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STARTUP

What Investors Want to Hear in Your Pitch
 

Steve Schlafman, principal at Lerer Ventures, offers tips for passing the smell test.

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Passing investors' smell test takes more than just a great idea, said Steve Schlafman, principal at Lerer Ventures, on Wednesday during Internet Week.

It also means putting your best foot forward.

Here are three ways a start-up can do so: 

Have a great track record--and a great team. "We like founders who have history of accomplishing stuff," said Schlafman. Oftentimes, founders are are high achievers who have been leading since they were young, perhaps as a class president or a coder. 

If there are several founders then investors will evaluate their dynamic, taking time to examine things such as how long the founders have known each other and where they first met. Team chemistry is critical, stressed Schlafman, because the company's culture starts with them. Maintaining that culture means hiring the best people, especially in the beginning when start-ups are short on cash and resources.  

Know your story. "Being able to articulate why and what you are building in a very concise way is super critical," said Schlafman, noting a company description is not enough. "It's like the whole Simon Sinek TED Talk: Why are you doing this? What's the purpose?

Have a game plan. Entrepreneurs should also be able to explain their product, why consumers need it, and how it will be delivered.

"I am a seed investor, I am not investing in a PowerPoint presentation," Schlafman said. "I am investing in a founder, in a product, and I want to see that you can ship something. Or that you can prove to me that someone wants your product.

"You don't have to walk into my office and be like, 'Hey, we figured out all of the lifetime value economics of our business,' but I want to know how you plan to get the product into the hands of the people that need it most."

Make sure your action plan includes a means of distribution, which communities you'll target, and how you plan to expand your reach. 

Speaking of customers, make sure you know yours, Schalfman concluded. "How much do they sleep? How much do they make? What do they do on the weekend? Understand how they purchase products."

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: May 23, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.
@kasperka




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