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Let me be up front, I am not a key member of the audience, when an entrepreneur/founder is pitching to a VC or PE fund. However, I have been honoured enough to be invited to sit in on a few of these, so I thought it might be helpful to someone, if I shared some thoughts on what seems to work.

In addition, there are some great references online. Advising on pitch decks from Seraf resonates with me as does the Seedrs Academy design and content guidelines. Finally, some great advice on the pitch deck from Alejandro Cremades.

Process

It is important that this should not be the first interaction between the entrepreneur, their team and the potential investors. It seems to help if they have met or spoken before and at least know each other a little. I suspect that happens while an outline of the opportunity or maybe even a one pager is discussed, most likely whilst networking. Off the back of that meeting, a face to face pitch is scheduled. No matter how that pitch meeting is agreed, it is clear to me that first impressions matter and they can be very hard to recover if they are not good.

Pitch deck coverage and order

The most successful pitches seem to weave a story use it to engage the audience. Since that same audience hears hundreds, maybe thousands, of pitches, it is important that the pitch deck supports and guides that story. It also needs to focus on the most important aspects for an investor, not the management team. Therefore, despite my personal interest :-) it should not focus massively on the technology, as the business opportunity is likely to be much more interesting.
 
By no means is the below list meant to be prescriptive, but hopefully it demonstrates the concepts I have just mentioned:
  1. Detail the key customer problem and how it is solved cost effectively
  2. Explain the business opportunity including the likely market size and possible growth opportunity
  3. The competitive landscape including likely competitors and the differentiation from them
  4. The go-to-market strategy including details, timescales and costs of setting up and operating the sales process
  5. The current status of the business including updates on the business model, product/service development, early adopter customers and potential partners/resellers
  6. Information and experience of the key players, such as founders, the critical hires and advisors
  7. The most critical risks and challenges, showing that these have been thought about and plans exist to mitigate them should they materialise
  8. The financials including the costs and time to reach break even, all assumptions, together with the impact of various scenarios on a multi year forecast
  9. Exit options such as types and rationale of likely buyers (and names if known) and comparable businesses with valuation multiples
  10. Funding requirements including how much, when and what the funding will be used for

Q&A

I have seen a couple of pitches that were going beautifully throughout the pitch deck, then crash and burn during the Q&A, so this is clearly a very important aspect to prepare for.
 
My takeaways from this part of the pitch process are:
  • Take time to prepare and be clear on key message(s).
  • Try to arrange Q&A to your preferred timings but also be prepared if it happens unexpectedly.
  • Prepare answers for 5 questions you really do not want to be asked. 
  • Take time to think before answering questions so that you give yourself a chance to marshal your thoughts, give the impression of being considered and thoughtful and ensure that the audience does not detect which questions are difficult.
  • Bridge to key message(s) where appropriate.
  • Do not over answer and lose your audience. Additionally, being brief will encourage dialogue.
  • Use Q&A to reinforce the impression of team cohesion and don't cut across other members of the team but do support one another.
  • Have a fact sheet with key message(s) and critical figures to refer to.
  • Know the challenges of the market and the importance of building a strong, balanced team.
  • Admit if you do not know the answer to a question but promise to get back with an answer. 
  • Finally, absolutely know your numbers and their assumptions.  
I hope that the above may prove useful. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section below.
 
All the best.
 
Pete