Growing up in the 90s, my favorite part of summer break was going to see huge blockbuster movies. Whether it was Jurassic Park, Independence Day, or The Blair Witch Project, I found myself excited to watch an action packed 90-minute thriller with my friends or family during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. What got me to the theater? Why was I so excited to experience a new world?

It was the trailer. Yes, the 1 to 2 minute commercials always sucked me into wanting to see more. They utilized a strong narrator's voice, powerful imagery, and enticing questions that somewhat explained the plot, but not too little for me to ignore going to see the movie.

As a venture capitalist, I have seen a ton of pitches at demo days or other public forums. I've always suggested to founders that when they pitch to a large audience, the goal should not be to explain every detail of their startup or business, but to resemble their favorite trailer. A good pitch should be concise, informative, and compelling enough for investors to want to reach out.

Historically, movie trailers have accomplished this by utilizing a few content tricks to entice their target audience to share their exciting presence at the box office. Below are few of my favorite concepts during movie trailers that you can utilize to make your startup pitch a blockbuster hit.

In a world...

A great trailer always does a stellar job of giving viewers a glimpse of the world they are invited to join. Whether it is in a world far far away or based on a true story in 17th century Europe, the trailer let's you know what is going on in the world where the movie is set. Your pitch should do something very similar. What are the constraints of the market you are looking to disrupt? What are the current products serving your target markets and why are they not sufficient enough to solve the problems of an ever-changing market?

One (wo)man strives...

All of my favorite movie trailers have presented a protagonist or anti-hero that the plot is focused on. The trailer quickly exposes how the protagonist is challenging or attempting to change the world around her. In your pitch, your protagonist is your product. In the beginning of your presentation, successfully display the bleak environment your target market is faced with as it relates to product offerings. Is it a bird or a plane? No! It's your super product coming to save the customer's day.


A blockbuster is only a blockbuster if it has star power, like Will Smith or Tom Cruise as the headliners. For your presentation, what's the star power behind your company? Is it innovative intellectual property or a disruptive feature the industry has never seen? Make sure you display what is special and a competitive advantage in your product offering.

From the people who brought you...

Movie producers and directors always include this phrase to create credibility with their target demographic. When you see the trailer and notice that the movie was produced or directed by the same people who created some of your favorite movies, you instantly give it the benefit of the doubt even if you've read poor reviews online or see gaps in the trailer's subject matter.

During your startup pitch, create credibility by providing you and your team's track record in the industry or entrepreneurial ecosystem. Include a "team" slide in your presentation that displays important aspects of your team's collective background. This gives potential investors confidence that your team can accomplish your ambitious startup goals. These success signals can include your educational background, work experience, or partnerships you have secured in the industry.

Coming soon...

At the end of the of the trailer, there is always some level of suspense. As a viewer, you were briefly brought to an interesting world, introduced to the protagonist, and reminded of the talent behind the movie. However,you don't know what happens or the full vision of the story--you simply leave with a call to action to go see the movie on its opening date.

You can create the same suspense in your startup pitch by sharing your "ask." This could be the vision for a new funding round or an announcement of a new partnership or product offering. If you incorporate some of the presentation tips that continuously entice you to go to the box office, you can inspire potential investors and customers to schedule a follow-up meeting and learn more about how they can help your startup.

Published on: Jun 30, 2017
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