How to nail a funding pitch first time

An experienced pitch coach, international speaker and host, David McQueen shares tips on how start-ups can deliver their story and win over investors

For many start-ups looking to grow their business idea, the problem of a lack of funds is real.

You have the passion, the product or at least a prototype, and sometimes even the people but no P’s (sorry, money).

As a businessman, international speaker and coach, most of my work is framed around my thinking as a storyteller and I am passionate about getting clients to design and deliver their story for personal and business success.

Here are my essential tips to the art of pitching for funding…

Prepare

Write down on a piece of paper the following eight ‘P’s:

  • Problem
    Define what the problem your product or service is solving, or the pain point that your product resolves.
  • Product
    Explain succinctly exactly what it is that your product actually does. It is important to be specific as you want to make sure your offering is memorable.
  • Potential
    Demonstrate with evidence the market you are going after. Many start-ups get this wrong by over-inflating the potential of their ability to influence the market so I say identify the the Total Available Market (TAM), then the Serviceable Available Market (SAM) and then focus on your niche or Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM). This demonstrates that you have thought carefully about who you are targeting. It is also very important to know who your competitors are. Even if you are bringing something new to the market, there will always be competition.
  • Proof
    Otherwise known as traction. You should have evidence of users signing up, people beta testing your product, or feedback on a prototype of your product. Or if none of the above, then evidence that there is an appetite in the market for what you have from solid research.
  • Promotion
    Be clear about how you are going to market and sell your product to your core audience.
  • Profit
    Understand your business model. Have a firm grip on what the actual costs are for bringing your product or service to market. Everyone gets excited about revenue but it’s the costs and monthly burn rate that  investors will be looking at with a fine tooth comb when you ask them for money.
  • People
    Who are the people in your team that will make this product work? What is their expertise and what experience do they bring to the table?
  • Pitch
    Think about how much money you want, how long will it last for, and what you’re willing to give up in return for it.

Presentation

Having identified these key points of your business, you then need to think about how you’re going to put them together for your pitch.

If it is a 90-second presentation, otherwise known as an elevator pitch, there’s no point in having a bunch of slides or other visuals that will distract. Script out the key points that you need to make in order to make an impact on investors.


Action point:
See if you can get a Start Up Loan to help you start a business idea
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If you have been given a longer time to pitch, say three minutes, then by all means prepare a pitch deck (slides of your presentation) in line with the structure mentioned above. Some start-ups like to start their presentation discussing ‘People’ first and then the ‘Problem’, others like to go with the ‘Problem/Product’ first and then finish by advising on the ‘People’ who will deliver on it. This will be up to you but it always helps to try and research what preference investors have for this.

It’s advisable to let those who are proficient at designing pitch decks do the work for you – there’s no point risking a great pitch with a poor presentation.

It is also advisable to have a one-page executive summary ready for when you need to give a shorter pitch, and to have a more detailed pitch deck for longer presentations so that investors can have access to additional information if necessary.

Practise

Practise your pitch until it is second nature to you. If you have a co-founder then practise it in front of them, or if not your employees, until they can repeat it back to you. Don’t ever wing it. Practice makes perfect. Or at least as close to perfect as possible.

Film your practice pitches. Whether on your phone, DSLR or another kind of camera. It will help you to see how you look in front of others. Film it until you are happy.

Think about how you stand when presenting. Practise a posture you are comfortable with. Get comfortable with giving eye contact with those you are presenting to; focus on fleeting glances rather than staring at the investors.

Think about the pace at which you speak and the moments in your presentation you want to pause for effect. Smile. Always smile before, during, and at the end of your presentation.

If you are using visuals ensure that you don’t end up staring at a screen. It’s always good to bring someone with you to advance your slides or bring a remote to advance the slides.

Finally, finish strong. Make sure you have a powerful call to action at the end of your pitch that clarifies what you are asking for and your willingness to take any questions if needed.

Perform

Now you have these tips, go out there and pitch strong! Remember not every pitch lands the first time, it gets better with experience…

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