What's the #1 Thing Founders Should Avoid Doing in a Pitch?

Rich OrdBusiness

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Earlier this week LinkedIn launched 30 second videos for Influencers. One of the first questions put out there by LinkedIn was about what not to do in a pitch meeting. There were some very interesting and helpful answers for any entrepreneur facing a pitch to venture capitalist companies.

What's the #1 Thing Founders Should Avoid Doing in a Pitch?

"I see hundreds and hundreds of pitches literally, being a Shark on Australia's Shark Tank," says Naomi Simson, Founding Director RedBalloon and popular author, blogger and speaker. "The most important thing is that people quickly and effectively bring us into their world, talk about the problem but also somehow relate it to us. We want to feel connected and we want to feel empathy. Business is about numbers, but it's also a people game."

"Founders must understand that passion is everything," says Tony Elumelu, who is Chairman at Heirs Holdings based in Nigeria. "If you speak to me and show me no passion I will kick you out of the room."

"What do I really hate in pitch meetings, when founders start talking about potential exits, especially at the seed stage where I mostly invest," noted Hunter Walk, who is a Partner at Homebrew VC and formerly with YouTube, Google, and Second Life. "I don't want to hear about how you are going to exit out of the company, I want to hear how you are going to build it."

"Founders should never assume the customer or investor has as much industry or product knowledge as they do," says Creel Price, Founder & Director of Investible. "You might have come up with your product over the course of a year and you understand your industry intimately. The investor or customer doesn't. Rather than take that salesman (approach), come in there with more of an education mindset. Leave the techno speak, the jag, the assumptions and the blind faith at the door and start to educate them on why this is such an amazing opportunity and what you would like for them to do about it."

"The number one thing founders should avoid in their pitch is trying to prove that they have a world class team," commented Guy Kawasaki, who is a marketing and advertising world class speaker and evangelist for Canva. "They don't have a world class team, that's why they're pitching for money. So get to your product, get to your service and explain what the hell you do. Just get to that really quickly. Think F18, not 747."

"Please, please... eliminate the word "meet" from any one of your presentations," added Christopher Schroeder, internet/media CEO and venture investor. You know what I'm talking about. Our idea of Snapchat meets Dropbox meets Pokemon Go, on and on. Don't overdrive by analogy in a presentation. Don't drive by the rearview mirrors or sideview mirrors because you're going forward and it's about the future. I don't think Facebook said it met anything. Can you imagine them saying that overall we are MySpace meets Lycos or what have you? I don't think so. You are your company."

"I've invested in about 10 startup companies, my most successful being LearnVest, which had an amazing exit last year and an amazing founder Alexa von Tobel," commented Jacki Zehner, who is CEO of Women Moving Millions based in the New York area. "One thing founders have to avoid doing is acting entitled to my money. It's one thing to show up confident, have your story, but you should be grateful that anyone's listening to your story. Don't be too humble, be confident, but don't act entitled."

"One of the most important things to do in a pitch meeting is to bring a deck," says Tomasz Tunguz, Venture Capitalist at Redpoint. "A lot of founders come in just wanting to have a conversation. That becomes a challenge because it's really hard to structure a conversation, support your points with data, and tell the story of the business in the best possible way. So, next time you pitch a VC, please bring a deck."

"Investors invest in businesses that are as validated as possible," said Sramana Mitra, who is Founder at One Million by One Million (1M/1M) based in San Francisco. "Do not pitch concepts."

Rich Ord