Making the perfect investor pitch – in 3 little stories

You’ve gotten the meeting—now don’t blow it.

There’s nothing more frustrating for me than when, after listening to an entrepreneur talk about his business for 15 minutes, I still have to ask him the basic questions:
  • What do you actually do for your customer? Who are your customers/markets?

By this time, I’ve sat through either techno-talk or a disjointed conglomeration of PowerPoint slides (or worse, both), when all I really wanted the entrepreneur to do was tell me a story.

The perfect pitch is simple if you break it into three distinct parts, or stories.

Story #1 – Imagination

First, tell me the most exciting and immediate story—a thriller (but, as I mentioned in Issue Four, get to the ending FAST). Give it all the elements of a great suspense novel:
  • A victim (your customer).
  • A hero (your company). Note that I did not say your product or your technology. This is a very conscious choice because the hero is the whole solution you offer the customer.
  • A villain (the business pain or problem).
  • A plot (just when you came along, your customer was tied to a railroad track and a train was approaching).  And of course . . .
  • A happy ending.
Make your story appeal to my imagination, because if I’m the kind of person who might invest in a company like yours, I live by my imagination.

Story #2 – Greed

Next, tell me another story, but make this one appeal to my greed. Tell me how many other people are on that railroad track. Tell me how much money this could mean for your company. Tell me how big you plan to get and how you plan to get there.
And, if you’re really confident, tell me how you’ll get out—your exit strategy. But be careful in discussing the exit; many pitches are ruined by carelessness in this area.

Story #3 – Intellect

Finally, tell me a third story: Why is your company the one that will succeed in this area? You’ve already captured my imagination and my greed. This story will appeal to my intellect, my analytical side.

Include whatever competitive advantages you bring to the playing field—people, patents, genius. Don’t be shy, but do be specific and credible. You might also throw in some of the tech stuff here—but be ready to cut it short if my eyes glaze over. If that’s the case, make your two key tech points and move on. On the other hand, I might light up and even try to ask you some technical questions. That should be fun for you, but still resist the temptation to go too deeply into this.

As always, follow the investor’s lead. You might be surprised that some early-stage technology investors are technologically illiterate—not many, but you just may have found one!

So that’s all—three little stories. You can tell them in 15 minutes or 30 minutes—and, after a few dozen tries, you may even be able to tell them at a cocktail party and not have your listener walk away.