Nailing The One Minute Pitch

the pitch

A couple weeks ago I was asked to speak to a large group of entrepreneurs about building a good one minute pitch.

First point I made was about the mechanics: the bare bones every thorough pitch must include: [Read more…]

Boards vs. Advisory Boards

New entrepreneurs show a lot of confusion on the subject of advisory boards and corporate boards of directors. It’s justified; there is some conceptual overlap. But they are very different animals. [Read more…]

Does This Slide Deck Make Me Look Fat?

Um, yes. Too much product detail. Empty calories. Get rid of them. Why?  First of all, because you have to get through it in 15 minutes and there is no way. But more importantly because all that detail detracts from your message. Yes, you are justifiably proud of your incredibly sophisticated product and, yes, you need to educate your investors to some degree about its many intricacies. Your investor pitch is neither the time nor the place. You want to keep product details at the “only what is absolutely necessary” level. And with the ones you include, you want to focus on benefits, not features.

Don’t tell your investors what your product does, tell them why it does it. Details can be drawn out in the Q&A and during due diligence, so it is not appropriate to go into depth in the pitch. Great pitches tell a compelling story, usually from the perspective of the customer. Remember, success in a pitch is not defined as telling investors everything about your company, it is defined as engaging their interest enough to generate a follow-up meeting. Keep it simple, jargon free and interesting. And for the love of God, practice your delivery.

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If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy: Customer Crowdfunding: Not So Fast, EntrepreneursThe Long Road to Instant SuccessAngel Video Interview Series,  Thoughts on CrowdfundingEntrepreneur at Work: Caine’s Arcade,  The Crowdfunding Interview (Frank Peters Show), Pattern Matching Can Cause BlindspotsGetting Off The Ground; Early Formation EconomicsPitch Clinic at MassChallenge (Video)Why Angels Chase ElectronsBoards vs. Advisory BoardsDelusional EconomicsThat Vision ThingThe Power of An Advisory BoardLoch Ness, Unicorns & The First-Mover AdvantageAre Entrepreneurs Wild Risk-Takers?Top 20 Dos & Don’ts with Angel Groups & Early Stage FinancingWhat I Look For In An EntrepreneurThe OvertureOpen Forum with Angel, Seed and VC Investors (Video)Pick Your Founder/Co-Investors Carefully & Reflections on the Nature of EntrepreneursShould I Wait For A Technical Co-Founder?When Do You Need My Slide Deck?20 Bootstrapping Ideas.
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Customer Crowdfunding: Not So Fast, Entrepreneurs

Wil Schroter is the co-founder and CEO of which is a crowdfunding platform for startups, so it is not entirely surprising that he would pen a very pro-crowdfunding piece in GigaOM recently. In the piece, he righty calls out a few of the advantages: customer-sourced funding does allow you to test the market before you build, and it does allow you to fund the product before it is built avoiding the need to amass dilutive capital on a speculative basis, and it does allow you to engage with and build buzz amongst your potential customers even before they are your customers. (The recent hysteria about the Pebble Watch is a good example of this.) But what is totally misleading, even disturbing, about Schroter’s GigaOM article is that it so utterly and completely misses the bigger picture.  [Read more…]

Getting Off The Ground; Early Formation Economics

After speaking on a panel to a group of entrepreneurs recently, I had a classic follow-up exchange with an entrepreneur trying to get a company off the ground. I thought the exchange was worth sharing:

He wrote:  “Thanks for your talk today – it was very helpful. Here are the details of my question. [Read more…]

Why Angels Chase Electrons

A handful of angels recently turned their nose up at a company making a useful, well-targeted and well-validated computer peripheral product. An extremely smart entrepreneur who’s new to the organized angel game asked me a pretty fundamental question in response: “why do angel investors (and to some extent, VCs) turn up their noses at real, down-to-earth physical product companies and instead chase etherial web and process flow services businesses?”  Good question, and one that comes up frequently, so here goes…

[Read more…]

That Vision Thing

What is the best way for an entrepreneur to balance demonstrating the large scope of his/her vision and opportunity space on the one hand, versus showing she is tighly focused on a realistic near term go-to-market strategy on the other hand?

Since I repeat this advice constantly, I figured I’d post it once and for all.

[Read more…]

Loch Ness, Unicorns & The First-Mover Advantage

When they are asked about the defensibility of their businesses, I regularly hear entrepreneurs cite “first-mover advantage” as the basis on which they will compete and defend their margins. It has come up several times recently, both in class discussions and at a recent MassChallenge panel I moderated on working with angels. Since everyone loves a good myth, I figured I would take a moment to examine this one.

Myth is actually a misnomer here because myths generally relate to the supernatural or nonexistent. First-mover advantage does occasionally happen in real life, just not very often. And not in the way entrepreneurs generally understand it.

[Read more…]

What I Look For In An Entrepreneur

I speak to groups fairly regularly about what I look for in an angel investing opportunity, and one of the key factors I always mention is a fantastic entrepreneur.  Someone in the audience invariably asks what I mean when I say that.  (In fact, I was triggered to post this because it happened most recently just today while speaking to a group of MBAs in an entrepreneurial finance class at Babson).

It is one of those hard-to-quantify areas where your gut and your experiences tend to guide you, so I’d be the first to acknowledge that I am relying on instinct to a large degree.  People talk about first impressions, and they can be important, but in my experience, it can take a fairly long time, a number of meetings, and some reflection about the person to develop an accurate gut feeling about someone.

But what I can say with certainty is that when I have a good gut feeling, it is always based on the sense that the entrepreneur is:

[Read more…]

The Overture

Approaching and starting a conversation with a stranger is never entirely comfortable.  When it is at an event specifically billed as a mixer for different constituencies to access each other, it can be especially awkward (e.g. entrepreneurs to meet investors).  Even people with the best of intentions can have their guard up, make unfair assumptions, or slip into stereotyped roles. When you think about the fears and motivations in play, this is no surprise.  In the entrepreneur/investor context, the investor is afraid of being trapped for an excessive period of time in an awkward conversation where they have no interest in the subject, and to escape, will be forced to say something that might come across as hurtful, disrespectful or rude.  The entrepreneur is worried about getting and keeping the investor’s attention, laying their story out in a cogent way, and looking down the barrel of almost certain rejection.  Eyes dart, brows furrow, sweat beads, minds race.  Nobody sets out to be an oaf, but it seems to happen anyway. 

I was struck, at just such an event tonight, by the huge difference basic people skills and manners can make in terms of an entrepreneur’s overall effectiveness in this setting.

[Read more…]