Digital Skills Academy
How Start-ups Can Develop and Deliver a Winning Pitch

How Start-ups Can Develop and Deliver a Winning Pitch

Written by Damien Downes, Curriculum Lead for Entrepreneurship.  

Just because you’ve absolutely got the best sure-fire guaranteed business idea on the planet doesn’t mean the investor will throw money at it.   

We spoke with Damien Downes to learn more about how to build an effective, attention-grabbing slide deck for a successful pitch to potential investors. Damien has a lot of experience based on his own start-up experiences. As the Curriculum Lead for innovation and entrepreneurship at Digital Skills Academy, he’s seen plenty of investor pitches – from excellent to not-so-much. We asked him for his insights.

 “Firstly while there are many killer pitch decks, you need to find the one that works for you. While templates are good, you need to make one that is right for your specific business idea”. As you know I am a big fan of Guy Kawasaki and his 10, 20, 30 rule of PowerPoint.

In the words of Guy himself, “It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.” As Damien explains, there is lots of great advice out there, so be open to it, and take the bits that are helpful and relevant to your own business idea.

The 10 Slides you use could be along the following lines:

1. Title Page

2. Overview of the Idea

3. Problem/ Opportunity

4. Your Advantage

5. Demo

6. Sales & Marketing

7. Competition

8. Business Model

9. Forecast

10. The team

As a seasoned investor, Guy Kawasaki also comments on the reality that the business plan’s finances objectives are rarely met.  So investors should always add one year before revenues actually happen and multiply the forecasts by 0.1 to get a more accurate estimate of the businesses likely performance.

Hiten Shah, one of the co-founders of Kissmetrics, has also further distilled the 10 slide rule into 5 key elements to consider: the Problem, the Solution, your Traction to date, the Team and your Future. Here’s the link to this post:

You also need to craft a really good story around your idea and company to make it stand out amongst all the other opportunities for the investor’s money. Andy Raskin wrote a great piece for OpenView Partners recently which is definitely worth a read. Founder Alex Turnbull has some great advice on building visual assets that you could use and integrate into a pitch.

Finally, beyond the number and titles of slides, I would probably suggest the following fifteen tips to consider and apply to your pitching, preparation and delivery:

1.   Have clear titles for each slide,

2.   Simple bullet points, not text heavy, with a suitable image,

3.   Develop a tagline for the idea that is memorable,

4.   Always have your contact details on the last slide and leave it up for everyone to see, as you never know who is going to be in the room and might want to contact you later,

5.   Be able to talk about the number of potential customers you have already engaged with. You can no longer walk into a pitch and just talk about an idea, you should be able to say ‘we talked to thirty customers and here is what we learned about our idea’,

6.   Make sure you have researched your market and are aware of your competitors – there is always competition and don’t say you are the Uber of…

7.   Bring passion to your pitch so people can get excited about the problem you are looking to solve,

8.   Take a breath and relax, things may go wrong but deal with them with grace. People will watch how you react to stress and this may go some way to them deciding whether they would like to work with you,

9.   Have a really good understanding of your numbers, e.g. top line revenue, operational expenses – you won’t get money if people believe you won’t know how to use it responsibly,

10. Be humble and willing to take advice and suggestions. If you come across as argumentative then, again, people may not want to work with you. That’s why it’s good to have someone else with you to be aware of the room and gather feedback. When you leave the pitch you can debrief and learn from what you thought happened in the room – there will always be another experience – overcome your anchoring bias.

11. Be prepared to constantly tweak your pitch as you learn what works and what doesn’t – don’t be precious. Much like your business plan, your pitch should be viewed as a living document that will change over time.

12. Keep the language simple – you should be able to describe your idea to a nine-year-old and a ninety-year-old, in simple terms,

13. Don’t be afraid to ask the room where they would like you to start just in case you are caught for time,

14. Practice, practice, practice, and when you think you are ready, practice one more time,

15. Always have a backup of your backup, no matter how prepared you are something may go wrong.