What’s the best way to pitch your company to investors?

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

You should be able to tell your whole story, in a compelling and detailed fashion, in just 20 minutes. This will almost always expand to fill the hour… At the same time, you want to have hours and hours of nerdy details squirreled away in your head.

What’s the best way to create your pitch deck and demo?

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

When you design your presentation, you want to make sure to emphasize the points that will drive people to the conviction that they should back your idea. If you believe the market opportunity is the most compelling thing you have to share, spend more time on it. If you believe the strength of your team is unmatched, take the time to dive into their bios and experience

What’s the best way to pitch your company to investors?

Aaron Levie (CEO of Box)
Aaron Levie (@levie) | Twitter

Sizing the market for a disruptor based on an incumbent’s market is like sizing the car industry off how many horses there were in 1910.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Startup financing is not a popularity contest; everyone saying yes is irrelevant to you. It’s more important to have the right person say yes than it is to have everyone say yes.

Tim Jackson (‎General Partner at Lean Investments)
Investment Swarm with Tim Jackson at Hive53.com – YouTube

Team: how good? Traction: how fast? Market: how big? Barriers: how high? and then… Why did this deal come to me? How can I help?

Rob Go (Co-Founder and Partner at NextView Ventures)
Why The Series B is the “Sucker Round” – ROBGO.ORG

In the seed and Series A, you are selling promise and some execution. In growth rounds, you are selling something that already “works”. You are selling a marketing machine, and the ability to “put in 1 dollar and get out 2″. In between, you are selling a hybrid of both, and that isn’t easy.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
What happened to innovation? – Sam Altman

A two-by-two matrix of progress in innovation (and ease of attracting investment) with software/physical on one axis and short-term/long-term on the other axis looks like this. Green is good, yellow is ok, and red is bad. https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/948806/gd5P6SxQ7LcBL_LP4XtEtlK9Jx4/medium_matrix.png

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Just make an affirmative statement about what you do and why it’s important. SpaceX has a great elevator pitch: “Launch costs haven’t come down in decades. We slash them by 90%. The market is $XXbn.” (Contrast this with: “We’re NASA meets Toyota!”)

Anthony Lee ( Managing Director of Altos Ventures, Marketing @ Evolve Software (acquired), McKinsey)
Why Big, Why Now, Why You? – Altos Ventures

Specifically, there are “3 Whys” that I want to see in every pitch: WHY BIG? WHY NOW? WHY YOU? On Why Now? — this is one that entrepreneurs almost always miss and so it is one that I have come to feel is the most critical. So much of startup success is dictated by good timing

Kris Duggan (CEO and Founder at BetterWorks)
The Second-Timers: Kris Duggan of Betterworks: “This Time, I Generated Leads Before We Even Launched” | SaaStr

If you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money. I spend 10x more of my time on customers than investors. For example, we don’t have an investor deck here at BetterWorks. If a potential investor wants to talk, I show them our sales deck so they know how we talk with prospects. Thinking that way makes me remember to stop ‘pitching’ and keep listening.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

When pitching a VC, you need to have at your command the macro stats for the industry, because that is how they compare your problem with another idea that someone else is pitching. Intuitions are not enough to make the comparison, and for the partner to pitch his/her colleagues – there needs to be some market data about the size of the market etc.

Ben Yoskovitz (VP Product at VarageSale, VP Product at GoInstant (acquired by Salesforce), Author of Lean Analytics)
“No Marketing” Isn’t as Impressive as You Think

Marketing is learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not making progress. Don’t tell investors that your traction is “without any marketing” because that just means it’s not repeatable and scalable.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
My Golden Rule for Pitching Your Startup or Product

There’s a simple rule I use when pitching a product or even a company to someone. I call it No “and”s. You have to be able to describe your idea in a single sentence without using the word “and. ” The problem with using “and”s is that they often confuse ideas instead of clarifying them.

Alfred Lin (Partner at Sequoia Capital, Former CFO/COO Zappos)
How to Convince Investors

It’s doubly important for the explanation of a startup to be clear and concise, because it has to convince at one remove: it has to work not just on the partner you talk to, but when that partner re-tells it to colleagues.

David Beisel (Co-Founder & Partner at NextView Ventures)
Never Raising Capital Ever Again – GenuineVC

Capital fundraising is to facilitate growth ahead of cash flows generated by the business. If there is truly a huge venture-scale opportunity ahead of a startup, there should be an appropriate cost of capital for future financings to expand which make sense for the company. … perhaps in many cases the desire for the Seed round to be the final round of financing is a tacit signal that it doesn’t have the potential to be “venture scale” after all.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
3 Startup Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

You can only raise money by pitching the “Dream” or by selling “Traction”. So either bootstrap your startup, or raise money in the early “dream” (no code, no plan, just a dream) phase or in the “traction” (the model is working) phase of your business.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Pitching to investors: What truly excites you? | A Founder’s Notebook

A pitch to investors doesn’t need to be an exhaustive overview of your business. You need to get investors excited, and you can then follow up with details. And what gets investors excited is probably what gets you excited.

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Five Mistakes New VCs Make (& How I Tried to Avoid Them) | Hunter Walk

New VCs are vulnerable to fashionable verticals. What are some motivations to chase the market? Groupthink certainly; high volume of new companies in these spaces; perceived appetite for these companies from downstream investors mean you can get some quick markups over next 12 months.

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

You should be able to tell your whole story, in a compelling and detailed fashion, in just 20 minutes. This will almost always expand to fill the hour… At the same time, you want to have hours and hours of nerdy details squirreled away in your head.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Black Swan Farming

The two most important things to understand about startup investing, as a business, are (1) that effectively all the returns are concentrated in a few big winners, and (2) that the best ideas look initially like bad ideas.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

The general rule is one business model drives the business. It’s tempting to list multiple revenue streams because you’re trying to prove that you will be big. Yet when consumer internet companies do this, investors generally see a red flag.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Pitch by analogy. Show, don’t tell. Again, your pitching goals are to increase investors’ confidence in your investment thesis and lead them to a shared view of your company’s problems. To accomplish this, you should show rather than tell whenever possible.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Understand where analogies apply and where they do not. Pitch by analogy but don’t necessarily reason by analogy. When I’m the investor listening to a pitch, one detail I consider is whether the entrepreneur is being too deluded by their analogies and not thinking hard enough about exception cases. It’s better to have no analogy than a bad one.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

When pitching by analogy, anchor your business to other valuable businesses to signal that your business will be valuable, too

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Avoid debating the validity of your analogies. If someone pushes back and tries to challenge elements of an analogy, don’t let yourself get drawn into a back and forth. Analogies are a conceptual framework, so they’re not going to be 100% accurate.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Express your competitive advantage. Why are you going to break out of the pack? What is your advantage? An understanding of product-market fit? Is it a technology advantage? What’s your differential business strategy? Your differential growth strategy? Your differential product?

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Show some maneuverability. Don’t just say that you have five different options. Instead, say that you’re doing one, but you also have some fall-back or maneuvering options.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Ultimately, you’re selling the partnership, so give the individual partner the talking points to be successful. What will that partner tell their partners? Put yourself in their shoes.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

When in doubt, lead with what will make the most sense to investors.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Underpromise and overdeliver. Internally, our team expected that paid members would potentially get access to the whole network, but we had to make sure that the network would be comfortable with this. So we showed four degrees [of seperation] to our investors, to be sure.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Be wary of adjectives and especially adverbs. Anytime you use qualifiers like “very”, you’re overstating your point, which shows that you’re nervous about it. When I’m being pitched as an investor and I see such qualifiers, I make sure to ask questions about those areas because I know the entrepreneur is most nervous about them. It’s okay to be hyperbolic, to be aggressive, to be visionary [but] avoid adverbs and adjectives when possible.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

Explain to them why you are unique (if you are in a larger market). In essence, why did everyone else pass on you?

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Tell a story – and try to do it first without relying on your deck. People like stories. Our brains are wired to respond them. We recall facts better when they are embedded in narrative. Why did you start your company? What do you want to achieve? Then drape the facts around that skeleton.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
This For That – AVC

We’ve made a few of these investments and some of them have worked out pretty well.Edmodo is Facebook for classrooms. SoundCloud is YouTube for audio.
If you are going to do a “this for that” investment, the first thing you need to make sure is the iconic company (this) is not going to go after this other market (that) themselves. Then you need to make sure the other market (that) is very large. And finally, you need to make sure that the founde… (read more)

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Early startup pitches are like movie pitches, not business pitches — Medium

An early startup pitch might be more like a movie pitch than a business pitch. Early startup investors might be more like Hollywood movie producers or A&R people in music — listening to the tape! — than they are like Actual Businesspeople. The best ones just know what a few bars of good jazz sound like when they hear it.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

One of the most important things to understand is that, like all people, VCs are different people at different times of day. It helps to pitch as early as possible in the day. This is not a throwaway point. Disregard it at your peril

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

The standard format is stringing together a few well-known products and services that you sort of resemble: “We are Instagram meets TaskRabbit meets Craigslist.” You should reject the standard format.

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Don’t pitch from the defensive & don’t start by apologizing

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Framing matters a LOT (seed round vs seed extension)

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
What I Wish I Knew Before Pitching LinkedIn to VCs | Greylock Partners

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Talk to your network to evaluate your ideas and evaluate your pitch. The questions you should always ask are: What’s wrong? What’s broken? Why won’t it work? What do you think the risks are? People by default will want to give you good feedback rather than bad, so you have to ask negative questions.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Take competition against your potential revenue streams seriously. Being detailed about your competition, especially listing the specific companies, helps increase investor confidence.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Be decisive and ship. Including specific dates, for example, shows decisiveness. Being decisive doesn’t mean that you have to stick with your decisions. Good investors expect you to iterate often as you figure out what product will grow your market.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

VC’s don’t fund mobile app companies anymore. The reason is it’s impossible to get distribution through the iPhone app store or Google Play.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

VCs are looking for the ten-year level of discourse, rather than the six month level of discourse. Being in an investor meeting is actually the one environment where you can let you imagination rip

What’s the best way to create your pitch deck and demo?

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

While it’s important to think carefully about your future, don’t think too far into the future. You will change, the world will change, and the competitive landscape will change. It is useful, however, to have a strategic direction supported by confident projections.

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Why Most Demos Confuse

Demoing a product by starting with the home page (or, actually, starting anywhere on the website or in the app) is like a realtor showing you a house starting in the living room… Consider, instead, walking through the front door — having come from somewhere, paid attention to the neighborhood, the cars on the street, the front porch. Start with the first moment a user might learn of your product — maybe it’s an email invite, or a text from a frie… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Traditionally [early] fundraising consists of presenting a slide deck in person to investors. Sequoia describes what such a deck should contain, and since they’re the customer you can take their word for it. (https://www. sequoiacap. com/article/elements-of-enduring-companies/ and https://www. sequoiacap. com/article/writing-a-business-plan/)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

You’ll also want an executive summary, which should be no more than a page long and describe in the most matter of fact language what you plan to do, why it’s a good idea, and what progress you’ve made so far. The point of the summary is to remind the investor (who may have met many startups that day) what you talked about.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Assume that if you give someone a copy of your deck or executive summary, it will be passed on to whoever you’d least like to have it. But don’t refuse on that account to give copies to investors you meet. You just have to treat such leaks as a cost of doing business. In practice it’s not that high a cost.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Sometimes an investor will ask you to send them your deck and/or executive summary before they decide whether to meet with you. I wouldn’t do that. It’s a sign they’re not really interested.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Customer slides are more appropriate for enterprise pitches. Great customers are predictive of future customers for enterprise businesses. On the consumer internet, however, this is a sign of trouble because it indicates that the entrepreneur may not understand how the consumer internet works.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

It’s always better to have less slides, but it’s much more important to have a great deck. Don’t stress about the exact number of slides. Entrepreneurs often hear advice that their decks should be a particular length. I, for example, recommend a length of 20 to 25 slides. But these are only rules of thumb, which means you can violate them if you have a good reason.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

It’s helpful (but not mandatory) to put your thesis in each of the titles. If an investor sequenced through the titles, they’d be able to get a sense of the flow of the argument. This is especially helpful when investors are sharing the decks with their investment partners.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Show a focus on bottom-up tactics for your strategy. And show that you’re focused on the metrics that matter: revenue numbers, engagement traction, etc. [Total addressible market] slides quote people who have incentives for artificial inflation, so entrepreneurs risk demonstrating that they have no real sense of how to take dominance of the market.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Have reasonable numbers and assumptions that can pass the blink test during the pitch. Investors want to make a quick assessment that you have an intelligent view of the model of your business, and they know those assumptions can later be validated by due diligence. You don’t want investors to fixate on claims that appear crazy.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

One common mistake is putting the team slide early in the deck. The team behind your idea is critical, but don’t open with that. Instead, open with the investment thesis. Persuade investors that your investment thesis is intriguing, then show who can make it happen.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Does It Tell A Story? – AVC

Too many decks (and pitches) are full of facts and figures but lack a cohesive narrative that makes them compelling. Dressing the deck up with beautiful visuals can help, but even if you do that and you don’t “tell a story” you are not putting your best foot forward

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why your startup needs a visual message | A Founder’s Notebook

Your startup needs a visual message. Create visual metaphors that stick in peoples minds and are easily repeated.

Jason Calacanis (CEO of Inside.com, Formerly “Entrepreneur in Action” at Sequoia Capital)
How To Demo Your Startup | TechCrunch

Show your product within the first 60 seconds. Most folks start their presentations with information like the size of the market they are tackling. The longer it takes for you to show your product, the worse your product is. The best products take less than five minutes to demo. The better the product the LESS time it takes to demo. If your product demo takes more than five minutes to demo, it probably sucks. Talk about what you’ve done, not what… (read more)

Jason Calacanis (CEO of Inside.com, Formerly “Entrepreneur in Action” at Sequoia Capital)
How To Demo Your Startup | TechCrunch

Bullet points of obvious facts show that: a) you don’t have the ability to create a compelling story with data b) you don’t think that much of the person being presented the information

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

When you design your presentation, you want to make sure to emphasize the points that will drive people to the conviction that they should back your idea. If you believe the market opportunity is the most compelling thing you have to share, spend more time on it. If you believe the strength of your team is unmatched, take the time to dive into their bios and experience

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Open with your investment thesis, what prospective investors must believe in order to want to be shareholders of your company. Your first slide should articulate the investment thesis in generally 3 to 8 bullet points. Then, spend the rest of the pitch backing up those claims and increasing investors’ confidence in your investment thesis

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

You should end on a slide that you want people to be paying attention to. A placeholder slide that says only “Appendix” or “Q&A” is never that. Instead, close with your investment thesis.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

I now believe you should begin and end with the investment thesis. The beginning is when you have the most attention, and the end is when you should return to the most fundamental topic to discuss with your investors.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

If you anticipate serious questions from the kinds of investors you want, preparing appendix slides with structured answers is impressive, showing that you’ve considered all of your business’ challenges, opportunities, and comparisons. Appendix content typically fall under two categories: providing additional information or addressing objections.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Reinforce key concepts when delivering a concept pitch. Diagrams are one way to accomplish this, helping investors visualize key concepts. In our pitch, we [LinkedIn] wanted to make sure investors understood that you build the network first and then you can build a platform of businesses on top.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Show your product rather than saying you intend to build a best-of-breed product. Ideally, you want to have the product built. Otherwise, you should show what you have in mind with a mockup.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Pre-Product Phase – AVC

One of my big weaknesses as an early stage investor is my eyes glaze over at wireframes, design sketches, photoshop screens, and prose that describes a product. Until I can get my hands on it and use it, I have an incredibly difficult time imagining what the thing is.
For that reason, I prefer working on projects that are designed in code as opposed to paper, photoshop, or some other tool.