Pitching your startup

How to prepare a pitch for angel investors

Securing angel investment requires an entrepreneur to sell their vision to individuals outside their close circle, often for the first time. I’ve seen countless numbers of these presentations, and it is without a doubt a daunting experience for even a veteran entrepreneur.

There’s no magic formula for creating the presentation deck that’s going to secure angel investment – any decision to invest is always ultimately based on the right combination of the people, product and chemistry. However, how these elements are delivered can make all the difference.

By considering the following tips for your presentations, and ensuring you avoid the pitch pot-holes, you will give yourself a good start when making those first approaches to the angel community.

1. Start with yourself

Ask any investor and they will tell you that they invest in the team behind a company as much as the business idea itself, if not more so. The experience of the team is, therefore, often a great place to start a presentation.

Demonstration of an impressive history of business or entrepreneurial pursuits can go a long way to securing buy-in from investors – and should absolutely not be neglected in the slides. After all, they are looking for people who are a good bet for returning investment.

First-time entrepreneurs should focus on their expertise in the field their company operates in as well as other areas where they can demonstrate drive, tenacity and success. While an individual may not have a history of successful ventures to lean on, I can tell you that if you’re being presented a Med-Tech device by a neuroscientist, it makes you sit up and listen.

2. Focus on the business opportunity

A trap that many entrepreneurs fall into is to explain in meticulous detail the idea behind their business – which is important – but while failing to really articulate the commercial opportunity behind it. It is crucial to not only conceptually set out what it is you are trying to achieve with your business, but also be clear about the value it will bring to customers and ultimately investors. Getting engagement requires you to be able to drill beyond the original idea and delve into the substance. Some key bases to cover are:

  • Why the development is interesting
  • What the commercial opportunity is
  • The competition and how the business is defensible
  • What’s happening in the market

In spite of their best efforts, investors can be highly subjective, so you need to show them that you really know the sector and can educate them on its opportunities if need be.

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3. Numbers speak louder than words

An issue presenters should be conscious of is that the investors might not be overly familiar with the specifics of the sector and maybe a little numb from having seen countless other presentations. While some concepts are relatively easy to explain and understand – a consumer app for example – explaining the commercial opportunity of a technical B2B product or the worth of a niche Med-Tech invention can be far more difficult.

In order to combat this, entrepreneurs should remember that numbers are a universal language. Using data and insights to substantiate the business opportunity can cut through the noise and assertions.

At the same time, be conscious that the numbers cannot tell a story on their own, they need context and should support what you are saying. Also, be wary of blinding your audience by potentially overloading them or presenting confusing data. Try to be crisp and clear and tell a complete story. If you need inspiration, just watch some of the more scientifically-focussed TED talks.

4. You present through your delivery, not just your deck

This goes back to the key point that investors are looking at you as much as your business. Pick any person on the street and they probably have a good business idea tucked away somewhere, but a team of people that can bring a good idea to fruition is far rarer – so investors are almost instinctively looking for presenters who can achieve.

Here, delivery of the presentation is critical and preparation even more so. A strong clear confident pitch goes a long way to demonstrating you can perform under pressure, and unfortunately panicking or looking stressed during a presentation can be a turn-off. That is not to say investors expect every entrepreneur to be incredibly confident – Steve Jobs had plenty of practice to get that good – and it is natural to be anxious.

In order to give themselves the best chance of impressing, presenters should stick to their strengths. For example, if you know you cannot comfortably talk freely, prepare a deck that does some of the legwork of explaining and carries the narrative for you, with visualisations if possible. If you are a natural talker, ensure that you have a script planned, so you are not running off on tangents.

5. Prioritise the human connection

A well-prepared, attractive presentation that concisely explains the business opportunity is important in that it shows your team is smart, competent and knows what it is trying to achieve. These traits will come across as much in your manner as what you say and faking it is very hard to do.

So, most importantly, be honest about who you are and what you’re presenting – investors are looking for integrity in the people they are backing, and if you are selling a false persona this will almost certainly show through. And, of course, whatever approach you take remember practice is generally the best way to get to the perfect pitch.

Applications are now open for The Pitch 2020! Enter to get the chance to work with a pitching coach and meet investors.

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Timothy Mills

Timothy Mills

Tim is an investment director at the British Business Bank, and also leads the investment activity and operations of the Angel CoFund.

Tim started his career with Merrill Lynch, joining their graduate leadership programme to spend several years working in Europe, North America and Asia. Tim became an associate vice president in the technology group at Merrill before moving to Barclays Capital.

Prior to the creation of the British Business Bank, Tim spent 5 years with Capital for Enterprise, leading investments into venture capital funds as well as launching various funds, including the Angel CoFund.

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