A visual guide to pitching

There are many great articles that outline what an entrepreneur should cover during a pitch, but very few discuss how to deliver that message in a compelling manner. That’s why I wrote, “A good story is the key to any pitch”, earlier this year.

I thought I’d revisit this topic with my visual guide to storytelling.

At nearly every meeting with an entrepreneur or fellow investor, I’m asked what we are looking for when we evaluate an investment opportunity. The obvious answer is a stellar team, but there’s more to it than that. Below, I’ve drawn how I map a typical checklist into a framework to help you better understand what we are listening for in a pitch.

So how do you go about painting this picture during your pitch?  Here are some tips:

  • Start by sharing your vision (the “Why”).  I like knowing why a founder is building his or her business. I get excited when I can understand and align myself with the founder’s motivations, values, and overarching views or perspectives of the world. That’s why conveying your vision is the best way to set the stage for your pitch.
  • Describe and demo what you’ve build so far (the “What”).  The initial validation of your grander vision is your MVP. I always recommend going through a short demo of your product because it provides grounding for your future goals and helps us answer that vital question:  is it possible to be a category leader or is it an unrealistic pipedream?  At Version One, we rarely invest at the ideation stage.  We want to see traction – specifically, how quickly you can capture the initial market or vertical** that you are targeting, and how engaged these early users are.
  • Walk through your plan for growth (the “How”).  After you demonstrate your strong sense of product design and development, we want to know how you will build a real business beyond just features.  The core questions to answer are therefore on distribution and scale, and on your business model.  Some example questions include: what are your strategies for customer acquisition?  Paid or organic via network effects? What does your inbound and outbound sales pipeline and process look like?  How can you expand TAM**?  How do you move from building for an underserved user who is most passionate about your product to a greater audience in a more competitive space? Do you “sell to few” or “sell to many”?  And how does your product evolve into your grander vision (i.e. your product roadmap)?  We know that a lot changes in a startup’s lifecycle.  While we won’t hold founders to every answer, we certainly want to understand how they think about their business and the opportunities ahead.

**Note:  I’m using the word ”market” or ”vertical” which applies to companies that can expand this way (i.e. Amazon, eBay, etc.).  However, this diagram is still applicable for platforms where there is expansion from a niche audience (by demography, geography) to the masses, and for SaaS, expansion from an individual user or SMB to the enterprise.

Pitch your why, what, and how

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of pitching to an investor in the same way they sell to a customer. Yes, we invest in companies that are solving a real pain point for the customer and it’s important for us to understand that pain point and how you help. However, we’re investing in the future in addition to what you’ve already built.

Sell the “what” as proof that you are onto something big, but always keep in mind that investors are buying into the “why.” There is no doubt that you have epic plans on how you are going to make it happen, now just let us know.

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