Start-ups: How to improve your pitch

Start-ups: How to improve your pitch

Maybe you’re thinking about entering the Rocket Fuel Competition at LEAP 2024. Or perhaps you’re working towards pitching your tech startup to investors in another setting – and you need a bit of guidance to help make your pitch stand out in a crowded market.

Luckily for you, we have access to some of the world’s most successful (and enthusiastic) tech investors. So we’ve gathered advice from three investors in this blog post, to help you improve your pitch.

1. Create a really clear investment roadmap

If your pitch is successful and you secure an investment, what will you do with the money? Why should a VC invest not just in your world-changing product or service, but in your business strategy too?

Ana Barjasic (Founder and CEO at Connectology) said:

“One of the most common mistakes is related to poor fundraising roadmap and strategy. Oftentimes early stage entrepreneurs sell a significant percentage of their shares to investors in the initial financing rounds, which may translate to loss of control of the company in subsequent rounds, when company needs become more capital intensive.”

“Another common mistake is accepting terms of the shareholders agreement without completely understanding the concepts and their potential consequences.”

Yes, the products you’re creating might be exactly what the world needs. But to be successful, a product needs a solid business strategy behind it.

And if you want an investor to feel confident enough to invest in your business, you need to have a crystal clear understanding of what will happen to their funds and their share in your company once the initial excitement of winning a pitch wears off.

Learn more about investment readiness in our full interview with Ana.

2. Show you understand the problem you’re solving, and don’t hide your passion

Good investors don’t just throw money at products they like and sit back to wait for cash to roll in. They spend a huge amount of time working to understand the markets they’re investing in – conducting research with corporate partners and consumers, and then seeking products and services that solve the problems identified in that research.  

William Bao Bean (General Partner at SOSV and Managing Director of Orbit Startups) said:

“What we are looking for is the product that can solve the needs of the market. The most important thing that we look for is the passion to solve the particular problem that we’ve identified.”

“For example, we wanted to create an  innovation program for a corporation a few years ago in China, and we were looking for a solution to a big problem which is how do you get people in the countryside to take their chronic disease medication everyday like diabetes or things like hypertension. We didn’t find a great solution in China – but a couple of months later we found a founder in India who’s passionate about this problem because his own brother passed away because of a chronic disease. And he decided to solve it. The company is Phable and the founder is Sumit. Today, Phable is the number one chronic disease management platform in India.”

“For us, it's passion that really makes a difference. Drive to solve the challenge or attack the opportunity.”

Read our interview with William to find out more about his perspective on what makes a startup investible.

3. Understand what a pitch is for

Clue: the purpose of your pitch is not to make money.

When Hamad Al Fahad (Managing Partner at Tajawoz) joined us on the LEAP:IN podcast, he said that when he talks to a group of entrepreneurs, he asks them what they think a pitch is for.

“The standard answers that I get are:

  • ‘I want to tell people about my company’
  • ‘I want to make money’
  • ‘I want to get rich’

“It’s none of that. None of that at all. Pitching is only about one thing: it’s about getting attention.”

A pitch (almost) never ends with an investor pulling out their chequebook and handing over the money. A successful pitch leads to more conversations, and that should be your goal – to make the investor want to meet you again, to ask more questions, to do due diligence with you.

The caveat here, of course, is that if you’re entering the Rocket Fuel Competition there is a cash prize at the end. But for most investment pitches, you’re at the beginning of a longer process of getting to know an investor, and vice versa. Your first goal is to make them want to stay in the room with you.

When you understand that, you can change the focus of your pitch from winning money, to winning attention; and Al Fahad suggests that the best way to do this is to “be formidable.”

“It’s about having a strong knowledge of your industry and your customers, and making sure it shines throughout your pitch. Be efficient with your words, which shows me that you’re efficient and practical with your thoughts and actions. And then as an investor, I know you’ll be efficient and resourceful with the money I give you.”

Get inspired by LEAP's winning startups

We’ve been interviewing the winners of the 2023 Rocket Fuel Competition to find out how business has been since they entered the pitch battle. Head to our content platform to read those interviews – and get inspiration and encouragement from the startups who pitched so impressively on a global stage.

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