How do I write an effective elevator pitch? What should an elevator pitch look like on paper? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The startup ecosystem has people fixated on this idea of the elevator pitch.
To be honest, I've never heard of anybody doing a deal in an elevator. The story is probably out there, but you don't need an elevator pitch to hook an investor.
You need a teaser--and you need it for a few reasons.
A teaser isn't a deck. A teaser is a one-page summary that outlines the business opportunity for investors. No more than one page, no less. It's not a sales pitch or a financial projection--it's one page that tells investors why they should care about your idea.
Whenever an aspiring founder runs me through an intriguing concept, I ask them to write a teaser. I don't hear back from most of them, because writing one is harder than it seems.
I'm not always gunning to invest in the company, but I ask to see if they're capable of creating one--if they know how to distill their idea into its clearest, most attractive form. Simply putting a one-page constraint on the document makes it a challenge.
If entrepreneurs can't write a teaser, it raises questions on their conviction about the opportunity and the amount of research they've done to back up the strategy. Plenty of people talk about doing a startup, but not everyone walks the walk and does the work required to get their idea out there.
Why you need a teaser
It creates your foundation.
Think of the teaser as an executive summary written in complete sentences and paragraphs. A teaser forces you to think clearly about your idea and identify why it's different.
It's a concise expression of your idea that requires proper syntax and grammar, so don't use bullet points.
It doesn't matter how extraordinary your idea is--fit it onto one page. Squeeze the margins, do whatever you have to, but turn your term paper business plan into a one-page report. It took me several months to get my teaser just the way I wanted.
It piques interest in your idea.
A lot of entrepreneurs don't understand what the word "teaser" implies. A teaser is only designed to get you a call. It's your shot at getting an investor on the phone so you can present your idea in more detail.
Think of it like your profile on a dating app. It's not meant to replace an actual conversation with someone. It provides enough information to make you attractive, without giving every detail. No one wants to hear about all your potential problems--or why you're so great--before you even have a first date. A teaser is meant to say, "Hey, I'm an attractive venture, and I think you should take a look. If you agree, let's talk."
You've only got one page to get them hooked, so you have to make your idea stand out.
What to put in a teaser
Lead with the opportunity.
You should open the teaser with a concise paragraph explaining the opportunity to the investors. That first paragraph should tell them exactly what they'll be reading about.
But you don't have to immediately tell them what your concept is--a concise explanation of the opportunity may be a better way to hook them.
When I was writing the teaser for my first startup, Silvercar, I didn't lead with a description of my concept. I led with the stagnant business practices in the car rental industry, their poor customer experience, and the overall lack of innovation.
The opportunity I laid out was enough to keep investors reading.
Share your target market and market size.
When putting together your teaser, be sure to talk about where you intend to focus the venture. Don't say "It's for everyone." It's not for everyone.
Include an objective presentation of the market opportunity, the market size, and the company you're building to capture the opportunity. And be realistic.
Many entrepreneurs overestimate the addressable market, but you can avoid that by doing deep research. It should be clear to investors that you've done enough of it and have a good grasp of the market.
Use objective data.
Don't frame your teaser like a sales pitch. Investors respect objectivity. It's good to have passion and enthusiasm for what you're doing, but you want this to be about the quality of the opportunity, not the pitch.
And honestly, keep financial details out of your teaser. You want to get the investor fired up about the market opportunity, because that determines if they like the idea or not. All startup pro formas look exactly the same, showing upward growth and breaking even somewhere around year three, so don't bother putting it in your teaser.
Investors know that any financial projections have a lot of forecast error. And if they agree to fund you, they'll spend plenty of time helping you clean up those numbers.
Do you still need a deck?
Word on the street is investors don't read one-page teasers anymore, they only read decks. I'm not exactly sure how true that is or not. But if an investor won't take the time to read one page, they're probably not going to be worth much as a partner.
Ultimately, you should create both a teaser and a deck--but write the teaser first. It gives you confidence and helps you decide what to put in your deck. It builds the voiceover script behind the bullets. It's hard to condense all your research onto one page, but trust me, it makes everything else easier.
Once you finish your teaser, you'll have distilled your idea into its clearest, most concise form. You'll be proud to distribute it. Which is exactly what investors need to get excited about your company.
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