For our final workshop of Seed Sprint, we were joined by four investors, Eva Tarasova (Angel), Pearse Coyle (Angel and DeepTech Seed Fund Founder), Luke Smith (Forward Partners), and Thibault D’Hondt (Force Over Mass). 16 Seed Sprint founders had the opportunity to pitch to them live in front of our audience of fellow ‘Seed Sprinters’, whilst they offered on-the-spot feedback on pitches and decks.
Below we’ve listed the top 10 pieces on non-cliche advice that investors gave to our founders:
1. Order your deck to sell your story
If you’re early-stage and have little or no traction, then you’re asking investors to bet on your idea and your team - so prioritise your ‘Meet the Team’ slide up front. Got significant traction, but come from a different industry? Start with your traction and put the team slide towards the end for investors to see once they’ve bought into the problem and solution. Although pitch decks include common slides, it’s down to you how you tell your story, so order your deck in a way that works best for you, your startup and your stage.
2. Creating a brand? Deck design is super important...
If you’re a brand-centric company, this is your opportunity to show that you know how to make a brand really stand out. Make sure your deck looks consistent throughout, and that it fits your image. Use the deck to show to investors that you know how to sell to consumers, and that your brand is your competitive advantage. If they fall in love with the brand, they’ll see how consumers will.
3. Want to grab investors' attention from the start? Try an anecdote.
Aside from the team slide and metrics, try personalising your pitch with a funny or memorable anecdote explaining why you started your business, or how you got to where you are today. This makes it easier for investors to relate to you and your mission.
4. Make it really obvious why you are the right people to make this business successful
Every startup is going to have a large TAM (Total Addressable Market) on their deck, so aside from mentioning it, focus more on how you are the right people to make this business a success in this market. This is especially important if your customers are people that aren’t known for buying from startups. How are you going to be the startup that these customers buy from? What uniquely places you in their line of sight? Is it the team, your experience, your product, your price? Make this obvious on your deck, to answer the question before the investors ask it (because they will ask).
5. You've sold yourself, what about mentioning competition?
You need to know what your competitors are up to, but aside from the usual matrix explaining how you’re better than all of them, you can use your competitors to your advantage in a different way. If you find a similar company selling to a different market, you can use this example to demonstrate the potential of their investment. Show how much this other company raised, how much revenue they’re generating, whether their valuation has increased during ongoing raises, and watch investors' eyebrows start to raise. On the flip side, if a competitor has failed, mention it, and be prepared to answer how you won’t make those same mistakes.
6. Have you mentioned how you’re going to sell?
It appears obvious, but this seemed to be a particular oversight on the DeepTech pitches, where there was an emphasis placed on building tech and using investment funds to hire engineers, but little attention on how the business will generate revenue, or whether any of the funds would go towards commercial hires. Make sure you give a nod to how you intend to commercialise, even if you’re knee deep in a product build.
7. So you’ve got the content down, how much do you put into the deck?
There are two answers here. But first, answer this - are you just going to send this deck to an investor to read? Or are you going to pitch to an investor using your deck for visual backup? Often, investors suggest having two decks (great, more work!) so you’ve got one for each occasion. The first deck should stand alone, and work even without you being there to pitch it. This means the information has to be completely self-explanatory. All data must be easy to understand without any additional context, and your why, your team, and your narrative all have to come through in your deck design and layout. Because of this, often this deck is longer and fuller. The second deck is designed to complement your pitch, and it should not act as a distraction to the investor, with too much information or busy slides. The top tip here is to use your deck to illustrate your point, and to confirm all the reasons why you are the person or people to make this successful. The visual illustration alongside your verbal explanation will stick in an investors mind.
8. Does your deck actually say what you want it to say?
This is another seemingly obvious one, but especially when sending a deck to investors without the ability to pitch alongside it, you need to read it through as if you’ve never seen your deck before. The deck might be beautiful and all the numbers sit perfectly in bubbles next to each other, but do all figures have units attached? If you’re talking about your TAM being 1,000, is that users or businesses? If you’re talking about metrics and your slide title is ‘our business’, is it obvious enough what is actual data / current metrics, and what are projections? All of these small things can be the difference between a pitch being extremely compelling and extremely confusing, so make sure you’re always selling yourself in the best way.
9. Another quick pointer on scale...
We know investors like scale, and one thing that’s been spotted on early stage decks is a very national outlook. If appropriate for your business, also think about how you’d scale internationally (even if that’s not the starting point)!. Investors are always keen to see how and where you plan to scale.
10. The pitch is done and it’s time for questions...
All going well, your pitch is delivered and you’re ready for questions. Questions seem scary, but in reality they are the most useful way to understand what an investor is thinking. Difficult questions are good, because it tends to mean either the investor is interested and wants to drill into the details, or that an investor likes your proposition and wants to test you under pressure. Want to be prepared? Ahead of time, think about questions that might come up, and plan your answers. Get asked a question you don’t know the answer to? Don’t panic, don’t lie or make up an answer, simply explain that you’ll come back and respond to that question after doing some research, checking in with the relevant person. You need to be prepared, but we’re human and it’s ok if you don’t have the answer to everything, plus it’s a great way to get contact details and keep the conversation going.