Dr. Shante’ Williams, MBA of Black Pearl Global Investments is a woman with a warm smile. A venture capitalist, she shows compassion toward her new investors who have little experience with making pitches, but like all investors, she is a pragmatist, knowing she has to recoup her investment. Dr Williams’ niche is in products and services that deliver greater access to, or improve the quality of outcomes in telemedicine, dental services or manufacturing of PPE or other healthcare products.
Dr. Williams prefers “clear, concise and succinct” pitches. An example would be a brief story, a rationale, the business model, the current financial picture and how additional funds would be used, or “the ask”.
Jargon should be avoided, or at least explained first in everyday language, she says. The start-ups may have lived in their dream world for a long time, and the concepts and vocabulary may be new to the investor. Answer questions clearly and succinctly. Introduce the team working on the project, and show some personality so the investor can determine if the team and investor will mesh to collaborate well.
Mr. Donald Thompson of Walk West is an enthusiastic angel investor. An excellent listener, he focuses on the marketing and technology/communication component of a wide variety of businesses.
Mr. Thompson’s preferred pitches contain a “big vision", discussion of considerable research with many potential customers, information about revenue streams, competitors, and communication skills to “sell a team so they will go on the journey with you”. That starts well before the pitch, with getting people to serve on the leadership team because they believe in your vision.
Those pitching should have the self-confidence to say “I don’t know; I’ll get back to you on that” when asked new questions about their product or service. Investors do not expect those pitching to be able to immediately answer every question they are asked.
Mr. Thompson advised those preparing for their first pitch to have rehearsed it fifteen times, including some rehearsals in front of other entrepreneurs who can ask questions and give the entrepreneurs feedback. Those pitching have a limited time to do so, so all possible information on the investor should be found ahead of time online. The pitch must conclude on time.
Ms. Robbie Hardy of XElle Ventures is an angel investor. Another fully focused listener, she invests in businesses owned by both genders, but has a “passion for empowering women investors”. She prefers pitches that are “short and focused” and has a unusual recommendation for helping people get to that level of succinctness. She suggests that people practice their elevator pitch first. (Elevator pitches are usually 20 – 30 seconds long.) Seize the listener’s attention first, telling the problem they are solving. “A pitch is someone’s dream”, she says, so people should show their passion and be genuine. Slide decks should be limited to 10- 12 slides, and have only keywords in large font and images on them, not “word charts”.
Ms. Hardy recommends those pitching share their story, their domain expertise, introduce themselves and their team, the problem, their competition, how they plan to capture their market, and the “ask” for additional funding. She wants people to tell her their story, not sell her about their need. However, the specific order of these components is up to the entrepreneur. Those pitching should practice in front of Zoom, to see their own distracting behaviors.
In summary, all three investors are asking for a lot of the same information when pitching. All urge succinctness, and enthusiasm. Preparation should include knowing about the investor's niche ahead of time, knowledge of the potential customer through many interviews, development of a team to advise the fledgling business, simple slides with minimal words, and extensive practice of the pitch. You only have one chance with the investor to make a great impression!