What are the most common mistakes in early stage pitches?

David Wu / November, 2017


David Wu, General Partner at Maveron explains the mistakes you don’t want to make in a pitch when raising early stage funding.

Video Transcript

What are the most common mistakes in early stage pitches?

One of the biggest mistakes I see in early stage pitches is a lot of first-time entrepreneurs like to err on the side of being incredibly comprehensive in a pitch, and I think of it much more like a business plan. I actually advise completely the other way around in that a pitch is much more like a combination of a conversation in a movie trailer. Keep in mind, especially as you move down the stack, from people that are very casual investors to professional investors.

Professional investors are seeing sometimes 5-10 investments per day and so the real question is: as they’re narrowing down the funnel and they are going to bed that night, what’s that one meeting they had that they can’t stop thinking about it, and that perked their interest. I often go through decks with entrepreneurs and cut 90% of the material and when the goal is what’s going to perk someone’s interest and make some begging to ask more questions and be memorable, rather than do I understand the inside and out this business, the pitch comes across really really different. So I think that’s the biggest mistake I see people make is not thinking about my goal is to interest you, not to tell the entire story.

If I look at a lot of first-time decks and has to iterate through, the biggest changes that I generally see myself recommending is one, keeping the elevation really high. There are three main things you need to communicate; is this real and does it work. The second one is does this matter, is this an important thing? The third one is can you win? A lot of the first couples of slides, I generally take 40 slides and take them down to 12, maybe 13 slides. It’s really about is this a problem that you can relate to and do you understand the problem? Do you have a unique solution? Is your team having a strategic advantage to why this is the right team to solve that problem and this is an important thing?

The rest of the details, we often pull them out and stick them to the appendix. Even the financial information at the early stages is really just an excel exercise and so a lot of those details, unless you actually have real early momentum traction are just numbers. Move the details to the back and then the appendix will pull them out completely.



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