Techstars NYC Week 8 - Investor Pitches

How to Create an Investor Pitch

The alternate format to Demo Day continued this week, and in preparation for Investor Preview in Week 9, we were preparing to record investor pitches.  I was reminded how difficult and time-consuming it is to prepare a great company pitch, and how difficult it is to pitch in front of a camera.

The feedback on the exercise was quite opinionated, and after going through the process many wished we had used a teleprompter or similar, with the logic being that it would have saved a significant amount of practice time, and likely produced results that were better.

I personally no longer find presenting or memorization of presentations that difficult, and have been meaning to write a post about how I do things, which is a process I’ve learned over many years.  I still attribute my presentation abilities to my years of doing Science Fair, which dates to Grade 7.

Pitch Outline

The first part of the developing the investor pitch is the outline. A generalized form is often:

  • Company Purpose
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Why Now
  • Market Size
  • Product
  • Team
  • Business Model
  • Competition
  • Financials

In this context, we weren’t doing a formal investor presentation, so we dropped things like detailed financials, and spent more time on other important things, like a product demo.

The general feeling here is that especially if you’re early stage, but you have a product (or even if you don’t), you should be spending a disproportionate amount of time on an awesome product demo.  I’ll admit right now we didn’t do this, but we’re working on it – you’d be surprised what you can mock up with Keynote/Powerpoint and a little time.  More on this topic from Alex Iskold.

In general, just like elevator pitches, you should adjust this formula according to the context in which you’re presenting.

The other reason you should adjust this format or re-organize things, is you should try and have a compelling narrative for your whole presentation.  How you craft that is up to you, but you should try and incorporate all the elements from this list that are relevant, and try to make the presentation and narrative flow as naturally as possible.

Steal Like an Entrepreneur

Generally, I’ll start with these elements, look at some example presentations to find some I like and remind myself of what a good presentation looks like, and then I’ll write out a rough outline specific to my company.

I use a Google Sheet for this which will later automatically calculate how long it takes me to present, and I write one sentence per line.  This becomes important later.

Once I have that outline, I’ll run through a few times and try to tweak the script until I’m satisfied.  This is the stage you should be getting feedback from as many people as possible.

Then I’ll go back and start filling in the slides. 

The first pass is content-only.

The second pass I’ll try and make everything look nice, which, ideally you should use a designer for, at least to decide on a theme or color palette.  Use a template if you’re not sure.

The third pass is reading the script with the slides as if I’m presenting.  This will quickly make obvious errors clear, and you should revise as you go. 


At this step, you should go back and present to everyone who gave you feedback on the script, and try and get some new people to give you feedback.  This is really the last stage where you’re going to be making major tweaks, so you should have a clear narrative and the presentation should flow well.

This whole process usually takes at minimum two full days, and here at Techstars we were doing this ongoing for a whole week.

Three days out from the presentation (ideally), you should have your script, slide content/plan and demo nailed.  A good demo itself can take a long time (as we realized, too late), so you should budget time specifically for this project.  Don’t forget you can use this on your website, in sales materials, etc. if it’s done well.

Two days out from the presentation you should have a designer go through your deck and finalize things.  If you’ve done things right, one day should be enough (though I’m sure they will thank you for earlier notice).

So, at this point, you should be one day out from the presentation, with a finalized deck and script.

Practice Time

Now, here’s where my practice process comes in.  You should now have your script ready in a spreadsheet, with one sentence per line, and an estimate of how long the presentation will take you.  You should calibrate the spreadsheet by timing your reading of the script as if you’re presenting, and adjusting the WPM count.  This only really matters if you’re doing a timed presentation.  If not you can ignore the WPM.

The steps go something like this:

  1. Initial memorization: go through the script, semi-reading as you click through the slides. Make tweaks to the wording of the script if there are words and phrases you just can’t seem to nail, or can’t pronounce correctly.
  2. Once you’re comfortable with semi-reading the script, start doing the presentation without looking at the script at all. Whenever you struggle, or forget the next line, write it down on a sheet of paper.
  3. After making it through the presentation, go back to all the points you stumbled, and practice that part 5 times.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until you’re comfortable going through the whole presentation.

Now things get a bit strange, but I’m convinced they make a big difference.

  1. At this point, I’ll put myself in a room, and start blasting some lyric-heavy music to the point where I’m having difficulty hearing myself. The point of this is to distract me.
  2. Repeat the presentation from start to finish multiple times. I usually take a break (or a nap), and then do it again, at least 5 times start to finish both before and after my break.
  3. The final step is if you’re planning to do the presentation in front of a camera, you need to practice. Get a webcam, or better yet, have a friend film you with a camera while they’re standing there. The closer you can get to mimicking the final recording, the better.
  4. Once you’ve gotten to this stage, you should be good to go! Depending on how long the presentation is, I can now get ready and confident to nail anything up to a 10-minute presentation in a day, easily, and a few hours if it’s only a few minutes.

Hope that helps!

Read about Week 7 here, or go on to the next post (Week 9).

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