Kristopher B. Jones is a prominent internet entrepreneur, investor, public speaker, and best-selling author. In 2008 Kris wrote a book on Search Engine Optimization that is currently in its third print for Wiley (2008, 2010, 2013) and has sold nearly 100,000 copies. Kris is the founder and former President and CEO of Pepperjam (sold to eBay), managing partner of KBJ Capital (13 companies), and the founder and CEO of LSEO.com and APPEK Mobile Apps.
During the early stages of any startup, part of the journey for many is securing an investor, or better yet, multiple investors. I know this journey from both sides of the coin: I'm currently invested in 16 companies, and I did some major pitching for my first startup, Pepperjam, that eventually sold to eBay.
Whether you're targeting venture capitalists or angel investors, your main mission is to convince them not only to invest in your business idea or product, but also in you. Think of yourself as the natural byproduct of the business you are proposing, and sell both as a unique package. If you're passionate about what you're pitching, it will show. Having confidence is also key for delivering a great presentation, and it comes from practicing your pitch at least 20 times. Repetition is the mother of learning and the key to managing your nerves.
As for what to present, keep things focused and organized. Plan for your pitch to last about 25-30 minutes, including time for questions and answers. Prepare a PowerPoint deck with no more than 12-15 slides, and bring along some visuals (like your physical product) if it will help simplify and communicate.
Take note of the following questions investors may have about your business, and be sure to cover these key areas in your presentation:
What's the Problem/Solution?
Sometimes business ideas are overthought and have too many elements. Investors want simplicity: What's the problem your business is attempting to fix, and more importantly, what's the solution?
Investors will also want to know if there are other businesses similar to yours, and whether they succeeded or failed. Take time to construct some serious data here, showing the reasons why others failed or why they succeeded. For example, was their success due to a strong marketing effort or an equally amazing service? What can you do that will make the outcome even more positive?
When I started Pepperjam, the problem was clear: People needed easier ways to expose their products in the ever-growing world of digital. Pepperjam simplified the affiliate networking process, becoming a hub for both advertisers and publishers. Success followed, and within 18 months, the company was acquired for millions of dollars.
Don't forget the final element: Will this problem-solving produce sustainable revenue? Don't rely on annual growth models, but rather data from today's market, along with potential growth.
Do You Have Hard Evidence That Customers Exist?
You presented a problem and a solution. But now, can you verify with concrete data that customers actually exist and will continue to exist? Market studies from reputable companies like Forrester Research can help, but investors may want a closer look through some personal research.
When I began my search engine optimization company, LSEO, I had already been in the digital marketing space for over 15 years. But before launching, I allocated time to carefully analyze my main competitors and better understand the customers they served. I reviewed the SEO rankings of those customers and looked for obvious areas that needed improvement. There was a lot that needed addressing, which helped back my decision to launch LSEO.
Information like this would help push an investor over the top. Being an investor, I am constantly on the lookout for such data.
Is Your Company Scalable?
Once you have determined that a problem exists and you can fix it, you need to demonstrate that there is a large customer base waiting to be served. Making sure there's a large enough market and that your business is prepared to capture some of it is required to convince an investor of the viability of your business.
The following four elements are necessities in order for your business to scale, and should be thoroughly presented to your potential investor(s): a proven product/service, a solid business model, an optimal marketing plan, and the ability to expand into new markets/territories.
What Are the Next Steps?
Finally, make sure to answer these additional questions during your presentation pitch: How will you market your product/service, and who will you market to? Is the long-term goal to be acquired or go public?
Marketing decisions weigh heavy on many investors, especially with the importance of having the most optimal web presence. As for being acquired or going public, this just provides investors with an idea of how long it may take before they can expect to see a return on their investment.
Before your next pitch, keep these tips in mind. These items are at the top of my radar when considering investment pitches. The companies I've invested in, including my own, have all included these essential elements.