This is the third of many blogposts in a series that I’m calling the Investor Pitch Deck Series. I am creating a post about each investor pitch slide, why it is important, the common errors, and how to communicate that you have what it takes to achieve your goals for this company.
The mantra for this series is, “Above all, make sense.”
At the Rockies Venture Club we have reviewed easily 300+ company profiles in the last 12 months. We’ve noticed that the team is often very well put together, but very poorly communicated in the pitch.
It’s hard to discuss the team. In a startup, the team is made of people who work together, often intensely. For the person pitching, it’s hard to separate the investor-important nuggets from all the other stuff that makes their teammates awesome. The CFO might be a Harvard graduate with two big exits on his Curriculum Vitae, but when you know him well, all you can think about is his silly irrational fear of crickets.
Much of the material on the interwebs says that you should put the team slide early in the pitch. They do. They do. They do. We disagree in most cases. If you are famous, or semi-famous, feel free to talk about yourself or the team early in the deck. If you are not yet famous, then leave the team slide until near the end. We have had two pitches in the last year that fit the famous model. Super angels were pitching their new companies and it made sense for them to say, “Hi, I’m Locally Famous Angel and I have a habit of growing companies and making money for investors. Here’s my newest venture.”
For the 99.9% of us who are not famous, it’s important that investors understand the context of the company before they can fully care about your team’s experience. It’s hard to care that the person pitching spent 10 years exploring submerged oil veins in Alaska until you understand that it’s exactly that person who should be leading this company’s R&D effort.
Investors are often leadership types who have done a lot of hiring. During your pitch, make them want to hire a person just like you to lead this company. Think about how relieved they will feel when you disclose that you are already on the team!
Why this makes us cringe: A group of devoted supporters is the first proof that a company has a good idea. If you have a group of strong supporters, why is no one helping you with this company?
How to do it right: You don’t need to pay salaries to have people on the team. Team members in an early stage company include founders, employees, mentors, advisors, and board members. Back up and think about the experience that your company needs to grow. Will you be franchising? Then you better have a franchise guru. Will you be selling your product to hospitals? Then you better have a teammate with a medical sales or medical liaison background. Find the right people and determine their desired level of involvement. Maybe a phone call every month is all they can afford to give you. If they are willing to publicly call themselves your mentor, then you are welcome to add them to the team.
Cringe Factor #2 – Your team is too complicated
Why this makes up cringe: Actually this isn’t fair. An in depth, life-story discussion about each team member doesn’t make us cringe. It puts us to sleep. Save the life stories for your memoirs.
How to do it right: Just the fact ma’am. Boil your teammate down (not literally!) into one line that describes how his or her experience will make your company succeed. Remember, the whole pitch is really about money, so try to keep a message in there about how they can make the company money.
Cringe Factor #3 – Your team slide presentation is awkward
Why this makes us cringe: Since teams are made of people and people have relationships (good or bad) there is a weird thing that happens sometimes during the presentation of the team slide. The presenter changes body position, and either says something inappropriately loving, or leaks an accidental inside joke, or makes odd gestures. It’s awkward.
How to do it right: Practice this part just as much as the other parts. Feel free to be glowing about your teammates accomplishments in his last job when he saved Oracle $2 billion dollars because he caught a mistake. Give your pitch on camera and watch it. Or do it in the mirror. You’ll notice immediately if you become a giggling schoolgirl when you talk about your developer.
How to build the side
Visually, this team has the right idea. They simply show which founder has which role. They use logos from Dow Jones, RIM, and Oglivy to give them the appropriate amount of street cred. The assumption is they worked in those places before starting this company. Name dropping is ostentatious at a cocktail party, but necessary in the team slide.
Verbally, the pitch presenter will give one line statements about how these team members are well suited to making this a successful company.
Note they have their golf handicaps on the slide. It’s a golf company, so that little tidbit is there to keep the slide branding related to the industry. No piece of this slide is random.
Article by Nicole Gravagna, PhD, Director of Operations for the Rockies Venture Club as part of a series on the elements of an investor pitch deck. The next in the series is #4 – The Summary Slide