We all think we have the best startup idea, but we feel anxious when we’re about to pitch it for the first time. If you’re just entering the startup world, you might think that someone could steal your idea (trust me, that’s the least of your problems), or, you feel overexposed and fear being judged and misunderstood.
You will have to present your startup presentation a lot, so get used to it. From investors and potential clients to even your relatives over Thanksgiving dinner. But you have to do your very best when it comes to angel investors, VCs, and accelerators. They hear dozens (and even hundreds) of startup pitches and presentations every single day.
The more you do it, the better you will be at it. If you’re doing a keynote presentation, it’s a whole different game because it’s not truly a conversation. Here are the 10 most common mistakes entrepreneurs make while presenting:
1. Using badly designed slides
You have to pay attention at the design of your slides and deck. How you present your ideas is more important than you think. You could believe this is unnecessary and investors are in it for your idea only, but it’s not true. Try your best to have beautiful slides and never in a million years have a big chunk of texts in them. This is not 1996.
They want to see how capable you are of presenting your company in an appealing way. If you can’t generate interest in front of investors, you will hardly catch a user’s attention when they’re browsing the web.
2. No storyline
When you’re pitching, it’s important to get people to follow a story and not be extremely practical about it. You want people to perceive your company with a sentiment or a feeling, which would make your startup more likely to be appealing to the public.
Some entrepreneurs get to the point of researching about the key investor and make the storyline related to them through subliminal messages. They play with the main character in the problem/solution using information that is too personal for the investor. If they have a father called Larry who used to be a repairman in Kansas, the character on the pitch would be called Harry and he happens to be a handyman for a building in Cleveland, etc. Does it work? Well, it doesn’t hurt…
3. Being asked “So what do you do exactly?” just after you finish your presentation
If an investor asks you to explain your idea again in easy words and dumb it down for them, it’s the polite way to let you know you failed at pitching. The message got lost between your slides and it didn’t work for them. You need to use specific terms and ideas when you explain what your company does, regardless of how experienced you think the audience is.
Most startup pitch events have more than one company presenting. Even if people are staring at you, you might not have their complete attention. They’re just pretending to be listening.
You should definitely try to go as visual as possible. If you have a demo, a video or even a mockup of how your product would look like, show it in your pitch! It will help the audience retain the information better when you’re explaining what your startup does.
4. Not talking about the team
Angel investors, seed-stage funds and startup accelerators will pick team over idea a million times over. A great team can make a bad idea work. If you have a great team and you happen to fail, they know you will be capable of succeeding if you have to pivot or create a new startup.
You have to make them understand why your team is the best and the most determined to make this idea happen. Highlight how your backgrounds will make your startup successful and how dedicated the entire team is. During your startup pitch, concentrate in your actual experience and the skills you have more than the academics. Always remember you’re asking for funds, not a job.
5. You don’t project your image right
Again, they care more about the people than the idea. They want to see if you’re fit to be a leader in a scalable business. They want to see if you have the skills to forge a company culture within your team and make the company grow.
You have to own the entire presentation! It definitely helps a lot if your body language, tone and answers show your potential as a leader.
6. Hockey Stick Projections
This is a startup pitch rookie mistake. First of all, having projections in your slides doesn’t make sense because it’s too early to make these assumptions. This would likely to backfire on you. It will be perceived as you have no idea what you’re talking about.
And even if you can make these predictions, unicorns and leprechauns are more common than hockey stick projections. Real graphics from very successful companies have several growth peaks that reflects when something big happened that created traction.
7. Not talking about retention
You can get away without having traction in your startup because of challenges such as not having enough money for marketing, press or a sales team. True, investors can understand that if the explanation is reasonable enough. But there’s no excuse for not having retention.
If your product is out there running, you have to talk about retention during your startup pitch. This is the best indicator that your company actually works. It validates to investors you’re doing something people want to use. If you have fixable UX problems that are not letting your startup work properly, fix them ASAP.
8. Having unrealistic target market
“Women’s fashion is a billion people market, and if we reach the 0.01% of it, we will be successful.” Investors are frakking tired of this phrase. It will not only turn them off, they could actually get pissed at you for making such a stupid assumption. This is not real, and if you’re saying it, you’re living in a fantasy.
Put this in perspective: You’re telling them you will be able to get 10 million people to buy your product out of nowhere. And you probably haven’t explained how exactly you are going to get those users. It’s even worse if you have no experience or background in that industry.
The way to go here always is to talk about a weekly or monthly growth rate. Ideally between 5% and 10%.
9. Stating you have no competition
This means you didn’t do your homework. Of course you have competition, and everybody will be 99.9% sure about it. Even if your product doesn’t exist, people are using other system or products to substitute yours.
You have to clearly locate your competition and explain why you have a better angle than them. What’s so different and great about you? Why would users change their habits to use your new product/service?
10. All fun and games, but no money
People want to see a business model in your slides. You need to show how you’re going to make money. It’s not acceptable to think your company will grow as fast as Facebook and Twitter did. In those specific and rare cases, traction was the only validation needed.
I’m sorry to burst your bubble: You’re probably not that special. Time will tell, but at the moment you’re pitching, you can’t rely on winning the startup lottery. Investors are not in it for the passion, that’s your job. They’re in it for the prospective of making a good investment and having a fat return when they exit.