Right from the start I’ve pitched for investments, and pitched well.
I started Posse in 2009 as a part-time side project. Since then, I’ve raised over $3 million from investors and $1.4 million in government grants. I’ve never had a product fly out the gate with traction but I have a pretty awesome pitch.
I raised the first $1.5 million of investment in Posse without a product or team, purely on the strength of my presentation and PowerPoint deck!
I had no prior experience at this game. My first group pitch (at Innovation Bay in Sydney, 2009) was my first public speech since high school. And I didn’t wake up one day to discover that I’d been blessed with the ability to pitch to investors.
What I did was: prepare, prepare, practise, practise. I watched countless hours of YouTube videos showing other people pitching their ideas. Then I wrote down what I thought worked and what didn’t, and used this to build my own pitch.
I’ve heard it said that investors don’t care about the quality of a pitch; that it’s all about the product, the team and the plan. Tech people in particular seem to gloat about their inability to pitch, and their refusal to learn how to do this.
I get the sense they think that “sales” is beneath them; it’s for people without great products.
This is wrong. Sales and pitching require leadership. My favourite definition of leadership is “someone with the energy to make a dream a reality in the minds of other people”.
To do this, you must have a dream and be able to sell it, which means knowing how to pitch!
When I start investing in other entrepreneurs, there’s no way I’d invest in someone without a good pitch.
If you can’t sell me your vision, how will you inspire others to join you, or customers to use your product? And if you haven’t troubled to learn how to pitch, I’d wonder if you’re either arrogant or lazy. You might not learn to overcome future challenges.
I guess that anyone reading this blog is interested in hearing how I built and delivered a powerful pitch, and how you could improve yours.
Let’s get started:
1. Learn how to speak in public
I raised most of my first big funding round by speaking at three separate Sydney pitch events: Innovation Bay, Tech 23 and Sydney Angels.
As I’ve described, I had zero public speaking experience and was terrified of addressing a group of people in a room. So I signed up for a 10-week Toastmasters (Speechcrafters) Course where each week we gave a different five-minute speech to a group.
I learned how to connect with an audience, project my voice, use body language, and speak to time.
Most importantly, I overcame my dread of public speaking so I could concentrate on getting my message across.
Next, I did an intense two-day corporate presentation course at NIDA followed by a three-month acting class at Darlo Drama. It was painful for shy, self-conscious me, but I did grow in confidence.
2. Build a narrative that will captivate and inspire
You have one minute to win people’s attention.
Always start your pitch with a story that clearly articulates the problem your product will solve in a way they can relate to.
The listener must understand who has the problem and what it is before they can start to engage in your solution.
I’ve delivered my pitch a thousand times, and each time I’ve opened with the story of promoting the Evermore concert in Perth, how I was spending up big on advertising and it wasn’t reaching my audience.
I’m so sick of telling that story, but it works every time!
Next, you explain how your product will solve the problem: inspire your listener at the size of the opportunity.
In music I didn’t need to discuss how many bands or concerts there are in the world as it’s obvious there are a lot. But if your product is for a niche market then you need to show how big the market is.
Don’t go into complex product or market details. Just make sure all the high-level points are covered and told in a way that’s engaging, inspiring and exciting.
Every meeting I do with a new investor there’s a magic moment I look for when I can tell they get the product and the opportunity.
A smile spreads across their face. I know they want to be a part of our future.
3. Show why you are the person to do this
Investors look for an entrepreneur with previous success and who understands the market they are entering.
Try to find a clever way to establish this as early as possible, as your credibility will change the way they listen to the rest of the pitch.
Before I launch into my Evermore story, I introduce myself as coming from the music industry and having established one of Australia’s largest band management companies (Scorpio).
Then I can introduce the account of the Evermore tour by saying, “One of the artists I represented – Evermore…”
There’s a good chance they know about Evermore, so within the first 10 seconds I establish that I’ve already built and run a successful company, understand the industry and used to manage a one of their favourite bands. It all creates credibility and a connection.
Join us next week when Rebekah reveals the four remaining techniqies.