April 8, 2024

Pitching to Investors 101: Tips From Venture Atlanta Board Members

Pitching to investors is a daunting task. 

Whether meeting 1:1 in a conference room or presenting on stage in a pitch competition, the experience can certainly be nerve-wracking. But as difficult as it is, it’s a necessary part of the fundraising process. And the better at it that you become, the less daunting (and more rewarding!) it will be.

So, how can you convince a group of people that your business is amazing enough to invest their most valuable resources (time and money) into it? We brought in the experts to share their tips and words of encouragement. 

In this blog, you’ll hear from several of the investors on the Venture Atlanta Board of Directors as they share their advice on  how to pitch to investors, the do’s and don’ts that you should consider, and the lessons that can be taken from past pitches they’ve heard.

How to Pitch to Investors

Everything You Need to Include In a Venture Captial Pitch

Fill out this worksheet to help you structure a compelling venture capital pitch to potential investors. As you work through the sections, ensure each part of your pitch is clear, concise, and persuasive. Remember, the goal to make a strong case for your venture while engaging your audience effectively.

What Should Be Included in a Venture Capital Pitch?

If you’re not even sure where to start with your venture capital pitch, here are the most important aspects to address:

  • The specific problem your company solves
  • The ideal customer profile
  • The solution to said problem
  • Why that solution is special
  • Team member roles, responsibilities, and how they complement each other
  • Your financial model with a clear path to growth (including gross and EBITDA margins)
  • A detailed and executable growth strategy
  • Clearly defined proof points
  • Offering differentiators (what separates you from everyone else?)
  • Your business model (how you make money)
  • How much money you need from the investors and why *have a clear ask*

Depending on the pitch format, you may not have time to touch on all of these. So, rank each of them in order of priority. Spend time with the key ones that truly differentiate your business and quickly highlight the others.

Again, you don’t want to pack too much into your allotted time frame. If you hit the big points and mention the others, you’ll be able to dive deeper at a follow-up meeting.

Here’s board member Peter Franconi, with his thoughts on what you need for a pitch:

“At a minimum, you need a simple statement: I help [ideal customer profile] solve [specific problem] and generate [concrete ROI]. If there’s more time, then you can go into the traction (finances or KPIs) and why your team is the right one to solve the problem and scale.”

Peter Franconi, Principal at Fulcrum Equity Partners

How Should You Prepare a Venture Capital Pitch Deck?

Here are some things to keep in mind when creating your pitch deck so it supplements your pitch rather than detracts from it.

The Deck Is Your Aid – Not Your Entire Presentation

Your deck should be visually appealing, engaging, consumable, and legible. You will be speaking to it while it’s being shown, so the slides don’t need to tell the entire story by themselves.

Keep It Short

Remember: business pitches are fast.

The average attention span during a presentation is only 10-15 minutes. And in pitch competitions, you often have even less time than this. 

With this in mind, keep your deck around 10 slides long. Obviously, there will be some information missing because of the length. THAT IS OK. The goal of the pitch is to get the investors intrigued enough to want a second date. You can delve into more details then. And, if they want more information or clarification on something, they’ll ask for it!

Have as Few Words as Possible

Shortening the number of slides does not mean then cramming those slides with too much information. That defeats the purpose. You want as few words as possible in your presentation. According to Decktopus, no more than ¼ of your slide should be text.

“Pitch decks for presenting are different than pitch decks for sending. They should be consumable. You don’t want the audience trying to read slides while they are supposed to be listening to you!”

Jackie DiMonte- General Partner, Grid Capital

What Are Some Tips for Presenting a Venture Capital Pitch?

The biggest tips for presenting that our board members gave are pretty easy to accomplish. They are the same expectations people usually have in any other type of professional setting, such as:

  • Be on time
  • Research the firm and people on the call
  • Have a good internet/phone connection if online
  • Be prepared. It takes five seconds on average to determine whether a presenter is charismatic or not. But it’s impossible to show your charisma and personality when you’re scrambling.
  • Slow down: even if it is a quick pitch, it’s better to clearly present a few slides than rush through too many 

Here’s one last piece of presentation advice from board member Ryan Whittemore:

“If your mom can’t understand it, it’s too complicated. Simplify to make sure people follow what it is you do.”

Ryan Whittemore, Chief Investment Officer, Florida Funders

What Has Made the Best Business Pitches You’ve Seen in the Past So Good?

Here are a few of the takeaways from our board members about what makes a good presentation great:

  1. The passion and authenticity of the presenter
  2. Knowledge of numbers and business drivers
  3. Having a lot of energy
  4. Practice
  5. Clear delivery in a smooth but upbeat manner

Here are some insights from board member Kim Seals about what separated a great pitch from a good one in her mind:

“The passion and authenticity of the presenter came through and made us want to learn more about the company.”

Kim Seals, General Partner, The JumpFund

What Are Some Tips for Venture Capital Pitch Etiquette Before and After the Presentation?

In terms of pitch etiquette, there are a few things you should do.

Before the Pitch

  • For 1:1 meetings, send the deck a day or two in advance. This will allow the meeting to run more efficiently because the investors will have some context going into it.
  • Practice. Make sure the pitch is worth their time (and yours!) by showing up as ready as you can be. 
  • Make sure you have answered prepared to these common investor questions. Investors may ask questions in a follow-up meeting, or they may put you on the spot immediately after the pitch. In case it’s the latter, you need to have answers and information ready!

After the Pitch

  • Stick around. Some investors will try and seek you out after your pitch if they think your company poses an exciting opportunity.
  • Follow up in a timely manner. Thank the participants, send the deck one more time, and address any action items or questions that came up in the meeting.
  • Be respectful and smart. Not every meeting will go the way you want, and, as we’ve already shared, you will hear a lot of “no’s” on this journey. Don’t burn any bridges in the process. The venture capital community is smaller than you think, so it’s important to maintain a good reputation. And even if this opportunity didn’t pan out, it could connect you to an opportunity that will.

Here are board member Elizabeth Stephens’s words of wisdom for sticking to etiquette:

“Be friendly and network, you never know where it might lead.”

Elizabeth Stephens. Vice President, Noro-Moseley Partners

What Are the Biggest Do’s and Don’ts of Business Pitches?

As a recap, here are the biggest do’s and don’ts we compiled from our board members:

  • Know what you’re looking for in the relationship (money, guidance, introductions, industry expertise, etc) 
  • Be humble but confident 
  • Ask questions about the firm: how do they work with their portfolio? What does an ideal outcome look like? 
  • Know your numbers (Rev, EBITDA, KPIs, etc.) 
  • Ask for honest feedback and advice and check for understanding along the way
  • Keep to the highlights of your pitch
  • Have something early in your story that grabs the listener’s attention
  • Tell investors enough to get excited about scheduling a follow-up conversation
  • Know your audience and know what stage and types of companies they invest in
  • Be a great storyteller about your business
  • Know your unit economics
  • Give a typical use case of your solution
  • Come alone (not with your whole team) with energy and enthusiasm
  • Paint a picture of how and why your company gets big
  • Put too many words in the deck
  • Pack your presentation with too many slides
  • Be too overzealous with financial models
  • Claim you don’t have any competition
  • Assume investors know anything about your industry
  • Show up unprepared or without researching the firm or the people on the call 
  • Show up without a specific ask
  • Spend time on competition in the short version of the pitch, except if it’s fundamental to the problem/solution statement. 
  • Include the dreaded feature comparison matrix
  • Be gimmicky
  • Read from cue cards or off the screen verbatim
  • Try to be funny if you aren’t funny
  • Ask questions in an auditorium, like “How’s everybody doing today?”
  • Try to tell everything about your company in 3-5 minutes
  • Come unprepared
  • Expect the conversation to stay high-level 
  • Bring your whole team to the first meeting
  • Talk about an exit

Most importantly, for your overall expectations of your venture pitch, here is what board member Mike Dowdle had to say:

“Don’t expect a yes. Do expect lots of no’s. But remember, you only need one yes.

Mike Dowdle, Founding Partner of Circadian Ventures

Pitching to Investors at Venture Atlanta

Venture Atlanta is one of the nation’s largest venture capital conferences. We support the Southeast’s most promising tech companies by connecting them to the capital, talent, mentorship, partnerships, and customers that they need in order to be successful.

Pitching at Venture Atlanta is a highly sought-after experience. Our alumni companies have collectively raised $7.7B in capital and achieved $17B in successful exits. One of the best parts of the Venture Atlanta pitch process is that we have a committee of investors that provides coaching prior to the pitch. This feedback is invaluable! Then the companies get to pitch on stage to our 1500+ attendees. Talk about exposure! Applications to pitch at Venture Atlanta 2024 will open in May. Request to be added to our newsletter so that you can stay in-the-know about important, upcoming dates. 

If you’re not ready to pitch this year, we still encourage you to attend the conference. You can learn a lot from watching other companies pitch and hearing the investor Q&A. Additionally, the networking opportunities at Venture Atlanta are unparalleled – even if you’re not on stage. Here are our tips to get the most out of the Venture Atlanta conference.

One piece of final advice we want to share is from board member Emery Waddell:

“Be positive, be bright, be prepared. Be confident but not arrogant. Act as if the time of both sides is valuable (not too supplicating, not too dismissive). Remember that metrics matter but stories ultimately make the difference.”

Emery Waddell, Principal, Vocap Partners

We can’t wait to hear your story at Venture Atlanta 2024!

Download our venture capital pitch guide here!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make a great Venture Capital pitch deck?

To make a great Venture Capital pitch deck, there are a few things you need to include:

  1. The specific problem your company solves
  2. The ideal customer profile for your company
  3. The solution to said problem 
  4. An explanation of why your solution is special
  5. A detailed and executable growth strategy
  6. An answer to what makes your team different 

Will a deck help you get a meeting with a VC?

No, having a deck will not necessarily help you get a meeting with a VC. However, having a clear and concise story, a memorable pitch, and establishing a relationship with a VC can help you get follow-up meetings.

How long does a Venture Capital pitch last?

It’s hard to say the exact amount of time a VC pitch lasts, but what you should remember is that people don’t want to read. Remember to keep your pitch deck around 10 slides long and with minimal text. However long it takes you to tell your story and convey the most important information about your business is how long the VC pitch should last.

What is the main purpose of developing a business pitch?

The main purpose of a business pitch is to get investors to buy into your company’s vision. If you convince investors that you have a vision for your company, they may be willing to invest their resources into helping you achieve your goal.

How do you pitch an idea to a company?

Here are some helpful tips for pitching a business idea to a company:

  • Understand the company’s values, goals, and pain points
  • Craft a compelling story around your idea 
  • Highlight unique benefits and potential impact
  • Tailor your pitch to your audience 
  • Explain the problem your idea solves
  • Use concrete examples, data, and visuals as support
  • Practice your pitch until it’s polished and confident
  • Be prepared to answer questions and address concerns
  • Be enthusiastic and passionate about your pitch
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