Category Archives: Presentation

Avoid the Common Blunders When Pitching Investors

Probably not much new, but always a good “back to basics” kind of article that is a good refresher for new and seasoned startup founders a like.

Five Worst Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Pitching Angel Investors“, from Entrepreneur.com gives you the problems and the fix for each potential blunder:

Mistake No. 1: You don’t explain what problem your business solves.
The Fix: Share why customers will buy your product or service.

Mistake No. 2: You offer too many facts and numbers.
The Fix: Tell a story.

Mistake No. 3: You tout sales forecasts.
The Fix: Focus on the benefit your business offers customers.

Mistake No. 4: You’re too attached to your business plan.
The Fix: Embrace new revenue opportunities.

Mistake No. 5: You discuss ownership stakes.
The Fix: Save it for the follow-up.

Check out the full article, here.

The Secret Language of Entrepreneurs

Dictionary by jwyg @ flickrThis is a pretty funny (and true, I have to admit) list of terms used in the startup scene, be it Boston, New York, or Silicon Valley.

Stephanie Kaplan, Co-Founder & CEo of Her Campus Media, tells us what commonly used phrases really mean, so that next time you think you got that VC interested, think twice. For example:

  • We’re swamped right now: 1. I can’t deal with you right now; also: You’re annoying me (See: “Check back with me in 6 months”) 2. (In rare cases) We’re actually super busy right now.
  • This week is crazy for a call, so why don’t you just shoot me some ideas via email?: You are not worth taking the time for a phone call.
  • That sounds really interesting: I have no idea whether your offer is good for my company or not, so I’m going to say the most neutral thing possible for now until I talk to my advisors.
  • Our web team is slammed right now: My technical co-founder is really busy.
  • Let me check with legal: Let me put the phone down for a minute and ask my co-founder.
  • Let me check with accounting: Let me put the phone down for a minute and ask my co-founder.
  • Let me check with the web team: Let me put the phone down for a minute and ask my co-founder.
Check out the full article, “Entrepreneurese 101here.

How to Turn the Table When Pitching Your Startup

Jester by mrpolyonymous @ FlickrIf there’s a subject every startup founder fears, is the pitching / fundraising. No matter how many pitch sessions, competitions, and training you do there is still room for improvement. But, as my kung-fu instructor used to say “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect!”. You’ve gotta know how to pitch right to be able to raise capital.

The Perfect Pitch

A recent Mixergy interview with Oren Klaff (author of “Pitch Anything“) is a great source of material to better understand the dynamics of the perfect pitch. A key concept he talks about during the interview is turning the table and instead being the jester performing in front of kings, make the VCs, Angels, Private Equity guys the ones who have to perform to get the privilege to fund your business.

Easily said than done? Sure,  but the interview is worth watching for great insight into how to better prepare yourself for the fundraising presentation.

The Jester is Not You

Throughout the interview Oren talks about key concepts he discovered that allowed him to get multi-million dollar deals. Here are a few:

Turn the Table: When you come in for a meeting with a VC or private equity firm, usually right in the beginning they will spend a few minutes introducing you to their partners and telling you about their company. Turn it around and instead suggest you pitch right away and have them at the end talk about their company in the context you presented. This will save you time and will put you in a stronger position.

The Big Idea: Instead of being too quick to dissect your pitch, talking about the market, opportunity, distribution, etc. think of the Big Idea. Capture the painful problem you are trying to solve and tell the audience (VC, Angel, etc.) how you can solve it. Your big idea should trigger an emotional response, be insightful. You want people to start thinking/saying “wow, I didn’t know that! That is very interesting. I want to learn more.”

Creating Tension: If you had two, three, five hours to pitch someone you probably could convince them that your idea is good and worthy of investment. But you have 20 minutes of their attention, so you have to use tension and novelty. When you lose the neediness, when you push people away, that is when the most amount of capital is raised. Be direct, forthright, not supplicating.

Want an example? This is a great clip to watch:

(Don Draper, from Mad Men, giving a pitch).

Novelty: People come to meetings or talk to you to learn about new things, meet interesting people, learn about places and ideas they have not heard about before. The second people can interpolate, extrapolate, figure out, or create a pattern on what you’re doing, they are checked-out and gone. Don’t use the same powerpoint deck template everyone uses, try something different, show that you are different. Peak their interest in you and your idea.

Big Picture: Don’t let yourself get bogged down during the pitch by detailed questions that want to escape the “big idea” frame, because that’s just a way they are using to filter you and go from an emotional to analytical frame of mind. So when asked about revenues, put that off by saying you have them and will get to that later but let’s just focus on the big picture first, the whole concept you are trying to present. You only have 20 minutes (even if the meeting is scheduled for one hour, you only have 20 minutes of their attention anyways), so better make it count and focus on the big important things.

The Full Interview

MixergyIt’s worth checking out the full interview at Mixergy. Andrew asks detailed questions and Oren is a great speaker. Definitely worth watching.

Lean LaunchPad Presentations by Steve Blank

Steve Blank has made available his Lean Startup LaunchPad Course, the class he teaches at Stanford that is built around his customer development methodology, all accessible directly from his blog.

Business Model Generator

The classes are:

  1. Overview/Business Models/Customer Development
  2. Business Model Hypotheses
  3. Value Proposition Hypotheses
  4. Customer Hypotheses
  5. Customer Relationship Hypotheses
  6. Channel Hypotheses
  7. Revenue Model
  8. Key Resources, Activities, Expense Model
  9. Final Presentations
Although you don’t get to see Steve talk (there are no videos), the slides and notes are a great resource worth checking out. 

The Founder Conference 2011 Recap

Having attended The Founder Conference in 2010 with a great lineup of speakers, great venue (Microsoft Campus in Mountain View), and good networking opportunities I was looking forward to this year’s event. Unfortunately not all went well this time around, but there were some positive things. The conference was held on 05/03/11 at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts.

Here’s a quick recap for those who weren’t there.

Morning Sessions

Guy Kawasaki was the first speaker and focused on his new book, Enchantment. Guy is a really great speaker, but for someone that is supposedly in tune with the startup world I felt his standard powerpoint deck about his book could have been tweaked a bit to better relate to the audience (i.e. startup founders). Using examples like Ford, Apple and other big names work well for a mass audience that his book is trying to reach but how about bringing it closer to home and using some startups as part of the Enchantment story? Guy has delivered this same talk many times, so you can watch it online and judge for yourself.

Second up was Naval Ravikant, talking about The Rise of the Angels. Naval’s presentation was basically a repeat of a previous talk he gave at the Hackers&Founders meetup a few months ago. You can watch that presentation and judge for yourself. 90% of people I met said they had attended the meetup and so there was nothing new this time around, but others that had seen it for the first time enjoyed, especially knowing how AngelList is becoming a successful venue for raising capital.

Then there was a panel discussion with Loic Le Meur and Robert Scoble on “Building Traction with Social Media”, that had a few interesting insights, such as:

  • Think big. According to Scoble, some founders think only about reaching the local or national market and forget to go abroad, world-wide. That’s where European founders suffer, because they tend to create solutions for their specific countries instead of the whole continent or world.
  • The best way to make your idea/product viral is to tell a good story. Make it easy for people to spread the story.
  • The key metric to show investors is “how many people are actually using your product”.
The discussion also touched upon how to get press, how to recover from bad PR, and a few other topics. I expected more action items related to social media in particular based on the topic of the panel, but it was entertaining to listen them share their stories.

Afternoon Sessions

I liked the afternoon presentations better. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, had a great presentation where he shared all metrics he uses to track customer acquisition and customer engagement. For example:

  • Evernote has 9M registered users to date
  • 28K new registrations daily
  • 3.2M active users in any given 30 day period
  • Users that sign up for the free account and stay with them for 1 year have a 8% conversion rate (end up paying for the premium account), while users that have been using for 36 months convert at a 23% rate.
  • 38% of their active users come from the US, but Japan is the second highest market with 28% of active users.

I also credit Phil for the best quote of the day, saying:

Phil Libin’s Law: The number of things that will go wrong multiplies over time

That’s what every entrepreneur should have in mind, according to Phil who says you have to multiply Moore’s Law by Murphy’s Law and be prepared for bumps along the road.

Another panel came on, but this time it focused on founder stories of how they launched their companies. The questions were mostly about their experiences with the incubator programs they participated in, the conferences they used to launch, and lessons they learned from their experiences. Participated Jared Hansen, of Breezy, Aviv Grill, of Misomedia, and Olivier Desmoulin, of Supermarmite.

After that, twelve companies had the chance to deliver 1 minute pitches and to be critiqued by Brian Wong, in what was a really funny and engaging discussion. Most pitches sucked, which always makes me wonder why founders don’t come prepared for events like this, but I guess this can be a separate post. Companies pitching were (hyperlinks for those who seem to have a site):

Note: let me know if I missed any company and if there are sites for the ones I didn’t link to.

The next session was an interesting presentation by Tim Young, founder of SocialCast and About.me, talking about his now famous Magic of 5 Slides that ended being picked up by TechCrunch and generated 10,000 emails within 1 hour hitting his inbox, including some angry VCs for him disclosing his ideas on how to build a killer pitch deck. 

A few key points he raised during this presentation are worth repeating:

  • Think about the traditional deck versus telling a story. Tell a story, don’t give a presentation.
  • It’s not a pitch, is a religious conversion. Make people believe in your vision.
  • Don’t confuse idea with product or company. VCs fund companies.
  • Use only 30% to 40% of your alloted time to present your story.
Next up was Tommy McClung, talking about how he started CarWoo as the 2008 recession began hitting car makers and dealerships nationwide. Great story of how you can succeed and the importance of timing.
The final session was a pitch feedback panel with Rebecca Lynn, Jeff Clavier, George Zachary, and Tim Young. Some companies (don’t remember how many) had 4 minutes each to do a pitch (with slides) which were then picked apart, I mean, critiqued by the panel. Although I didn’t jot down their company names they were part of the original group of 12 that had presented earlier in the day. The best of any live pitch session like this, is to hear the feedback of the panel, and learn from the presenter’s mistakes how to better prepare for when is your turn on the spotlight.

Conference evaluation

Comparing to last year’s event, The Founder Conference 2011 was very weak. Some sessions were good but overall I was expecting much higher quality, especially not being the first time of this event or the organizers. Here are a few things that I hope they read and take as constructive feedback:

  1. Venue was horrible. Parking, for instance, was terrible and the staff wasn’t helpful in telling us where to find parking. And there was no Wi-Fi.
  2. No Wi-fi. Come on guys, a startup conference without Wi-Fi? And don’t blame Gooogle.
  3. No food. I’m not talking about lunch, but at least some cookies or something during break is not much to ask.
  4. No questions during sessions. This was perhaps my biggest issue, you listen to great people talk and can’t ask them questions?! Wow.
  5. Panels too weak. I was hoping for more insightful questions asked to the panels. Next time, I suggest opening up for attendees to ask questions so it’s more interactive.
  6. A/V sucked. There were many problems with sound, microphones, and slides. Some testing beforehand is in order.
On a scale from 1 (horrible) to 10 (outstanding) I would give the conference a 6. There were some good speakers and the networking, which is one of the most important aspects of the event, was good (I met several great people). The lesson is to learn from the mistakes and put on a better show next time.

Demo Conference Announces Winners

The Demo Conference 2011 ended yesterday and has announced the winning startups:

Zugara: uses augmented reality to aid in shopping experience. Really cool demo of someone  browsing an online sore and “trying” a dress virtually as if she was at the store.

Nimble: a Social CRM, gives you a tool that combines basic contact management with your social stream and activities (twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc.) in one single location. Great looking product that has potential to become a standard tool in sales organizations.

ecoATM: is your CoinStar for cell phones. Users go to their kiosks and put in their old cell phones in exchange for money. The intelligent kiosk can test your cell phone and determine its working condition, then gives you a price and you decide if you want to cash out. In that case the cell phone is kept in the kiosk for later recycling.

Stratosphere (by V3): Incredibly fast virtual desktops.

Manilla: helps you keep track and pay your bills on time. Is a central online location that consolidates all your payments and pending bills so you never miss the payment deadline again.

eCobe: helps content creators make money by giving back 75% of search engine’s advertising profit to content providers.

And for the people’s choice award: GutCheck, a do-it-yourself qualitative research online tool that helps you do your market research on a dime.

You can catch all startup pitches for the Demo event at their website.