How to Pitch an Idea to an Investor: 8 Tips

March 22, 2012 Courtney Brady

We recently survived our first SXSW conference in Austin, TX.  What is SXSW, you ask? It is one of the greatest technology, business networking, music, and movie hybrid events ever; never duplicated but often confused with sleep depravation therapy.   Sound fun?  It is.

While at SXSW, Distil was one of fifteen start-ups invited to participate in the 2012 HATCH Pitch competition. Each start-up was given a chance to present their business plans to a panel of corporate, angel, and investor judges.   So we prepared, we practiced, and we pitched.  To be more specific, Rami our frontman CEO delivered a killer pitch about Distil’s Content Protection Network. And after much deliberating, the panel of judges announced their decision and crown Distil the winner of the 2012 HATCH contest.

Several of you have contacted us since the pitch and asked how we won, “What was the secret?”. So we thought we’d share our approach to pitching in hopes this helps some of you.

8 Tips to Successfully Pitch Your Idea to Investors:

  1. Be Over the Top!
    You obviously want to tell the audience what you’re doing and why it’s so amazing but know up front that no one will ever be as enthusiastic and passionate about your idea as you are.  As the present, it’s up to you to get people excited about your idea and not bore them to death.  Odd as it might seem, people need to be told what to get excited about, so tell them with your words, your tone, your body language.   Practice this enough to make it come across as genuine.
  2. Use the “So What?” Test
    When preparing your pitch, use the “So what?” test.  Why does your idea matter?  What value does your idea have?  It’s important that you clearly and succinctly communicate the top benefits of your idea.  Write them down and work on refining them for maximum impact.TIP: When presenting your value points, start with the strongest and work your way down.  This commonly referred to as the Ace, King, Queen (as in a deck of cards) delivery.
  3. Tell a story
    You’ll have a lot of value points, interesting facts, and data to share.  But in order for people to hear what you’re saying, you message has to flow and be engaging.   One of the best ways to do this is realize you’re not really pitching an idea, you’re actually telling a story about a pain and how your idea helps address it.  People love stories so try to keep that in mind before you start spewing facts, features, and benefits…Tips on Storytelling
  4. Know your stuff
    Practice your pitch 100+ times.  You need to know it inside and out. By practicing “enough”, your pitch will become natural, fluid, and confident.Why this matters: Your audience (potential investors and prospects) tends to listen to and engage with people who pitch their ideas with confidence.  Remember, you want them paying attention to you and not the latest email that just buzzed on their cell phone.
  5. Go Tandem
    In most cases you’ll be using a presentation deck (ie. PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) to support your pitch.  It’s important that you get a business partner, a friend, or even a stranger to navigate the presentation during the actual pitch.  This will allow you to focus on the delivering the pitch and not on click to the next slide of a presentation.Pro Tip:  Don’t look back at the screen during your presentation.   Memorize it and trust it’s where it needs to be.   Keep your eyes on the people you’re talking to, they can read the slides for themselves.
  6. Tell ‘em Again
    Restate who you are, what you’re doing, and give a call to action: “If you’re interested in what we’re doing or have questions, come see us after the presentation.  We’d love speak with you.”  Make it clear that you’re excited, you have something others should get excited about, and you want to talk/engage with them.   Do you get the point?
  7. The Secret
    I’m restating point #4, practice practice practice.   Make it perfect.   No excuses.  If you haven’t practiced enough, the pressure of the real pitch will bring out the imperfections.
  8. Kick Ass and Take Names
    Seriously, a successful pitch is one that results in you meeting investors and/or prospects that want to learn more about your idea.  Be sure to ask for their contact information, ask them for a follow-up meeting, ask them for a terms sheet.  Note: we’ve never personally seen terms sheets handed out after a pitch but it could happen, just sayin’.  Go big or go home…

Closing Remarks:
So the secret is, “there is no secret”.   If you have an idea, a product, or a service, get passionate about it.   Make sure you’re excited and that people see that excitement.   And for the third and final time…practice.   Word of encouragement: There have been less compelling businesses out there that have gotten funding and succeeded because they owned the pitch.   Good luck.  Feel free to share additional tips you might have.

- Team Distil 

About the Author

Courtney Brady

Courtney Brady is the Director of Marketing at Distil Networks. She comes to Distil Networks from a variety of start-up companies, routed in SaaS and DaaS solutions. Formerly the global communications manager at multiple companies, Courtney is responsible for developing the company’s marketing strategy and branding campaign.

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