My Top 3 Tips for Founders Gearing Up to Pitch to Investors - Rolling Stone
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My Top 3 Tips for Founders Gearing Up to Pitch to Investors

To sell an idea is to tell a story.


Gorodenkoff —

Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

After judging startup competitions around the world for the last decade, my greatest takeaway is that plenty of founders have beautiful ideas. However, they don’t all pitch with confidence or lead with a story, which is often a deal-breaker.

To sell an idea is to tell a story. After all, if you don’t believe in your product or your story, who will?

Here are three pitching tips for founders in fundraising mode.

1. Make your opening pop.

Pitching is storytelling, and good storytelling means opening with a bang. When I freelanced occasionally for BBC News, an editor I worked with ripped apart the opening of the first article I submitted to him, saying it wasn’t compelling enough to keep a reader’s interest. He explained that in a day and age when people are constantly distracted by their devices and have limited attention spans, grabbing a reader’s attention immediately is imperative.

This reminded me of when I produced news segments for major networks. I’d open with a soundbite or natural sound that drew audiences into the setting. The same practice can be applied to pitching. If you’re opening your pitch by highlighting the problem your business is addressing, there are a few ways you can ensure you start strong.

The reality is that irrespective of the tools or platform being used, including just their mouths, storytellers need to engage their audience within the first five seconds or they may lose them. So, to meet my editor’s instructions, I started to write more visually and with more imagination. Instead of beginning the first paragraph with a statistic, I’d start with the story of a person who was part of that statistic or impacted by it. Rather than opening with a statement conveying what a person does, I’d illustrate an example of a day in the life of that individual. I’d take the audience on the journey that the individual is on or their experience.

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2. Take your audience on a journey.

In a pitching scenario, the easiest way to keep your audience with you is to take them on a journey. If you’re a founder, perhaps the journey is your own or perhaps it’s a customer journey. I’ve seen a number of pitches leave a deep impression on investors because the entrepreneurs highlighted their own experience or pain point — the thing that inspired them to build their startups in the first place.

Of course, because you’re pitching a business, you’ll need to include relevant data, such as market size, customer base and projections. But it’s important to stay on the journey. Stay on the train. To do this, look for opportunities to keep bringing your personal story, or the story of whomever you’re spotlighting, into your pitch.

When discussing how your product or service works, emphasize how it makes your life or the lives of your target customers easier. What changes for people when they use your product or service? Are they more productive? Do they save time or money? Are they safer, healthier or more informed? That change is the arc of your story.

3. Bring the end back to the beginning.

After making the ask for the investment round you’re seeking, remind your investor or judge why you’re presenting to them in the first place. Your business is solving a problem. Whether it’s a global issue, a problem in your local community or a customer pain point, the quandary you’re addressing matters to people. Your goal is to make their lives better when you get enough capital to follow through on your promise.

So, go back to why you started your business. Go back to the declaration you’re making with your pitch. What’s your conclusion? Remember to revisit all the information you gained from doing your research, validation and testing.

You’re going to learn what might be lacking from your business and/or pitch when investors give you feedback. The opportunities for us to learn and evolve with the goal of evoking change never end. Neither do our stories.


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