Pitching your startup: Tips to adopt and pitfalls to avoid

Most of us in the entrepreneurship circuit and VC4A community will have experienced this: You attend a pitching session where entrepreneurs are given a prime time spot, in front of potential investors. And then… they destroy their big chance through some very basic errors during their presentation.

Here are some tips to adopt and pitfalls to avoid at such opportune events, and generally to put your fledgling business on a solid footing for future growth and funding rounds.

The art of the charismatic delivery

Pitching is an art form in terms of the delivery. If you don’t pitch well or if you are not charismatic, ask your co-founder or colleague who can deliver presentations in an engaging, exciting way. If you’re not the numbers person, make sure he or she is there to back you up and take any questions of the financials. Short, concise and to the point will win every time over too much information.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Generally, when pitching it’s important to keep in mind that a great pitch involves some fundamentals: the Problem, the Solution, the Market Size, Evidence of Demand/Traction, Request for Funding and Purpose of Funding.

If you can present these things in your pitch, within 3-5 minutes, then you’re off to a good start. Your pitch will usually be followed by a Question and Answer session from a panel of investors and business professionals. Be prepared for further probing questions on your business Profit Margins, Costs, Break-Even Points, Net and Gross Figures, Market growth opportunity. Don’t forget your strategy and the growth plans for your business; how is the business going to grow, how are you going to reach new customers and keep them coming back to you.? These areas should be carefully considered, planned for and presented in your pitch.

It does sound pedantic, but do spend ample time preparing for the presentation, the timing for delivery and the business case. You’ll be surprised how often entrepreneurs overrun with too much detail or have simply not prepared at all. Work on the basis of delivering a 3-5 minute pitch several times before the big day. Time yourself and make sure the salient points are included.

Mindset

Pitching is all well and good, however, before embarking upon the pitching, competition and challenge circuit, entrepreneurs much adopt the mindset of preparation and foundation laying. As a business development advisory firm, at AmDeCo.info, we see a lot of entrepreneurs that simply skip that step. Entrepreneurs may well save themselves and their team time and a lot of money by taking time to cover the basics of business first. This is the key stage where entrepreneurs have the opportunity to pivot or totally change their business model.

First thing’s first

Entrepreneurs get caught up in ideas, secret concepts and trying to raise funding without having put the structures and systems in place, nor having put the essential effort into building traction to prove the market exists for their offering. Seek support from a management or business development consultant, advisor to review your business’ story to date and steer you in the right direction. You may find that you need to get the foundations laid first, before you build that business and seek funding. Sometimes, organic, self-funded grit and traction will stand you in good stead when it comes to seeking funding. First thing’s first.

Commit totally to your business!

African entrepreneurs are doing it for themselves. Bootstrapping, firefighting, constantly striving to make that breakthrough or reach that tipping point in time where the dots start to connect. What is clear is that despite the challenging business terrain, Africa hosts Entrepreneurs with grit, determination, great vision and recognition that strategic alliances are crucial for sustainable business success. Keep focused and keep moving forward. Commitment to your business will garner support and interest from investors. If you aren’t fully committed, you’re pitch will likely fail to attract the commitment of investors.

The network: ‘Connect the dots’

Entrepreneurs need support, advice, connections and ‘champions’ to help them create sustainable, growing, job-creating, world-class businesses. It’s already happening, this spirit of support and collaboration. Big corporates are supporting start-ups because collaboration works and they recognise the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. Business Development Service (BDS) like AmDeCo.info are supporting start-ups because building the foundations of a promising start-up works to attract the funding required to scale and grow small businesses.

Entrepreneurs need to recognise the need to buy in expertise and advisory services – corporate governance, HR, strategy, operations, finance are all areas that require investment, if your business is to thrive. Entrepreneurs should think critically, share and create solutions to the broad challenges faced by the mass market. Reflect and connect. Strategic partnerships can catapult your well-thought out business plans into mass market business success stories.

In reference to the late, creative genius Steve Jobs: ‘Look backwards, look outwards and start connecting the dots!’


Amma Gyampo is Director of AmDeCo.info which provides business coaching , development and advisory services to Tech, FinTech and AgriBusiness start-ups and small businesses. She is also the Managing Principal of Optimum Access Investments, a boutique growth-stage business investment facilitation firm based in Accra, Ghana.