Mastering Investor Pitches (pt 1)

Written By: Seth Robinson

I once heard an experienced, lifelong storyteller take questions during a Q+A session. An audience member asked a technical question about story structure, conflict development, and how to make stories more engaging. The storyteller responded to the question with the following story:

“Bill shot out of bed, heart racing, even before the alarm went off. He listened carefully, but couldn’t figure out what the problem was. In fact, he couldn’t remember listening to the morning  with this intensity before, and the experience unsettled him. Everything seemed quiet. It wasn’t just the absence of sound, but this quiet was so profound that ordinary silence seemed absent as well. Bill got up. His padded slippers seemed to scrape across the ground in a new and altogether sickening fashion. The soft swish, swish of his toothbrush echoed cavernously, and by comparison, the crunch of Bill’s breakfast cereal was ear splitting. While he sat, he ate.  While he ate, he thought, uncertain of what to think about. And then, all at once, everything from that morning, and every previous morning came together at once.  In that very moment Bill realized: a story doesn’t need a point to be engaging.”

Presenting a business opportunity to potential investors has more in common with being a good storyteller, that it does about being a good presenter, making a good case, or saying the right thing. Investor presentations by design have a familiar form, but what separates the best presentation from the average ones is the story.  

Every startup has a story, and this story is what carries your opportunity to the hearts and minds of investors better than a presentation of an idea ever could. Don’t present your idea to investors, tell your story. Your story doesn’t need a point, it simply needs to be engaging.

Idea: “The more people use our platform, the more valuable it will be to everyone. If we could get 1% of the market, we would have $100M in revenue.”

Story: “Guys, I’m not totally sure what I’m doing here, but for some reason people keep giving me money and they want to give me even more. You might want to take a look at this.”

See the difference? Which was compelling? Which was engaging? Which demonstrated a conservative plan for achieving impressive returns, and which one actually mattered?

In fact, in pitches ideas don’t matter. Investors looking for an investment, not an idea. And do you know how many good ideas fail, and bad ideas succeed? The first law of analyzing startups is DON’T EVALUATE IDEAS! So, before your next investor pitch, take some time to refine your story.

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