Ever since Bill Reichert founded Garage Technology Ventures in Silicon Valley 15 years ago, his firm has reviewed close to 100,000 business plans from hopeful entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, some of those pitches are so bad Reichert found himself moaning when a friend asked him to judge a startup-pitch day. Afterward, Reichert began searching for ways to help entrepreneurs craft better stories. "It is not good enough to tell a good enough story," he says. "You have to get beyond good enough and get to wow."
Before he started his venture investment firm in 1998, Reichert assumed venture capitalists applied some "rate-of-return calculus" to determine which ideas would succeed. But on the other side of the table, the Stanford alum found "venture capitalists do not invest with their brains--they invest with their hearts." On a recent trip to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Reichert explained how to make investors fall for a pitch in 10 easy steps:
1. Be passionate.
"You shouldn’t have to fake passion," Reichert says. It lives inside you.
2. Make it snappy.
Whether you're chatting on Skype or at a party, you need to make your pitch quickly before the listener tunes out. "In the real world, you basically have 20 seconds to get someone engaged or you might as well go home," says Reichert. Why is it compelling, and why are you the woman or man for the job? Tell them.
3. Don't state the obvious.
Reichert's firm sometimes invests in clean-tech projects, so he's seen more images of smog in L.A. than he can count. "Almost everyone puts up essentially the same slide," he jokes. Ditch the obvious and stick to what matters.
4. Mention the big stuff first.
"If you’ve got something big to tell us, tell us up front," offers Reichert. Don't wait until later.
5. Use analogies.
Use references and products your audience relates to, i.e., "We're the Netflix of eBooks."
6. Stay sharp.
Engineers often use technical jargon laypeople don't understand, which VCs hear as "blah, blah, blah," says Reichert. "When someone wants to know what you do, he or she wants to know what value you create for your customers."
7. Ditch the formula.
Pitch coaches create templates for entrepreneurs making pleas to investors. But "at the best case, that's just a start," says Reichert, since "whatever template you use will be wrong for your company." Instead, use a template as a checklist, then let it guide how you present your pitch.
8. Give them a reason.
If venture capitalists want to invest in something, they need to know why they should choose your team and your product. Is it cheaper? Faster? Articulate that reason, then use a metric to add credibility.
9. Be fair.
Dissing a well-established company comes across as naive. Referencing a competitor and how your company is different is smarter.
10. Sell a vision.
"Sometimes we fall in love with a vision of a team that wants to change the world, and we think they can make a dent," says Reichert, but "at the end of the day, I am investing in the dream." When d.light--a venture launched by two Stanford business students--pitched replacing kerosene lanterns with rechargeable solar ones in developing countries, Reichert's company turned them away. Then they told Reichert, "'You don’t get it,'" he recalls. "'We are not about charity here.'" While their lanterns were charitable, theirs was a for-profit enterprise. And so Reichert's firm brought them on.