Craig Schedler

Managing Director, Cream City Venture Capital

How to Deliver a Great Pitch

I've been listening to entrepreneurs pitch ideas for years. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly — and a bad pitch can be the kiss of death.

What does a great pitch look like? For starters, it’s something that someone with no background or understanding of your business can quickly use to gain familiarity. The best pitches tell a coherent, compelling story and answer three fundamental questions:

What's the problem you're trying to solve? Say you were pitching Uber. Maybe you'd say taxis are inefficient, it's hard to get one when you need one, and they're old. That's a little simplistic, but you get the idea. As a potential investor, I need to have a clear understanding of the problem. By understanding the problem, I can also quickly deduce the size of the market you are addressing, which helps me understand how large your business can become.

How do you solve it? This is where it gets tricky. Sometimes, entrepreneurs want to showcase their expertise, so they'll start out by talking about whatever really cool technology they're using to solve the problem. At a first-pitch meeting, I don't care so much about what's happening behind the scenes – there will be time for that discussion later. What I really want to know first is how the problem will be solved in the eyes of the customer. How will their experience be improved by your product or service, and why is that so much better than what's already out there?

How do you make money doing it? What's your business model, and will consumers be willing to pay for it?

Once I understand these fundamentals, I'm going to be looking for less tangible things. For example, are you passionate about your idea? Do you have a personal experience that drives you to want to solve this problem? If you're genuinely and personally invested, I may be more likely to invest financially.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of creating and perfecting your pitch book, here are some guidelines you might find helpful:

Be respectful of everyone's time. If you only have 30 minutes, prepare no more than a 12- to 15-slide presentation so there'll be time for questions. Keep the slides high level — think “less is more.” Great entrepreneurs (and all great presenters) listen as much as they talk.

Talk about your team last. A lot of people want to lead with this because it can help to establish credibility. But I don't want to dwell on your work history — or worse yet, be biased by it — before I've heard your idea.

Practice your pitch in front of people with backgrounds in marketing, finance or HR so you can get a diversity of opinions and insights. They'll help ensure you're telling a thoughtful, complete and compelling story.

The old saying, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" is so true when it comes to pitching ideas to potential investors. We sometimes have 50 deals to review, so you've got to tell a stand-out story.

Need some inspiration? Check out these legendary startup pitch books.

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