Pitch Perfect

Let me say before I begin that this blog is specifically designed for the S100 format, however hopefully some of the tips I provide will be useful in any pitch. These tips are based on my experience in seeing over 150 entrepreneurs pitch to the S100 and my perception on how they are received by the club members. Reflecting on my time in analysing pitches, one quality comes through above all others…simplicity.

Entrepreneurs love to talk about their business and most of them tend to try to sell everyone they meet. The problem with pitching to investors is that they rarely want to buy your product, they really want to buy the opportunity. S100 operates under a strict 10 minute pitch rule- which is rarely enough time to dive into the details of a business. The thing is, it’s not supposed to. The purpose of this pitch is to get investors interested in your opportunity and confident that with their money and resources you can deliver on the plan you are outlining.

Therefore, the best pitches, always keep it clean and check off the important points that investors are looking for. The best pitches do this in a story that demonstrates the founder's ability to communicate while keeping the crowd engaged. I really don’t care what format you follow, but great pitches tend to have the below elements:

  • The Opportunity: Too many people start with a problem. The problem with this, is that all problems do not necessarily lead to opportunities. There has to be a willingness for someone to pay to make a business interesting.
  • Addressable Market: Too often I see people solving clear problems, however the market is either too tiny or too vast to be realistic. For example, traditional search engines are not perfect and the market size is enormous. However anybody pitching a business designed to replace Google or Bing better have a darn compelling story.
  • Product: Less is better! Just because you know more about this than anyone else, I don’t need to know about it. Try to communicate how your product is different from others on the market, what technology readiness level it is at and where you are going with it.
  • Sales Strategy: How are you going to get your product to market and continue to sell? Focus on cost of sales, particularly if you are selling to SME’s or B2C, and what your plans are to grow revenue to scale.
  • Competition: This is such an important and often overlooked section. This is a chance to frame what you do, the sector you operate in and your product’s USP. It doesn’t have to say a lot on the slide to communicate this.
  • Traction: Tell me a bit about where you are now and where you are going in relation to the sales strategy- now you are starting to get me interested…
  • Forecast: Show me your ambition should you get the plan right. This doesn’t have to be too complex for a 10 minute pitch- I am really looking to see what you think the potential of this business is.
  • Team: Do you have the know-how and experience to deliver on this plan. More importantly, have you recognised that there are holes that need to be filled.
  • Ask: How much do you want now, how much will you need later and what are you using it for. The last bit should be a recap on your sales strategy and your team slide. Finally, what are some routes for the investor to get their cash back- almost always a trade sale in this country.

I feel that slides fall down when they are too wordy so don’t put too much text on the slides. Remember, this is a 10 minute teaser, the real selling starts afterwards. Good luck!

Stephen Mooney is a long-time advisor in the S100 club. He has previously served as an Entrepreneur in Residence with Surrey Incubation and is currently CEO of Synoptica and a Dealmaker in the Global Entrepreneur Programme.