Many, perhaps most, of the presentations at our Startup labs spend a lot of time on presenting their product, where you should be presenting your company. Indeed, they often amount to fifteen or twenty minute product sales pitches. Unfortunately, this is the wrong way to go about presenting your company to potential investors.
At the first meeting, investors are prepared to stipulate that the product is a good thing, that world ought to buy it, that it works, and that it can be sold profitably at a competitive price. They are, after all, generalists, and very rarely are expert in the specific area to which the new product belongs. Before investing, they will verify that the product is indeed a good thing and that the world will buy it by talking to customers and to experts of their own. But at the first meeting, they need hear only a very little bit about the product.
What, then, does the presenter say in the twenty minutes? You need to talk about the company as a whole and why it will be a successful investment. I generally lead with the team. If you’re not proud of your team, then you’re not going to find a professional who is willing to invest in you. The team needs to be relatively complete, or at least realistic about its holes, and presented in the best possible light.
Then I talk about the market. Why are people going to buy the product? Not, what does it do, but what problem does it solve? What’s that worth to the user? Remember that there are three classes of products: those that the world ought to buy, those that the world says it will buy, and those that the world will buy. Your effort here is to convince the listener that the product is in the third class, because only the third class leads to successful companies. The two-minute description of the product goes in here.
Finally, a little about financials. Everyone knows that successful venture-backed companies must reach at least $100,000,000 in revenue in the fifth year. I usually forecast around $104,000,000 and then explicitly joke about it in the presentation. The point is not that I think it will really be $100 million – who really knows? — but that the market is capable of easily supporting a $100 million company.
Somewhere in the middle you may need to talk about other issues particular to your company. IP protection, manufacturing, finding the right people, capital equipment – any area where you need to spend a little time to convince the audience that you know what you’re doing in a potential failure zone.
By the way, twenty minutes is a long time. The format of the Startup allows it, so that’s what we use, but there are large conferences where you may have to present a company in as little as three minutes. It can be done, and done well, if you stay focused on presenting the company and not just the product.
Robert G. Fornaro can be contacted at www.rgfa.us or visit at twitter @rgfa_us