Perfecting the Pitch

Sales & Marketing

“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.”
– Babe Ruth


illustration of business man giving presentation

Investors Share Actionable Advice

Sourcing funding is crucial for any startup, and to do that, founders need to impress and hook an investor in a relatively short amount of time. A pitch should be memorable, engaging, and concise, and it also needs to be made to the right audience to successfully win funding. Here, local investors share their advice for founders on what makes the most compelling, effective presentation.

jay shaffer

Jay Shaffer

Market Director, VentureSouth

Founders, remember your pitch is your movie trailer, NOT your movie! The purpose of your pitch is to secure another meeting – investors rarely write a check upon first meeting. Hook your audience and tell a story. Play the “match” game not the “persuasion” game. Find compatible investors since you’ll be together for several years. Tips for your pitch: Be clear, not clever. One main point per slide. Use the slide title as a headline to emphasize that main point. Use images much more than text. Use big fonts. Number your slides.

Slides investors expect:

  1. What’s the problem?
  2. Here’s our solution.
  3. How it works.
  4. How big is the market?
  5. Competition
  6. Traction
  7. Business model and pricing
  8. Go-to market strategy
  9. Financial projections and metrics
  10. Team members and advisors
  11. Raise at valuation
  12. Use of funds

Good luck. Keep grinding.

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matt patterson

Matt Patterson

Co-Founder & General Partner, Brickyard

There are many things investors want to see in a pitch, but as a baseline, they’re looking for three must-haves from a CEO:

  1. Can this person recruit and retain talent? Will world-class employees follow this person?
  2. A compelling vision for the company. Does this person have some insight into the future on how their business will play out?
  3. Make sure there’s always money in the bank. Does this person have the skill set to raise funds for the company through investment and/or customer revenue to fuel growth?

Finally, I’ll add that early stage investors know it takes 10 years to build something special — or what someone from the outside looking in might call an overnight success. Does this person have what it takes to ride the waves of momentum and weather the tough times through a decade to make it happen? Exuding these qualities is essential to nailing a pitch.

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maeghan jones

Maeghan Jones

President & CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga

At the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, one of our chief responsibilities is to serve as a steward of the resources that our donors have entrusted to us. That requires us to find both excellent investment consultants to ensure that these assets grow, which makes it possible for philanthropic families to have a greater impact through their giving, as well as nonprofit partners in the community who can put these generous gifts to good use. In both cases, we look for a balance of expertise and passion.

With regard to investment advisors, while we appreciate a thoughtful technical proposal that shows strong year-over-year performance, we need to see that a firm possesses a deep understanding of our mission and goals. We also know from experience that an investment firm that has its own existing social responsibility viewpoint will likely be a good partner for us. Willingness to customize their approach to meet our unique challenges and opportunities is essential.

We believe that generosity is a choice, and one that requires intention, focus, and discipline. These are the qualities we expect from ourselves and from those we trust with our business. Adhering to these standards is how we transform generosity into lasting change.

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james barber

James Barber

President, The Generosity Trust

Over the course of my career, I’ve come to realize that nailing a pitch to me means simply being humble enough to know that the focus shouldn’t be on me. I need to be faithful to make the appointment and share the need with the donors, and then be humble enough to get out of the way and let God lead His people in His way.

I believe in letting people know of the need – not the need of my organization, but the specific needs of the people we are serving. I let them know their gift can make a difference in meeting those needs. When it comes to fundraising appeals, I don’t want people to focus on the words I might use or even the strength of the cause I’m representing, but to respond to the voice of God in their lives. I also always make a point to come back and thank the donor for responding to God’s leading in their giving.

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tiffanie robinson

Tiffanie Robinson

CEO, Aslan Holdings and SVN | Second Story Real Estate

When pitching your business to investors, the number one most important piece of advice I have for you is to believe in what you’re selling. You have to believe in the idea you’re selling so passionately that it makes me desperate to be a part of it. I’m not just giving you this advice as a means of being a strong salesperson, but really for the long game. As the CEO of your company, you’re going to experience a time of loneliness – when others don’t believe in your idea, when clients leave you, when employees exit. There will be nothing that will get you through the loneliest days of being an entrepreneur more than the conviction you feel in your bones that what you’re doing matters and will create something real. And as your prospect investor, I want to see that from you. If I can see that in you (and a few other important things), then I’m all in with you!

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kristina m. montague

Kristina M. Montague

Managing Partner, The JumpFund

At The JumpFund, we refer to our pitch process as the Dolphin Tank. As a group of all-women angel investors, we prefer to nudge, prod, and help the female founders who come through our door. The best pitches are always brief (10 minutes tops) with a pitch deck of no more than 10 slides. Most importantly, we expect founders to:

  1. Define the problem and their unique solution.
  2. Detail how big the potential market is, who competitors are, and how this will this make money.
  3. Explain what your “special sauce” is and whether it is protectable (intellectual property).
  4. Show who is on your team, what their experience is, and what your qualifications are as founder/CEO to take this company the distance.

Finally, get to the “ask” – how much are you raising, what for, and why us? You will make further inroads if you understand the interests of the group you are pitching and why you want them on your cap table beyond the check.

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santosh sankar

Santosh Sankar

Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Dynamo Ventures

As a seed investor, I listen to hundreds of pitches a year from founders building companies in the supply chain and mobility space. First and foremost, the founders must own the fundraising process and not hire a third party or delegate it away. Apart from that, effective pitches have five commonalities:

  1. An intellectually honest assessment of the team’s strengths and deficiencies and the willingness to be coached.
  2. An ability to engage, hire, and manage top-tier talent.
  3. Clear understanding of the problem that demonstrates a team empathizes with the customer.
  4. A concise way of outlining why the team’s approach to solving the problem is novel.
  5. A large market that can support the emergence of a billion-dollar company over a decade.

It might be odd that I don’t raise anything on sales, and while that’s great to include, I am often investing ahead of any meaningful revenues. As such, the focus is on the team and their abilities – after all, it’s people who build businesses.

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