solution before you’ve introduced and made us understand the big problem your solution will solve. That just fucks up your narrative.
5. Metrics, KPIs and Analytics
Understand your own business. Know which metrics your startup will be measured on, know how to measure them and how to do proper cohort analyses from day one.
4. Arguing with investors
Don’t. Just don’t. A relationship with an investor is like a marriage. You are going to be together for years. You can imagine how much they feel like working with you for the future if you are an argumentative ass on the first date. They may be assholes. They may be wrong. So if you don’t want to raise money from them, this is the perfect way to make sure you’ll never work together.
Don’t save it for last. Show who’s pitching, why you are credible and why you guys are the right people to make this successful. Establish authority, credibility and rapport as soon as possible. And don’t tell me about irrelevant stuff you’ve done in the past – only what’s relevant for the road ahead, the mission at hand.
You have competition. Always. Hiding the fact doesn’t make it go away. It only shows you’re either scared or too stupid to do the research. Hell, competition is good! It means there is a market here. But tell us why you are different and better. And not only direct competition is your competition. Anything that stands in the way between the customer and your wallet can be a competitor.
You’re an early stage startup with no customers and no revenue, but you are showing me projections on your business in 20 years from now and a break even in 3? Seriously? Fuck you and the lying horse you rode in on. Stop lying to yourself too. No business plans ever survives first contact with customers. Show me how you are going to spend my money the next 12 months and why, what we can expect from that; Which most critical guesses about your business are you going to use the money towards testing, how exactly and why — Don’t bother with fantasy numbers pulled out of your ass.
Now watch my Pitching Masterclass for Startups for FREE before you embarrass yourself in front of investors; Learn “How to Pitch your Startup”.