"Pitch elevator: tips from experienced entrepreneurs

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BY : Diego GutiérrezSeptember Mon, 2013

From the Kauffman FoundationLast August, a number of experienced entrepreneurs gave their recommendations on how to present a project. They included Karen Griffith Gryga of Mid-Atlantic business angel, Bob Thomson of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Ellen Weber of Robin Hood Ventures.

Here is some of his advice:

Assume that investors know nothing about your company or sector. One of the hardest parts of making the case is getting the right balance of information. Use your limited time to give a complete but concise overview so that they understand what your product does, why it is relevant and what gap it fills in the market. At the same time, try to be as brief as possible.

It provides a competitive analysis. You may be the first company to come out with a product that meets a particular need, but painting an accurate landscape of the market and how your product will change could do wonders for investor perception and valuation of your company. However, be respectful of your competitors. As one investor noted, "show where you have credibility and where your rivals have credibility".

Explain how your business is marketed. This is the main concern of investors, sales and growth potential. Who are your current distributors? How are they distributing your product?

Does your product solve a problem? Make sure this is clear to investors. You might even consider opening your intervention with "Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to do xyz? Hopefully, this is a problem that enough people want to solve. On the other hand, be careful that ...

 Don't just sound like commercial information. Investors sense from you that you are trying to sell them your product. They also know you might be nervous. But you won't do any favours by adopting an overconfident attitude that sounds more like someone selling towels than an innovative medical device or digital health programme.

Explain the time to market. If you are a small business, do you have an important strategic partner that can help you grow? It is easy to overlook this point, but speed and consistency of implementation in the market is one of the key elements that investors like to hear and should not be missing from the exhibition.

What is your monetisation strategy? You have to make it clear, at some point, how your company is going to make money. No one is expecting you to be profitable in the first year, but if you can give investors a roadmap on how you are going to make money, it will provide some logical reasons for companies to invest their money. In the meantime, it is a good time to explain to investors what your exit strategy is.

Support achieved? If you have a prototype of your device or product, carry it with you at all times. It helps convey what your company does and helps investors improve their understanding of your business in a tangible way.

In some cases, less is more. When it comes to visuals in a presentation, the lesser is better than the better. Cohen told one of the presenters, "I tell entrepreneurs that I want investors to listen to you, not read your presentation".

If your computer does not present, be prepared to improvise. Everyone likes a story of fighting through adversity and coming out on top, it's no different with investors. If you can deliver your pitch smoothly when the walls are crumbling around you, you do your business a great service and are likely to impress your audience. If the equipment crashes during your presentation, be prepared to pitch without it. Don't waste time trying to make the technology work.

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