It might take months to practice and prepare for a business pitch that lasts only a few minutes, but those few minutes could prove to be the most valuable in the life of your startup idea. Whether you are pitching to venture capitalists in hopes of securing funding, or presenting your idea to potential customers and partners, relentless preparation, solid public speaking and clear communication will make for a presentation that is not easily overlooked.
Renowned Costa Rican Venture Capitalist Dale W. Wood says, “Ideation is necessary, but execution is far more important.” The concept of backing up a brilliant idea with hustle, hard work and a vision for the future can be applied both in a business plan and in a successful pitch. Wood has helped many entrepreneurs take their startups to the next level by providing both capital and mentorship, and he has only ever invested in those whose pitches prove they understand it takes much more than a groundbreaking idea to take a business to the top.
Wood has been active in the venture capital space for the last 22 years, and is currently in the processes of expanding his global investment firm Dale Ventures. Through the firm, Wood has financed several high-potential startups across the world including Instanda, Huma, Rayo Credit and TechMet, which recently secured a groundbreaking investment from the U.S. government.
At our request, Dale W. Wood has agreed to share insights into what makes an attention-grabbing pitch that is hard for venture capitalists and potential partners to ignore.
1. Tell a story
“When you open your pitch, do so by narrating a real customer story. Explain how your product has addressed the challenges at hand by giving investors a real-life example of its success,” he said.
Wood strongly stresses that tech talk and buzzwords should be avoided at all costs – real people facing real challenges don’t rely on catchy phrases or cheap tricks to solve their problems. The story you tell should be realistic and to the point.
“People tend to forget the buzzwords but they remember is the story itself,” he added. ”So make sure that you have fascinating, case-study-based stories prepared well in advance to be shared.”
2. Logically draft the essentials
Dale W. Wood says that he has heard multiple investment pitches that are so full of information, jargon and details that the essentials get lost. People do so because they think every aspect of their business plan has to be shared in one flat pitch but, in reality, this cluttered approach appears nervous, jittery, and fearful.
“I would always like the entrepreneurs to sit back and relax and realize a Shakespearean postulate, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit,’” Wood said. “They should plan the essential part of the pitch, what comes next in priority and with a flow of logic between different components. Cut short the long story to bare essentials, it appears more thoughtful and confident.”
3. Summarize, summarize, summarize
Wood expects an entrepreneur to be able to cut down his or her comprehensive business model to a single sentence.
He further explains, “A summarized business idea reveals to an investor how it can grow into an economically viable business. The best practice is to be able to communicate the model through a summary example.”
Take a fictitious brand called X-Car, for example, whose business model can be summed up as “A membership-based carpooling platform.” Another example is a hotel-room booking website, whose purpose can be to simply “compare and book hotels online at a small commission.”
Wood stresses that an idea should be self-explanatory and able to be expressed in short bullet points, giving the investor a chance to see the market fit and ROI. It should answer the essential questions: what is the problem are you solving, who is your target audience and how will this orient in the market?
4. Talk about yourself
According to Wood, investors like to invest in people first and ideas second.
“Young entrepreneurs need not be afraid to talk about themselves or their achievements, particularly if those achievements demonstrate they have what it takes to build and scale up an idea,” he said. “Try to convince investors why they should trust you and why you are the right person to get behind. If you don’t show confidence, how do you expect the investors to show confidence in you?”
5. Emphasizing your growth potential
“You must make creative use of market metrics to emphasize how far you can reach. The key to any successful venture capital pitch is the product and market size,” Wood said.
An entrepreneur must break down his or her business idea through a short diagram that makes investors understand the domain and market segment.
“By using market metrics creatively, you can convince investors that you understand your customers, their problems and how to solve them, as well as the difference between your product and those that already exist,” he added.
If the concept is presented without clear recognition of its market —it will not impress the venture capital investor. Moreover, it will make the entrepreneur look as though they don’t know which market segment the business is targeting or how to scale up within the space.
6. Be enthusiastic
Wood, a venture capital veteran, says it’s important to measure up the entrepreneur’s enthusiasm regarding the product. Faking passion is not possible. Energy levels should grow throughout a pitch and speakers must move out of their comfort zones without obscuring the common sense, honesty, perception and elegance that goes along with any form of successful public speaking.
7. Anticipate follow-up questions
“If an idea really touches my chord, then I would go ahead and ask more follow-up questions. I would like to see entrepreneurs come prepared,” Wood says.
By practicing clear and concise answers to common follow-up questions, an entrepreneur can easily exhibit his or her attributes and talents.
Before coming in to pitch an idea, Wood encourages entrepreneurs to put themselves in the shoes of a potential investor. No one wants to stake their own livelihood in a poorly thought-out idea, frantic leader or market-unsure startup. Each entrepreneur should come prepared, speak with confidence and speak like someone they themselves would believe in.
“We deeply focus on building great relationships with the leadership of our investment companies, Dale W. Wood said. “The leverage of financial and operational expertise is secondary – we prioritize human relationships. And I am quite hopeful that it is the case across the VC spectrum.”