Your pitch needs to be more than just interesting – it needs to be compelling. DORON BEN-MEIR
By Doron Ben-Meir
All of us have either heard about or been to a fast pitching night where entrepreneurs are given a very short time (sometimes as little as 30 seconds) to explain why their business is worth backing.
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Often referred to as the “elevator pitch” (because that’s how much time you have if you are lucky enough to share an elevator ride with an investor) the idea is to crystallise the essence of your business proposition with such efficiency that your investor audience – typically assumed to have the attention span of a two year old – will want to hear more.
While time is precious for everyone, I think too much is made of the timing element. What is true, however, is that investors are inundated with proposals and so tend to grasp at those that stand out.
So what stands out?
As a former competitive tennis player and coach, I like to use the analogy of watching a great player.
The most striking thing about watching a top player like Roger Federer is how easy he makes the game look. When you’re on the other side of the net you realise how complete he is – no weaknesses to attack and an answer for everything you can throw at him.
Behind such elegant simplicity is a lot of hard work, training and, of course, talent.
The same is true of a quality pitch – elegant simplicity.
Investors need to see an opportunity to make money and so you need to convey that message with credibility and thoroughness. The better you understand your business, and what it will take to succeed, the more complete will be your pitch and the simpler it will be to make it look easy.
Importantly, there is no substitute for substance, so I would caution against an over emphasis on presentation. In the end, you will be called to account, so make sure you’ve put sufficient effort into your business so that it will back you up when you’re serving for the set!
As a case in point, I recently reviewed a deal which, on paper, was interesting but not compelling.
When I met with the founding CEO, despite his youth and relative inexperience, he understood his value proposition very clearly and had obviously done considerable work in proving it with his first clients.
Even more impressive was the high quality nature of his clients – evidencing his ability not only to sell his value proposition but to deal with leaders in his chosen sector.
He also played a very straight bat with respect to the mistakes made and lessons learnt so far. Finally, while his proposition had blue sky potential, he had a strategic approach to business development – cognisant of not pushing limited resources too hard.
Interesting turned into compelling.
If you had never seen any other proposals, you’d wonder what all the fuss was about – it all seems simple enough!
Doron Ben-Meir has been an active venture capital manager for the last eight years. He founded Prescient Venture Capital and prior to that was a consulting investment director of Momentum Funds Management. He was a serial entrepreneur over a 12 year period, co-founding five new technology based businesses.