The purpose of a pitch is not to secure an investment on the spot. That kind of gung-ho approach, compelling as it can be when propagated by Hollywood's finest, is absolutely misguided.
Get real. No one is cutting a check there and then; a pitch should simply be geared to get someone interested enough to actually sit down and spend more time with you and be truly attentive to what you're saying. Your end game in the elevator should be 30 minutes in the lobby afterward.
So what's the ideal pitch? Let's break it down. 60 seconds. That's it. That's all you get. In once concise minute, you need to state four things:
1. The problem
2. Why you and your team are the right people to solve it
3. The traction you've had that demonstrates market fit
4. Your plan for the capital you're raising
In a sixty second scenario, you get 15 seconds to make each point. So write them down - whatever your four may be. Be absolutely frugal in your phrasing. Then rehearse ad infinitum till those four statements take residence on the tip of your tongue. This way, be the setting a formal presentation in the boardroom or a slurred but enthusiastic gambit over cocktails, those key points are spring loaded and you land them every time.
And I know: how, oh how could such a succinct communication encapsulate you in all your competence, or your market in all it's opportunity or your solution in all its ingenuity? Well, actually, you earn the right to elaborate on those things. You earn those indulgences.
From an investor's perspective, the pitfalls we see are frustratingly recurring. Off the bat, there's forgetting one of the four key elements listed above. If you think about it, how convincing a case could you really make for investment in your business while omitting one of those fundamentals?
Then there's the tendency to get stuck on something; precious time just tossed away on superfluous information. Usually it's bio related. Not to be cold, but spare me the back story. Spare me the idyllic night you roasted smores with your grandparents over a campfire in Yosemite. Yes, everyone loves a story, and your company might just have a great one. But there's a time and place. Deftly threading a narrative though a tight pitch is a whole other obstacle you needn't reckon with in that moment. Context is great; a soap opera less so.
Thirdly, there's sometimes a fine line between an entrepreneur speaking with conviction and confidence (which is good) and one straying toward arrogance/stubbornness. Being coachable is hugely important i.e. being willing to listen and learn. In my view the best entrepreneur is the Swiss army knife type willing to recognize weaknesses in themselves and bring in others to bolster the company where they cannot.
Finally, there's claiming your market is either (a) entirely untapped with no one coming at it (even if this is true than it's likely either too niche to generate the kind of revenue that would interest investors or it just sounds unimportant); or (b) so huge as to to warrant a ridiculous valuation on your still fledgling company. All you need do is argue convincingly (and with data/traction to support you) of the opportunity that's there and where exactly you have a competitive edge.
This article was co-authored with Stephen Mulvey, the administrator of Gaingels Syndicate.