The Anatomy of a Great Startup Pitch

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Over the years, we’ve collected a treasure chest of advice from clients who have successfully pitched to investors. While presentations vary between startups, they share an understanding of how potential investors view a pitch meeting. First, they want you to succeed. They’re looking for the next great startup, and they hope you’re it. But they are also risk averse—they want you to establish credibility and show that you’ve done your homework. How do you translate all this into a pitch?

Be memorable

You’re presenting to investors because you care—about your product, about the problem you’re solving. Let your enthusiasm show through, and bring your audience along for the ride. Use specific examples and tell stories to illustrate your point. Stories, especially when they’re about real people and places, resonate more than general, theoretical examples.

Validate your market, and yourself

The old tech adage, ideas are worthless and execution is everything, holds up in this situation. You will need to prove that a market does indeed exist for your product and that you know it like the back of your hand. Has your product gained any traction yet—web-based signups, enthusiastic user reviews, a solid list of active beta users?

Beyond proving your market, you’ll also have to prove that you are the one to bring your product to market. Do you have any credential in your target industry or a related business? What are your previous successes, if relevant? You don’t need a pages-long CV with years of management experience—just enough to show that you know your market and are committed to seeing your idea through.

Follow the rules

It may seem like successful startup pitches are the outliers, the ones that are different enough to hold the attention of investors and stand out in a sea of monotonous Keynote presentations. But think of them like novels—all the great ones still follow the basic principles of storytelling.

Investors expect to hear a compelling introduction, a middle that fleshes out the details, and a conclusion that calls them to action. Specific examples, research that proves what you’re doing holds value, and your enthusiasm is what makes your presentation come off the page. That being said—brevity is also important.

If you’re currently crafting or rehearsing a pitch, you’ve probably realized that it’s a separate skill altogether. Even highly qualified startup founders with slam-dunk ideas struggle with presenting to investors. Overall, it’s your dedication, practice, and willingness to incorporate feedback that will get you through those rounds of pitch meetings until you find a match.