Having sat through countless pitches, I can attest that many of them fall flat – and it's not always because of the idea or product. Rather, my biggest red flags have more to do with delivery and style than content. The good news is that these are relatively simple pitfalls that can be easily avoided.
Turnoff #1: Dwelling on the backstory
I've seen founders spend half their pitch describing what they've done in the past and where they've gone to school. Yet, I'm far more interested in what a founder is doing today and where they are headed tomorrow. It's fine to offer background that is relevant to why you started this current business, but keep it short.
Turnoff #2: Not being open to questions while going
through the slide deck
Investors ask lots of questions. That's how we assess risk and potential. When an investor interrupts your presentation with a question, you may be tempted to get back to the comfort of your rehearsed pitch and slide deck. Instead, take the time to answer these questions as completely as possible. After all, if you secure funding with a venture-capital firm, you'll be entering a long-term relationship with them that will be full of questions, conversations, and give-and-takes. You need to show the ability to listen to other points of view and answer questions without getting defensive.
Turnoff #3: Overstressing how great the business
I can't count how many times I've heard a founder say, "We've got tons of traction without any marketing investment," or "These financial plans are extremely conservative." I'm not interested in any disclaimers or caveats. Likewise, keep your descriptions grounded in reality – not every product or team is "world class."
Turnoff #4: The demo doesn't work
If you include a demo with your pitch, it needs to work. This is critical. Any technology hiccups (from a problem with your prototype to the internet connection not being fast enough for a smooth demo) are not only unprofessional, they're a waste of everyone's time. For this reason, keep the demo simple. A strong product demo doesn't need to include every potential feature but should take the investor through the key use cases showcasing why you built the product the way you built it.
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