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October 14, 2010 / Danny Robinson

Modern pitching techniques for Series A Internet Investment

As we approach Bootup in the Valley on Oct 26-29th, we are all working hard to prepare FoodTree, CompassEngine, and Summify to pitch investors.  I’ve decided to share what we currently feel is the most modern tactical advice for founders who are preparing to raise Series A Internet investment.

Write a speech first. DO NOT TOUCH POWERPOINT yet.  A speech is just a story that is well thought out, prepared, and mostly memorized. Do not even think about what would be displayed on the screen behind you until you feel like you could stand up and tell your story from beginning to end and get your point across without any slides at all.

In general cover the following areas in your speech, all weaved into a cohesive story:

  1. First, tell a customer story. Personify one of your customers, and walk through, from their point of view, how they use your product.
  2. Now that you explained how one customer uses your product, explain how many of them you think there are, and how you arrived at that number. For god sake, DO NOT quote Forrester or some other research company. just say “based on our research from multiple sources…”.
  3. Next discuss how you will get to those other customers. Describe current user acquisition channels, including which ones worked, and which didn’t. Also mention how much competition there is for those customers, and the sources of that competition.
  4. After you get your customers to the site, explain your funnel ie. percent of visitors who convert to registered users, and percent that convert to paying customers.  Describe your acquisition costs, churn rates, and calculated life-time-value.  Describe how the billing model works. ie freemium, recurring, ads, etc.  ONLY in the case of massive user growth, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “I don’t know how we will make money”.
  5. Now explain why you are the perfect team to make this happen, including advisors.  Do not read bios, but tell the story about how their past is relevant to your venture.
  6. And finally, how much money are you asking for.  Who else has invested.  When and how much they invested. Don’t forget your email address and cell phone number.

After the speech is written create a set of slides to support the more complex parts of what you’re saying.  Each slide should only have one thought on it, and not much text.  Graphs, screenshots, photos that reinforce the point you’re trying to make are all good examples of what a slides should have on them.  Sometimes, a demo is appropriate.  If you need to have text, one line in the center of the screen will make the right impact.

If you can help it, do not operate the computer. Before you deliver the pitch, give your co-founder a version of the speech, and highlight the keywords where your co-founder should change to the next slide. When you start your pitch begin talking and don’t look back at the screen. If you’re interrupted, by the investor, that’s usually a good sign.  Engage in the dialog, and if you’re lucky, you get to dump the pitch all together and just have a conversation.

I attached some slides I put together for a presentation I gave back in 2009, which might help give some perspective on the different types of pitches.

Fusion 09 Slides Danny Robinson

You should also make sure to have the following documents handy:

  1. Deck – Make sure you create a second set of slides that is for emailing around.  It should be much more text heavy, so it can be read as a PDF.
  2. A one-pager with the following sections, (Thanks to AngelList for these):
    • High level, one-liner description: The Facebook for the Dog Community
    • Product description, including links to a demo
    • Social Proof – What other notable investors or advisors are involved?
    • Traction – Describe customer or revenue growth
    • Team – Bios of each founder, and key team members
    • Market/Competition – two sentences on size and why you’re better
    • How much are you raising?
    • How much have you raised previously? from who?
    • If you referred to the specific investor, by who?
  3. Proforma – 18 month growth projections based on historical data.
  4. CapTable – a spreadsheet of who owns the shares of the company.

Hope this helps founders as they begin to raise a Series A round.  Good luck!

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