Let’s be honest: everybody makes mistakes. But do you really want to fall flat on your face during the biggest presentation of your life?
If you need funding for your big idea, a VC helps you turn that idea into reality. The thing is, a VC will hear over 300 pitches a year, but only go for, like, two.
Pitching is high stakes for startups, and it can feel like the chips are always stacked against you.
When you need funding and zero mistakes, you need a badass presentation. Avoid these 8 common mistakes to get the funding you need.
1. Adding a lot of slides
You only need 15 – 20 slides in your deck. To be brutally honest, anything beyond 20 is going to bore people to death.
Nobody wants to feel captive during a pitch, and throwing 50 slides at someone in a 15-minute span of time is just too much. Plus, VCs will start to tune out if your deck turns into a rapid-fire slideshow.
Keep your slides clear and to the point. If you can’t say it in 20 slides, you’re trying to say too much.
Also, try to keep your presentation file size around 5 MB. That way, it won’t get trapped in the dreaded Email Limbo when you follow up after the pitch.
We get it: you’re really freakin’ nervous. You’ve spent weeks honing this pitch and you want VCs to understand just how awesome your startup is.
But you don’t have a lot of time. Every word that comes out of your mouth has to be the most important word you’ve ever said.
Get laser-focused on your vision for this pitch. Rehearse in front of new people and get their take on it. What was unclear? What was the takeaway? If people are unsure, you’re too all over the place.
An awesome pitch deck will help you avoid rambling. Stay on topic, let the slides guide you, and for the love of Pete, don’t go on a tangent.
3. Not using visuals
We love bullet points, but there’s nothing less sexy than a presentation full of text. Instead of doing VCs a favor, you’re riddling your presentation with enough bullet points to be dead on arrival.
Make your presentation clean, clear, and pretty with visuals. Visuals keep your deck from looking cluttered, and they can make it easier for VCs to understand what you’re trying to say.
Nobody wants to look at a bunch of text or numbers for 15 minutes. Convert the text or numbers into interesting visuals to keep VCs’ eyes on you.
4. Not stating the problem
The moment you walk into the room, VCs are thinking, “Why should I care?”
Why should the VC fork over their hard-earned money to your startup? Are you changing the world, or are you just putting lipstick on a pig?
Your presentation has to show VCs that you solve an urgent, common problem that makes you profitable.
Don’t droll on and on about how amazing your product is. No.
Instead, lean into the problem you’re solving. Why is this problem worth solving? Who needs the solution?
Put this early on in your pitch so VCs aren’t wondering, “Why do you need my money?” for the entirety of your pitch.
5. Winging it on the numbers
Please, oh please, don’t “wing” your numbers. You’re asking important people to invest in your success. Don’t you owe them an accurate view of your startup’s financials?
VCs want to know if your business is scalable and investable. They have to get a good grasp of your numbers to do that. They will so call you out on your BS, so give the numbers a lot of attention.
And no, this doesn’t mean you should slap an entire Excel sheet into your presentation. Use data visualizations to make the data speak to VCs in a beautiful, visual way.
6. Resisting feedback
Most VCs don’t want to just cut you a check. They operate as a business partner, and that means they need to know if you’re cool.
In other words, don’t be a jerk during your pitch. VCs will often give really useful information during a pitch. Unless you don’t want their money, don’t push back on a VCs honest, constructive suggestions. Act on that feedback and make a plan for it.
Every meeting with a VC is an opportunity to refine your business idea. People normally pay a boatload of money for that kind of help, so accept coaching from the best of the best if they offer it to you. Plus, it shows them you aren’t a jerk.
7. Not showing traction
You can have the best idea in the world, but if customers hate it, you won’t get funding. Your presentation has to show your startup has some kind of traction.
For example, if you’re creating an app, how many downloads do you get per week?
VCs want to know that there’s a demand for your business and that you’re doing something right. Show them something, anything: betas, pilots, and high-profile media mentions.
Have something in hand as proof of concept. Otherwise, you’ll likely walk out of the pitch emptyhanded.
8. Avoiding competitor talk
Sorry, but you have competitors. You’d probably rather get a root canal than mention these other companies in front of VCs, but guess what?
If you don’t mention competitors in your pitch, VCs will ask about them, anyway.
Mention your competitors, what they offer, and how you’re different. Of course, don’t trash-talk the competition: this is about focusing on how you’re different, not what the competition is doing wrong.
Oh, and don’t say, “I don’t have any competitors!” That’s not true, and VCs will think you’re deluded.
The bottom line
When preparing for your pitch, think like a VC. What do they need to hear? What’s compelling when you’re investing in a business?
Nobody’s perfect, but you can score more money, faster when you pitch like your life depends on it. When your startup dreams are hanging by a thread, follow these tips to skip over the cringe-worthy mistakes and score the funding you need.