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After almost 2 years and roughly different 2,000 company pitches, I have  some initial observations about successfully pitching for a fund raise that I’ve enumerated below.
 
1. Every business is different but all great pitches have stories that play to their strengths. I’ve seen many different styles, compositions and techniques. Common across all successes is the ability to tell a great story.
 
2. Effective stories frame the investment opportunity and the argument for the company’s success. The story conveys critical elements of the company: the backgrounds of the founders, the rationale for starting the business, how the teams experience and market fit together, the long term vision of the company and how to achieve that vision.
 
3. To make a pitch great, connect the standard elements in a way that builds and amplifies the vision and chances for success as you progress. The standard elements of most pitches include slides on team, vision, problem, solution, market, competition, and financing goals. Combining these into a coherent story line is key. Recently, Kurt Vonnegut discussed archetypal story lines in novels, any of which can be used in pitches to great effect, although there are many others.
 
4. While a pitch is a conversation, it needs to be crisper and more succinct than a regular conversation between friends. Answering questions directly shows a clear understanding of the market and company and instills confidence in investors. Pre-construct phrases for common answers that are precisely worded and effective. If you display financial models, understand the assumptions that underpin the figures. The same is true for market sizing. Don’t put up anything that you cannot defend, explain or rationalize in fewer than a few sentences.
 
5. The most effective presenters deliver content like journalists, in a reverse pyramid. Provide the conclusion at the beginning. If necessary, provide further detail afterwards. I struggled with this at the beginning of my career – after all, after a company pitches me, I pitch the company to the partnership. At Google, we communicated using the scientific method: hypothesis, experiment design, data, analysis, conclusion. But that’s simply too much detail to convey a crisp story. The Minto Pyramid Principle was my bible for the first 12 months; it’s the text provided to many consultants on how to construct convincing stories and arguments.
 
These are all rules of thumb to which there are exceptions. But by and large, the most effective pitches have compelling story lines, elements of strength that build throughout, crisp answers to questions and pyramid content structures.  
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3 thoughts on “Pitching: the importance of telling a story

  1. another solid post. I hope you are spending some time marketing this. Tom, I’m actually coming out to the bay area early this week. Would love to grab a coffee monday afternoon or anytime tuesday if it makes sense.

  2. Great let me know if you be in menlo park And if you have any ideas about how to market the blog i'm all ears

  3. Gosh, I should have known that using blog commenting as a way to schedule a meeting was a bad idea.  This totally slipped past my defenses.I'm chilling in Philz coffee right now, catching up on email before taking the red eye back tonight.  Would love to grab a (decaff) coffee with you before I head back to SF.  (interestingly, earlier today I met Jamie Rosenberg who now works at microsoft but was also an associate at red point- good people y'all are). I can meet you where ever you'd like.Best,Brett

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