Understanding Seed Funding: A How-To Guide

The Mainstage - Understanding Seed Funding A How-To Guide

The Mainstage - Understanding Seed Funding A How-To Guide

 

We’ve written these words before but they’re worth repeating: the success of your startup takes more than just a clever idea or working product. Launching — and eventually scaling — a business requires money. Sometimes lots of it. 

For most companies, that kind of capital is raised through various rounds of funding. The seed funding round has the potential to turn hopes and dreams into reality. At the same time, poor execution at this stage can be catastrophic.

Good news: catastrophes are easier to avoid when the steps are clear — when forward progress has a plan, and potential pitfalls are wrapped in caution tape. That’s our goal here: to provide a practical, how-to guide for understanding seed funding.  

What Is Seed Funding?

First of all, let’s clarify what seed funding is not. Seed funding isn’t a loan. Instead, it’s an opportunity for investors to exchange funding for an ownership stake in your company, a share of the profits from your business, or both. 

Why Do Startups Need Seed Funding?

Seed funding is what allows your startup to:

  • Hire more people
  • Expand into other markets
  • Increase production
  • Invest in better equipment
  • Enhance your technology
  • …and so much more

Seed funding is also a precursor to venture funding, where dollar amounts become larger and a company’s footprint has the ability to grow exponentially.

Seed Funding Breakdown: Where Does the Money Come From?

Seed funding can come from a variety of sources. Here are some of the most common:

 

1. Incubators and Accelerators

For early-stage startups, incubators can be an initial source of seed funding. 

Of course, incubators are primarily known for nurturing innovation and helping generate ideas, but small investments are often one aspect of their strategy as well. 

The investment aspect is especially true for accelerators because growth is their primary focus. With set funding amounts available in exchange for a percentage of your company’s equity, acceptance into an accelerator program can provide a quick infusion of cash.

In both scenarios, additional help — like tech support, access to shared workspaces, and mentorship — is often available.

 

2. Crowdfunding Platforms

Although crowdfunding is still relatively new, its growth and popularity are steadily increasing. With multiple platforms to choose from (including some that are industry-specific, like RedCrow), seed funding via the crowd — from everyday people to business leaders — has the potential to bring in significant amounts of money.

It’s important, of course, to understand the terms upfront. Not only do you need to know what you’re required to give in exchange for the capital, but you’ll want to understand what fees the platform charges too. 

 

3. Angel Investors

Let’s clarify something up top: For many startup founders, finding an angel investor might feel like the dream. In reality, it might simply be a piece of the puzzle. Angel investors can quickly infuse cash into your business — money that has the ability to solve many of your financial headaches. That’s welcome news.

But angel investors are not a must-have. They are nice to get on board, but they are not a requirement.

Bottom line: angel investors are individuals with a high net worth who exchange seed funding (and sometimes venture capital) for a percentage of ownership in your company. Angel investors receive pitches, decide who they’d like to meet with, and control the terms of the deal from start to finish. Before working with an angel investor, make sure you understand those terms and are happy with the deal you make. 

 

4. Corporations

That’s right. Large corporations — think Apple, Google, etc. — often provide seed funding to startups, especially if the product or idea is within their interest or industry. Even if it seems like a long shot, remember that a multifaceted approach to seed funding tends to be the most successful. Don’t hesitate to reach out to corporations you think might be a good fit.

 

5. Personal Savings

Finally, many startup founders will use personal savings as a way to get their business off the ground. Frequently referred to as “bootstrapping,” the idea includes upsides and downsides.

The upsides are simple but effective: using your own money doesn’t come with equity tradeoffs, interest, or repayment.

The biggest downside is that bootstrapping might make increase financial pressure on the founder or founders. 

 

6. Bank Loans

A personal or small business loan may be another effective way to gain some seed funding. In most cases, this type of loan will require some form of collateral and will include interest and a schedule for repayment. Still, options exist, and traditional banks or credit unions can be an additional source of funding. 

How to Get Seed Funding for Your Startup

With all of these possible sources of funding, you may feel a little overwhelmed. You know your startup needs funding, and you have an idea of where that funding comes from, but you may be less sure how to get it. This is a legitimate concern, but we’re going to walk you through some steps.

Step 1: Attract the attention of investors

That may seem easier said than done, but it may not be as hard as it sounds. Here are a few concrete ways to increase the chances that an investor will find you:

  • Network — in-person and online
  • Attend conferences specific to your industry or area of interest
  • Get active on social media

Step 2: Learn how to talk about your company

If you think you already know your talking points, keep reading anyway. This idea might be new to you. 

To engage your audience and have them wanting to know more, your product or idea needs to be known for solving a problem. What is that problem, and who does it impact? When you talk about your company, it’s important to start there — with the problem you solve

After that, you need a clear way to introduce your company — the very thing you’ve come up with to solve the problem you just mentioned. How does your startup address that problem? Use simple language and keep it short. 

Finally, what’s the payoff for someone who uses your product? In other words, with their problem now solved, how does life — in both big and small ways — improve? 

When you learn to talk about your company in this way, you accomplish two things: you begin to effectively engage your audience, and you learn how to compel them to act. When you’re speaking to investors, the action you’re asking them to take is funding-related. With that in mind, they may have some immediate follow-up questions.

Step 3: Learn how to share your data

If the story of your company is what engages and compels, the data is what supports that overall narrative. When we talk about those numbers, they need to include the following:

  • Your business plan
  • Real and/or projected costs, revenue, and growth potential
  • The amount of funding you need
  • How that funding will be utilized and what it will produce
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Future opportunities and potential threats

When you’re speaking with an investor, you need to paint a picture of where your business fits into — or even potentially disrupts — the market. 

Knowing How Much Seed Funding to Ask For

Determining how much seed funding you need is critical, and this easy-to-follow formula can help you do the math.

Multiply your current monthly costs by the number of months you’ve projected to get your business off the ground. Once you have that number, add a reasonable percentage to account for unexpected issues like delays and/or increased costs of materials or services. 

Here’s the bottom line: the amount of seed funding you’re able to generate will depend on the value of your company — even if that value is initially based on projections. Over time, that value will shift to things like assets and intellectual property. Either way, you cannot effectively ask for funding that exceeds the value of your business.

Knowing the Right Time to Raise Seed Funding

As with most things, the success of your seed funding will depend largely on timing. If you try to raise funds preemptively, you may not have all the pieces in place to attract investors. Here’s a checklist that will help you. Once you’re able to answer “yes” to the following questions, you’re ready to raise seed money in a way that’s sustainable and beneficial to the life of your business.

  • Do you have a minimum viable product (MVP)?
  • Can you demonstrate that your product or idea works and that a market for it exists?
  • Is there evidence of interest in your product — ideally revenue, but also users, followers, signups, etc.?
  • Are key personnel in place and capable of driving growth?

Seed Funding Essentials: The Power of the Pitch Deck

Your responsibilities as a startup founder are extensive, and they aren’t limited to raising funding. Securing the capital you need is important, but in the day-to-day life of your company, so are countless other things. The reality is that you can only do one thing at a time — at least if you’re trying to do it well. And while you may not be able to clone yourself, you can duplicate your efforts. That’s what a pitch deck is for. 

Meeting with every potential investor face-to-face would be wonderful if it were possible, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. A high-quality, comprehensive, and interactive pitch presentation puts you in the room with your intended audience. There’s only problem: Not every pitch deck can pull this off. In fact, most can’t. They’re one-dimensional slide shows that fail to engage or compel their audience. You deserve better, and so do they. 

If you’re having second thoughts about your own pitch deck, we can help turn things around. At The Main Stage, we’ll help you craft the kind of story that resonates with potential investors — blending engaging graphic content with compelling video features that allow you to demonstrate your product or idea. On The Main Stage, you’ll bring your story to life in ways that let you stand out from the crowd of one-size-fits-all pitches. We call it the future of fundraising because it is!

Creating Your Investor List — Here’s How

Here’s a bit of advice: start where you are, and with who you know. You may not be personally acquainted with Mark Cuban. That’s okay. You probably know another founder, small business owner, or entrepreneur. Buy them a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes asking questions. They’ve probably been in your shoes and may be able to point you in the right direction.

The startup incubators and accelerators we mentioned earlier can be helpful too. These programs can be a natural on-ramp to networking events and mentorship opportunities, and provide direct access to interested investors. Even online platforms like LinkedIn can be excellent starting points for putting a list of potential investors together. 

Here are a few pieces of homework to do as you build your list:

  • Do the people on your list have a track record of investing in startups in your industry and location?
  • Can they offer additional guidance — like practical advice or industry expertise?
  • How have their previous relationships with founders typically developed, and were those founders satisfied with how the relationship played out or ended?
  • Did these same investors participate in additional funding rounds?

Working through these questions will help you target the investors best suited for the needs and wants of your startup. You shouldn’t be prepared to accept money from just anyone, especially when equity in your business is up for grabs. The investors you work with need to be people you like, trust, and respect. Investors choose your business, but you are also choosing them when you agree to the terms of a deal. Here are five questions to ask yourself when making that decision.

Understanding Seed Funding: A How-To Guide

Five Steps for Choosing the Right Investors

  • Do I want a hands-on investor who’s actively involved, or would I prefer someone who stays in the background?
  • Have their previous investments been successful, and if so, how long did success take?
  • Do I have a funding goal and is it clearly stated in my business plan?
  • Can the investors on my list offer help beyond funding?
  • Is each potential investor a good fit for my business?

The Importance of Managing Equity During Seed Funding for Startups

As your seed funding round takes shape, one thing is sure to happen: you will begin to give up equity in your startup. The thing that was once 100% yours — or at least belonged to you and one or more co-founders — will soon belong to other people too. 

Before this happens, it’s crucial that you have a capitalization table (also known as a cap table) in place. 

A working cap table should include all of your company’s equity ownership, which you’ll need in order to calculate market value. Your cap table will also need to include total funding amounts received since inception, ownership shares, and share prices. If an organizational chart illustrates personnel power in your business, a cap table demonstrates the financial power of your business. 

Key Takeaways

Depending on the needs of your startup, gaining the seed funding you need can be a challenge. That said, we think you’re up for it. Having a plan in place makes a huge difference, and who you decide to partner with when the time comes is just as important. 

We want to help you prepare to thrive. You deserve to tell your story in a way that inspires confidence and builds curiosity. That’s hard to do when your presentation looks like everyone else’s. We’ll help your harness the power of your who your company is and how it’s different.

Beyond our exclusive StoryVault™ platform, The Main Stage includes a powerful CRM system that allows you to track investor interest and tailor specific follow-up communication all with the click of a button. And when it’s time to close the deal and receive your funding, our Document Vault is a secure storage solution for investor correspondence and compliance. 

Attracting the right investors can be tricky, but we make it easier. Click here to start your free 14-Day trial and see for yourself what The Main Stage can do for you! 

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Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as The Director of Operations and Marketing for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on LinkedIn

 

9 Unique Elevator Pitch Examples for Any Scenario

(Plus a Three-Step Framework You Can Use Today)

Whether you’re a serial entrepreneur, a startup founder, or the originator of a very brilliant idea that’s soon to revolutionize the market, one thing you all share in common is the need for an elevator pitch. Maybe you have one; maybe you’ve been working on one; maybe you’ve heard the phrase and have no idea what it means. Either way, you’re in the right place. 

  • If you’ve created your elevator pitch, congratulations! Keep reading, because you might discover a way to make it even better.
  • If the floor around your desk is littered with crumpled pieces of paper, don’t worry. We can help you streamline your process and create something great.
  • If the words “elevator” and “pitch” don’t seem to even go together in your mind, we hear you. It’s about to make more sense. 

First Thing: Let’s Define an Elevator Pitch

Traditionally, the words “elevator pitch” have been used to describe the process of introducing yourself, explaining who you are or what you do, and (maybe) creating a new business relationship – either immediately or in the future. 

The idea is that you can do all of this within 30 to 60 seconds – roughly the amount of time you might be on an elevator with someone. Of course, not all of us spend considerable amounts of time in elevators, but the idea isn’t contingent on doing so. A good elevator pitch can be used nearly anywhere. 

If you are attending a conference, attempting to network at an industry event, or navigating small-talk at your significant other’s college reunion, having a tried and true way of talking about yourself or your business will be extremely helpful. This is where we can help. 

The Mainstage - Unique Pitch Examples

Elevator Pitch Examples

At The Main Stage, we work closely with startup founders, entrepreneurs, and business creatives on a daily basis. A lot of that time is spent helping craft effective elevator pitches. 

Here’s something we’ve learned: you need the ability to revise your pitch on the spot, so keeping a few similar versions on hand is smart. Why? Because your elevator pitch is as much about the person you’re talking to as it is about you or your business. We’ll explain more about that below. In the meantime, here are 9 unique elevator pitch examples. Find some you like.

1. Pull in Your Personality

Because an elevator pitch can be a good place to infuse some of your personality, don’t be afraid to create an authentic-to-you way of describing your work. (Warning: don’t get carried away here…if you’re normally a 9, there’s no reason to turn your personality up to 11) If you’re funny – or if the work you do has a humorous angle to it – you may consider leaning into that just a bit. Here’s an example:

I’m in the pet waste business, but that’s just a nice way of avoiding other words. We’ve actually seen consistent growth since we launched, and are looking at expansion opportunities around the state. You might say work is “piling up,” but I prefer the “call of doody.” Do you have a dog?

2. Start With a Question

Sometimes a question like “so…what do you do?” is an exercise in politeness. We may have done this ourselves and inadvertently zoned out once we’d asked. To avoid this, it can be helpful for the person answering to start with a question. It’s a way of engaging your listener from the start – it invites them to be an active participant in the conversation.

What kind of work do you do?

Let me ask you this: Is it difficult to keep your kids from being bored in the summer? 

Sure, it can be. We seem to deal with complaints about boredom every year.

We were in the same situation. It’s the reason I developed these online camps for kids. They’re built around the things so many teens and pre-teens are already interested in, like coding, creating YouTube content, and gaming. I’ve partnered with a team of subject matter experts to lead the groups, and last year we had 50 kids sign up. We’re on track to double that this year. Can I send you a guest login to check it out in more detail?

3. Provide a Significant Stat

Depending on your audience, nothing may be more compelling than a well-placed statistic. Statistics are sticky, and they tend to attach themselves to our brains as soon as we hear them – especially if we hear them more than once. Incorporating a statistic into your elevator pitch can have people eager to know more. Here’s what we mean:

You know, we’ve come a long way with recycling, but foam – whether it’s coffee cups in a hotel lobby or packing peanuts used by some shipping companies – is still an issue. In some landfills, all this foam takes up 30% of the available space. Even worse, its expected lifespan is around 500 years! My company is working to replace foam products with recycled paper. 500 years to decompose is unacceptable. We’re helping companies make the change. I’d love to get you on board. Can we meet sometime next week?

4. Empathy + Authority

Together, empathy and authority are two of the building blocks of trust. When you can find an authentic way to lead with empathy (in other words, that you understand and value someone else’s feelings), the person or people you’re talking with will feel validated. Empathy also allows you to speak from a place of authority.

I think you’re really onto something there. You know the struggles with public transportation in our community firsthand. I’ve been working on an idea – one that addresses the issues you’re talking about and tackles some of the underlying problems with rideshare services. Can we schedule some time to talk more about this together?

5. The Value Add

When your pitch provides some built-in value for the person you’re talking to, it’s even easier to keep their attention and have them respond positively. Adding value begins with understanding what the person or people you’re speaking to are dealing with, and then tailoring your elevator pitch around their needs and wants – like this:

Your practice isn’t the only one trying to revamp its electronic health records. Knowing that you need something easy, affordable, and HIPAA-compliant makes me think we can help. The software my company created checks all those boxes – plus, doctors tell us they don’t dread completing their notes now. Can I drop by next week and show you the demo?

6. Tell a Good Story

You know that’s what all of this is, right? Every elevator pitch, no matter how you slice it, is a chance to tell a story. Better yet, if you take the time or get the help necessary to craft this pitch, it’s an opportunity to invite someone else into a story – one that could change both of your lives for the better.

Here’s an example of the kind of story we’re talking about:

You know that expression “this isn’t personal, it’s just business?” I have a hard time making that distinction. The work I do is nothing if not personal. I spent years struggling with an alcohol problem that, frankly, only kept getting worse. If my family and friends hadn’t intervened, I don’t know that I’d be here today. That’s why launching a local sober living facility is so important to me. We both know at least a few people who could use the kind of help I got. I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee Friday morning to share my plan with you. Will that work?

7. Be Handy With the Hook

In the same way that some of the songs you love have killer hooks (think The Jackson 5 singing “ABC,” Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” or Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”), your elevator pitch can include a line – sometimes in the form of a question – that stays stuck in your audience’s mind long after you’ve stopped talking – for example:

In a perfect world, emergencies would never happen, your employees would work the same number of hours every day, and payroll would be a breeze. But that’s not reality. Our intuitive timekeeping tracker takes the guesswork out of payroll processing. The best part? It works with your existing system. I guess the real question is, can you afford not to use a system like this?

8. Short and Sweet

So far, each example we’ve provided has tried to fit everything you might want to convey in under 60 seconds. Not too shabby. There will be times, however, that you need to drive home your elevator pitch in less time than that. Whether you missed your chance earlier in a conversation or you unexpectedly bump into a well-known angel investor in the airport, you will occasionally need an elevator pitch that is short and sweet. Here’s how it works:

Like a lot of people, the pandemic was my chance to pivot. I wanted to know if my vegan bakery would sink or swim. Guess what? We raised $100k in less than a month. Here’s my card. Check out the website and email me if you want to talk numbers.

9. Be the Solution to a Problem

We’ve saved this one for last because it may be the most important. If you want your elevator pitch to engage your intended audience and compel them to do something, you need to be the solution to a problem – their problem. We’ll explain and simplify that framework in the next section, but the basic idea looks a little like this:

People hate everything about moving – from loading the truck to unpacking all those boxes. Here’s the weird thing about my team, though: they love the whole process and they’re really good at it. We do the packing, the loading, the driving, the unpacking, and the set-up. You get a digital inventory of everything in our possession, plus GPS tracking for the entirety of the trip. For peace of mind with your next move, do you think you’ll book with us?

A Three-Step Framework for Creating the Right Elevator Pitch

You’ve already absorbed a lot of information here, so this framework is intentionally lightweight. It takes into account a limited amount of time, short attention spans, and the need to engage your listener and compel them to act. As you craft and fine-tune your unique elevator pitch, remember these three steps:

Step 1: What’s the Problem?

We know you’re excited to get to the solution you’ve developed but earn the right to be heard first. Speak to the problem or problems your listener is dealing with. In the example above, it was moving – a thing people legitimately hate to do.

Step 2: What’s the Product or Service that Solves this Problem?

If you clearly identify a listener’s pain points, there’s good news: you now have their attention. They’re listening, which means this is your opportunity to tell them how you solve that problem. Yes, you’ll want to provide value, tell a good story, demonstrate empathy, and all the other examples we provided, but none of that will matter unless you connect their problem to the solution you’re sharing. In the example above, the solution was everything from packing to GPS tracking.

Step 3: What Are the Results of Doing Business With You?

In the final step in this framework, you need to be able to convey what your listener’s life will be like when they choose to do business with you. It’s important to paint a picture that allows your audience to understand the results of your product or service. In the example above, it was peace of mind.


Here’s an easy way to remember these three steps: problem/solution/results. If you’re serious about crafting an evergreen elevator pitch that speaks to your audience instead of at them, this framework – along with all the examples shared here – will help. When you do that, your audience will grow, your business will thrive, and people will get the help they need. It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

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If you need a little assistance crafting your company story in a way that grabs the attention of potential investors, today is the day to make it happen. Press the home button above to learn more or start your free 14-day trial. The future of fundraising is here – only at The Main Stage. 


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Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as Creative Advisor for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on LinkedIn

 

How to Find Investors for Your Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Find Investors for Your Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Find Investors for Your Business: A Step-by-Step Guide


If you’re a startup founder, coming up with the idea for your business might feel like it was the easy part. Even if it took years of late nights, rounds of revisions, and countless starts and stops, you did it. Maybe you’re doing it right now. 

Either way, your idea has probably always felt like it was within your control. Even if there’s a team of decision-makers involved, you all are still calling the shots. If you want to change something, you do. When something isn’t working, you scrap it. Why? Because you’re in charge.

Finding people to invest in your business can feel the exact opposite. All of a sudden you have what seems like little control over whether or not they like your idea – much less when or if they decide to invest significant amounts of money into your business. Ultimately, it can feel risky – but consider this quote from Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube:

Life doesn’t always present you with the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. Opportunities come when you least expect them, or when you’re not ready for them. Rarely are opportunities presented to you in the perfect way, in a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. Opportunities, the good ones, they’re messy and confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.”

That tension between control and risk is real, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. When done correctly, finding people to invest in your business can be one of the most exciting parts of your job. This step-by-step guide will help you get started, teach you how to build strong investor relationships, and implement strategies that work. You may not be able to control everything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t control some things.

Why Small Business is Big

There’s some good news for entrepreneurs and startup founders right out of the gate: finding investors and raising capital for a small business can be easier than for larger, more established companies. Here are three reasons why:

  • A Little Money (Goes a Long Way)

While a big company may not even accept investments below six figures, $10,000 might be a gamechanger for the life of your startup.

  • Lower Barrier to Entry

Not every investor can write a million-dollar check. However, finding ten people willing to invest a few thousand dollars apiece is significantly easier.

  • Higher Risk = Higher Reward

Investors are diverse and include those that specifically enjoy higher risk/higher reward partnerships with new startup founders. They do exist. You just have to find them. 

How to Find Investors for Your Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Find Investors for Small Businesses – The Top 5 Ways for a Startup to Get Capital

Okay…that was encouraging, right? We think so. Still, success takes more than a pep talk. You need practical steps. With that in mind, here are the top five ways to find investors and raise the capital your business needs.

Begin By Asking Your Family and Friends

Wait…before you throw your phone or break your mouse, you should know something important: we’re not suggesting you ask to borrow any money here. If that’s what’s causing you to cringe at even the thought of discussing this with your family or friends, think again. 

This is not a loan. This is an opportunity to invest – to make their money back and then some. After all, the people you’re closest to know you better than anyone else. They’ve seen your drive, they know your dedication, and they believe in you. In turn, you believe in yourself and your idea. Asking your friends and family to invest is a way of inviting them to be active participants in your dream and recipients of your success. You can feel good about that.

Apply for a Small Business Administration Loan

Unlike your family members or close friends, the Small Business Administration doesn’t get involved with investing, however, they do provide loans for qualified applicants. One of the most advantageous SBA options for startups is their microloan program. While the average microloan is around $13,000, the program provides loans up to $50,000. 

Before you apply, be aware that loan proceeds cannot be used to purchase real estate or pay existing debts. However, that means you’re free to rebuild, re-open, repair, enhance, or improve your small business. That includes expenses associated with inventory, machinery, furniture, fixtures, equipment, supplies, and working capital. A microloan may not give you everything to get your business off the ground, but it can be part of your financial plan.

Consider Private Investors

With the right group of private investors, it’s possible to raise all of the capital needed to launch and grow your startup. We’ll provide more information below to help you understand what these investors are looking for – allowing you to tailor your offering and maximize interest – but here are some basics to consider:

Before pitching your idea to an investor or venture capital group, know the amount of funding you need, and be prepared to explain what that money will allow you to accomplish. Then, make sure your pitch is polished and practiced. After that, do your research. Are there local VCs you can meet with in person? Do you know of an angel investor you can reach out to? Put the internet – including LinkedIn and other online networking sites – to work for you. 

Contact Businesses or Schools in Your Field of Work

Sometimes finding an investor is as simple as a meeting over coffee. At other times, more steps are involved. Building a solid financial foundation for your business will require some of both. If there are businesses or schools nearby that focus on or specialize in work that overlaps with your product or idea, get to know them. 

Discovering an investor in either group isn’t a guarantee, but both businesses and schools have large networks – groups that are sure you include people interested in what you’re doing. You may also find connections you hadn’t expected, like manufacturers, suppliers, and other small business owners who may help you advertise, stock your products, or recommend you to their customers. 

The natives of Silicon Valley learned long ago that when you share your knowledge with someone else, one plus one usually equals three. You both learn each other’s ideas, and you come up with new ones.” – Vivek Wadhwa

Try Crowdfunding Platforms to Find Investors

There are good reasons crowdfunding platforms have grown in popularity: they tend to produce results. Some caveats exist, of course, but online crowdfunding – like SBA loans and angel investors – can be another exciting piece of the fundraising process. Understanding your audience and what will compel them to act is critical. 

The crowdfunding campaigns that succeed all have a few things in common: 

  • an attainable funding goal 
  • more than one investing level or tier 
  • direct incentivization

Although the individual investments tend to be much smaller (anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars), more people – especially those who might not consider themselves to be investors – can participate. This can build positive buzz and a sense of excitement that may very well draw the attention of even larger audiences and bigger investors. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

“What Do Investors Look For?”

The first thing investors look for is an engaging story, which is why your pitch is so important. Your pitch is more than a mission statement, a series of bar graphs, or a prototype. All of those pieces may be included in your company’s story, but in a way that tells a story – one that draws an investor in and compels them to act.

Beyond that, investors look for founders who are bold, but who remain teachable in the areas outside their expertise. Investors want opportunities to make an impact – in other words, to feel like their money is making a difference. They also want to know that their questions – which they may have many of – will be answered thoughtfully and that any insight they might have will be taken into consideration. 

“What Is a Fair Percentage for an Investor?”

The answer to this question varies depending on how much someone is willing to invest. On the low end, an investor gained through a crowdfunding platform may become eligible for a substantial discount once your product hits the market. In the meantime, you may choose to outfit them with free branded products, like stickers, a t-shirt, or access to an exclusive online community. 

Angel investors or VCs aren’t nearly as motivated by swag. Building a working relationship with this type of investor will likely mean trading a percentage of ownership in your company for a significant infusion of capital. That percentage could be relatively small – perhaps 25% – or it could be full ownership, making you an employee. Having a plan, knowing what you’re willing to do, and sticking to your strategy will help you navigate each opportunity.

Finding Investors for Your Business: A Recap

Discovering, meeting with, and successfully onboarding new investors for your startup doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. It can be one of the most rewarding aspects of being an entrepreneur or founder. Family, friends, and private investors can all be part of your funding plan. You may even decide that a small business loan is needed, or you might put the power of crowdfunding to work for your startup. No matter what, you need a plan – one that begins with a great story.

Great stories are what get all of us to lean in a little closer, listen with more interest, and imagine ourselves getting involved. Here’s how we can help you tell your story in ways that matter most.

Putting The Main Stage to Work for You

The Main Stage is built around the things startup founders and business creatives need most: 

  • A platform for designing and sharing beautifully made pitches that draw a crowd
  • A built-in software that makes tailoring emails and managing investor relationships easy
  • And a secure document vault for storing investor-related correspondence

The Main Stage is the future of fundraising and now is your chance to join us. If you’re ready to get started, we’re ready to help. Click here to sign up for a free 14-day trial. 

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Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as Creative Advisor for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

15 Habits of Effective Leaders

The Mainstage - 15 Habits of Effective Leaders

The Mainstage - 15 Habits of Effective Leaders

As buzzwords go, “leader” gets used a lot – and overuse, if nothing else, makes it easy to forget that the word means something. Leadership is specific. It carries with it some unique requirements. Anyone can be a leader, but not everyone is a leader.

The other problem is that we tend to think about leadership all wrong. We bifurcate businesses into Leaders – typically the founder or CEO – and Everyone Else. The truth is that a lot of us are leading in one way or another – from inner-office teams to volunteer work outside of the office. The trick is in learning to lead well.

Almost all of us have worked with an ineffective leader at one time or another. While that can be an education in what not to do, it’s important to focus on, think about, and remind ourselves of the habits effective leaders share in common. As we launch business ventures and build brands, it helps to have a blueprint for leadership. This is less a question of “who” you are and more a matter of “how” you are. How do you lead well? Here are 15 ways:

The Mainstage - Habits of Effective Leaders

1. Leaders Take Responsibility

To maximize their effectiveness, a leader can’t possibly be responsible for each facet of an organization. That’s what a team is for. Nevertheless, they remain responsible to their customers, colleagues, and shareholders. A solid leader won’t shirk that obligation, and you’ll never catch them throwing another team member under the bus – even when they have to deliver bad news. Effective leaders take responsibility.

2. A Leader Sets Ambitious – but Realistic – Goals

Having a goal – or even several goals – is like a north star. It’s a way to avoid getting lost in the distractions of the day, week, or quarter. Leaders set goals to maintain focus, measure progress, and celebrate achievements. They review their goals often to remind themselves why each one is important – because a goal is about more than “what” they’re after. The goals that leaders set are attainable, but rarely without hard work, commitment, and maybe even a few breaks along the way.

3. Leaders Never Stop Learning

An effective leader is rarely the smartest person in the room (a point that is reinforced below). They tend to surround themselves with people and opportunities they can learn from. In the book Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, Harvard Business School Professor Dr. Amy Edmondson explains it like this: “Learning is not a one-time event or periodic luxury. Great leaders in great companies recognize that the ability to constantly learn, innovate, and improve is vital to their success.” Whether it’s from books, podcasts, conversations with colleagues or mentors, or through their own research, learning and leadership are inseparable.

4. A Leader Does Hard Things

From the outside, it’s possible to look at some of the leaders we admire and imagine their life is comparatively easy to the things we’re facing. This may be especially true if they’ve achieved some of the success we’re still working towards. Here’s the reality, though: all leaders do hard things – from negotiating a merger to parting ways with a longtime employee. The best leaders understand that hard decisions, difficult conversations, and uncomfortable moments are part of the gig. They don’t shy away when it comes to hard things.

5. Effective Leaders Schedule Downtime

Because work often does require early mornings, late nights, and a tremendous amount of bandwidth, effective leaders know their time, energy, and attention are infinite resources. That’s why they schedule their downtime – and not simply when it’s convenient. Our jobs will almost always expand to the hours we give them, so creating opportunities for rest, exercise, vacation, and time with family and friends is vital. A good leader knows that work will still be there when the workout, getaway, or dinner date is over – and they’re better because of it.

6. Leaders Know Their Story – & How to Tell It

Effective leaders know the work they do – just like the life they live – is a story. And just like any book worth reading, their story isn’t without ups and downs, joy and grief, and ultimately a reason (or reasons) for getting out of bed each morning beyond the temporary thrill of a paycheck. They’ve also honed their story and can tell it in a way that engages the people listening. If work is what a leader does, their story is why they do it. At The Main Stage, our Story Vault™ platform helps business leaders (and new leaders in the making) learn how to tell their stories in powerful ways that connect with their intended audience.

7. Effective Leaders Have Mixed Motives

Okay…we promised that this one might shock you, and maybe it already has. Let me explain. Effective leaders understand that no one is entirely altruistic. They’re suspicious of people who claim to be. Instead, leaders are upfront about their drives and desires. They may have created a life-saving product, but their idea also allows them to earn a significant income. More than one thing can be true at a time. New York Times bestselling author and Business Made Simple CEO Donald Miller writes in the book Hero on a Mission “…that when it comes to figuring out what kind of story we want to live, we should look for something that is mutually beneficial. If it sounds like I’m saying to live a life of mixed motives, it is because that’s what I’m actually saying. I don’t believe you will ever have entirely pure motives. If you say you do, I don’t believe you and don’t believe you are self-aware.” Effective leaders know this to be true. They don’t project completely pure motives, but neither do they exploit people and opportunities for their own advantage. They find mutually beneficial solutions.

8. A Leader Acts

Given the option to sit this one out or step into the action, leaders don’t hesitate to act. They know their strengths and weaknesses and affect positive change whenever and wherever they can. Does this mean effective leaders always act? Not at all. One aspect of leadership is knowing where one’s time and resources are best utilized. Still, a strong leader is prepared to act. Because of that preparation, it’s difficult to catch them off guard.

9. Leaders Practice Listening

Because effective leaders are so often in action, they recognize the need for stopping, sitting still, and hearing from the people around them. This, of course, requires some humility. At its core, listening is an acknowledgment that the speaker knows something the listener does not. Just like any other skill, listening has to be practiced to improve. Leaders get this. They receive feedback, hear from their teams, and seek to understand perspectives they may have otherwise missed.

10. An Effective Leader Manages Their Emotions

We’ve probably all experienced the kind of day that swings from good to bad somewhere between 10 AM and 2 PM. Some days may even go back and forth several times before you’ve had the chance to catch your breath. Effective leaders take this in stride. They understand the market will fluctuate. They expect obstacles and pushback. What leaders don’t do is blame people, play the victim, complain, or turn over desks. They may feel all of those emotions, but great leaders have learned how to effectively manage each one.

11. A Leader Chooses Performance Over Posturing

In our world, posturing grabs headlines, gains followers, and gets clicks. If attention is the end goal, there’s always a photographer or a chyron waiting to break the latest news. An effective leader chooses the daily grind of performance over the glitz of merely talking a big game. In business, they’re intentional about developing that same mentality in their organizations. When leaders perform, they create results. They understand that posturing can’t compete with a tangible track record.

12. Effective Leaders Offer Public Praise (& Private Criticism)

The best leaders elevate the people around them. They may choose to do so verbally, and they often make a point of doing it in front of others. Authentic public praise motivates and builds momentum – and it just makes people feel good. Effective leaders never withhold praise, and they don’t take all the credit for success either. At the same time, a good leader makes a habit of addressing problems in one-on-one moments. They don’t look for chances to publicly embarrass people, and they know criticism is likely to be received better in private.

13. Leaders Hire People Smarter Than Themselves

While fearful leaders look for employees who will fall in line and not rock the boat, effective leaders recruit and hire people who know more than they do. Pushing past the limitations of ego, an effective leader assembles teams of subject matter experts. It’s by harnessing those skills and strengths that some organizations scale so quickly. Leaders still cast a vision and work together to build a cohesive strategy, but they grow by empowering (and trusting) smart people to build an even smarter company.

14. A Leader Sets an Example That Others Can Follow

An effective leader refuses to say one thing and do another. They intuitively understand that hypocrisy will destroy a business from the inside out. Instead, they make a habit of showing up and following through. Solid leadership doesn’t operate on two sets of rules – one for the leaders and another for everyone else. Instead, their expectations for themselves and their organization are identical. Because of that, each team member has a clear example to follow.

15. Effective Leaders Build Other Effective Leaders

Ask any effective leader who has inspired them throughout their life and the answer might surprise you. There’s a good chance it’s someone you or I have never heard of – a parent, coach, teacher, or old boss – but whose impact looms large. The best leaders inspire others to lead – and to lead well. An effective leader realizes early on that their time on this planet is limited. They’ll only have so many years and so many opportunities within the time they get. Because of that, they work hard to leave a legacy behind.

The Bottom Line

Effective leaders are human, and few if any get all 15 of these points right every day. Do great leaders lose the plot sometimes? Of course. How could they not? But they never stay lost for long. As the story of your company grows, I hope these habits will inform how you lead. If one or two resonated with you, drop me a line (links below) and let me know.

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If you’re ready to lead your startup with the right story and the performance to back it up, we’re eager to help. Press the home button above to learn more or start your free 14-day trial. The future of fundraising is here – only at The Main Stage.

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Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as Creative Advisor for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

How To Prepare For Your First Investor Meeting

The Mainstage - How To Prepare for Your First Investor Meeting

The Mainstage - How To Prepare for Your First Investor Meeting

An investor meeting is a big deal, so it’s natural to feel nervous. Feeling nervous because you’re unprepared, however, is preventable. We may not be able to solve all your anxiety, but we can help you get ready. 

There’s a date on your calendar and you can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe you’ve circled it with a highlighter or set your phone to alert you 60, 30, and 15 minutes before. You have a meeting with your first potential investor next week, and until it happens, not much else is on your mind.

To help you prepare, we’ve broken down what need to know and do into three easy-to-follow sections:

  • Before the Meeting
  • During the Meeting
  • After the Meeting

The Main Stage | How To Prepare For Your First Investor Meeting

Before the Meeting

Before your first investor meeting, here’s a checklist to make sure you use the time between now and then effectively:

1. Do Your Homework & Prepare —

You know the name of the investor you’re meeting with, but what else? Understanding a bit about their business background and the types of ventures they’ve previously invested in will accomplish two things: you’ll appear interested in more than just the funding, and it will be easier to craft your pitch around their specific interests. 

Of course, the purpose of this meeting isn’t to talk exclusively about them, nor is the point to impress them with facts you’ve memorized. Both of you should be aware that the topic of this meeting is your business and how they can invest in it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some homework to make the opportunity relatable and appealing.

2. Review and Revise Your Pitch Deck—

If you are like so many other startup founders, your pitch deck might feel obligatory: a thing that investors expect to receive and review, but not necessarily a clear or compelling representation of your idea or business. For that reason, you may have cobbled something together that checked the most obvious boxes – a vision statement, revenue potential, and competitor analysis – without much thought about who all may eventually view it. 

Before your first investor meeting, you need to take a close look at your pitch and make sure it speaks to, engages, and compels your upcoming audience. Again, one of the biggest benefits of pre-meeting research is the ability to tailor your pitch to the investor you’re meeting with. Know what may pique their interest and relate your pitch to their wants and needs. If you’re already on The Main Stage, updating your pitch in Story Vault™ is quick and easy. 

3. Practice the Art of Answering Questions

While this may be your first meeting with an investor, it probably isn’t their first meeting with someone like you. While you might feel nervous, they probably don’t. Meetings like this are what they do. Because of that, investors know what to ask, where to dig a little deeper, and when someone knows what they’re talking about. 

Good news: they ask a lot of the same questions in every meeting. We’ve compiled a list of the top questions venture capitalists ask, and you can review it here. In the meantime, here’s a tip: once you have an idea of the questions that apply to your business, type your answers out in a Word or Google doc. If you end up with a one or two-paragraph response to each question, find a way to extract the key points and nothing else. The art of answering questions confidently and competently is in learning how to do it concisely. 

During the Meeting

With your prep work well underway, you may instinctively shift to feeling nervous about the actual meeting. After all, that part is still unknown. These three ideas should alleviate some of your day-of-meeting nerves.

1. The First Impression You Make Typically Sticks

This, of course, isn’t just true for VCs. We all do it. Knowing how our brains work, and remembering you have a limited amount of time in front of this investor, understand the importance of making a great first impression. 

Arrive early, express appreciation for their time, and remain respectful of it by not extending the meeting past the anticipated duration. 

If you want to make a good first impression, smile at people. What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if not smiling prevents you from enchanting people.” – Guy Kawasaki, marketing specialist, author, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist

2. If You Don’t Know, Don’t Act Like You Do

For good or bad, there are things you don’t know – at least not yet. As much time and energy as you’ve spent developing your product or idea, it’s unrealistic (as well as unhelpful) to imagine you’ve thought of everything – especially when it comes to the questions investors may be most interested in. 

While an investor meeting is your opportunity to highlight what you do know and have thought through, it’s never the right venue for faking your knowledge, debating the merits of multiple opinions, or agreeing to disagree. If you do, your meeting will end quickly and without a deal. Instead, thank them for their feedback and learn something from their experience.

3. Demo Your Product

While the most innovative pitch tools – like The Main Stage, where videos and rich content help bring your product or idea to life – help you secure that first investor meeting, nothing truly compares to putting a product in someone’s hands or allowing them to see it in action. Whether you’re in a coffee shop or a boardroom, be ready to demo your MVP or idea.

Understandably, the thought of this may bring with it some new apprehension, and that’s okay. Investors understand that a prototype isn’t a finished product. You will have already explained what advances – in design, materials, or technology – will be possible through the funding you’re seeking. Investors understand this. They want to see what you have and how it works.

After the Meeting

While you may feel a wave of relief after your first meeting with an investor, the work isn’t over. Here are three things to remember as soon as you’re back at your desk.

1. Follow Up With Your Investors Like a Pro

You already know a quick thank you email is standard, and that’s good. If nothing else, this kind of note solidifies the good impression you made previously. It reaffirms the investor’s belief about you: that you’re solid; that you have the makings of an effective leader; that your business is poised for success. But if your email is just to express gratitude, you’re probably doing it wrong. 

Inevitably, there was a question in your meeting you hadn’t thought about or a concern you weren’t prepared for. Since you already knew not to fake it, you may have said something like “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” Perfect. Do that now. Thank them for their time, their interest, and follow up with an answer to the question they raised. This is what professionals do, and that’s who you are. 

2. Keep Scheduling Meetings

If every startup could gain the funding it needed from a single meeting, everyone would be a founder. Instead, it takes multiple meetings over weeks, months, and even years. The key here is to be encouraged – not simply overwhelmed. The nervousness you felt with this initial meeting will soon be a thing of the past.

The only way to get there is to continue scheduling these meetings. Are there other important aspects to your job? Absolutely – and some of those may feel like much more natural fits than pitching and raising capital. Keep scheduling meetings anyway. This is a numbers game. 

3. Remember: Investor Management is Relationship Management

The only difference between you and the investors you meet with is that they have more money in the bank than you. That’s it – and that may only be a temporary difference. Those roles may eventually change. Regardless of their financial ability to write a big check, investors have most of the same wants and needs as you. One of those is pretty basic: relationships.

Relationships are built on shared interests, expectations, and transparency. Healthy relationships have to be managed. If not, things will get sideways. The relationship won’t work for anyone involved. As a founder, you have a full plate of responsibilities and requirements. Make sure you have an easy and effective way of maintaining and cultivating your investor pipeline. At The Main Stage, our built-in CRM system allows you to send tailored communications and track investor activity. Turning prospects into shareholders has never been easier!

A Final Thought About Startup Funding Success

You may very well feel nervous in your first investor meeting. You’ll feel subsequently less anxious every time after that, though. While you can’t determine the outcome of the meeting, there are other things you can control. We’ve just walked through nine of them together! With practice, intention, the right kind of confidence, and a little humility, this meeting will go well. You’ve got this!

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Your startup needs to tell an engaging story, manage investor relationships, and close deals securely. We help with all three. Press the home button above to learn more or start your free 14-day trial. The future of fundraising is here – only at The Main Stage. 

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Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as Creative Advisor for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

The Best Dynamic Pitching Tool for Entrepreneurs

The Mainstage - The Best Dynamic Pitching Tool for Entrepreneurs

The Mainstage - The Best Dynamic Pitching Tool for Entrepreneurs

(and No, We Don’t Mean Another Boring Pitch Deck)

I’m going to tell you about something I have a small problem with. There is a chance you’ve actually never thought about this yourself, and if so, that’s fine. I may be the only one. 

Occasionally, I will be in a meeting or on a Zoom call and someone will use a specific phrase – a common expression that we’ve probably all heard and maybe used ourselves without really thinking about what the words mean. That phrase? It’s the one about reinventing the wheel. You know, like:

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel…”

Or,

“You’re wasting time trying to reinvent the wheel.”

When these words are spoken, my expression doesn’t change. I don’t stop anyone mid-sentence to register my complaint. But there is a corner of my brain that can’t help but imagine how life would be if we’d never reinvented the wheel. The first wheels were made of stone, and were used to make pottery and grind grain. It took our ancestors 300 years to discover that these same wheels could also be used for transportation. Even now, I imagine, someone is hard at work in a lab trying to make an even better wheel or a longer-lasting tire. Thank goodness we’ve reinvented the wheel.

The Mainstage | The Best Dynamic Pitching Tool for Entrepreneurs

The Intersection of Wheels and Pitch Decks

Just like wheels, the way we do business has changed dramatically – especially in the last 25 years. Many of us work from home offices, take virtual meetings from shared workspaces, and communicate electronically as much or more than we do in person. Imagine what life would be like today if, in 1997, we’d all agreed that the internet was fine the way it was. After all, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, right? 

It’s even possible that your startup – the thing you’re trying to pitch, launch, and grow into a successful business – is an attempt to improve, simplify, or outperform something else that’s already on the market. In that way, your startup is a chance to reinvent the wheel. You’re going for it, and that’s exciting. It may also be harder than it has to be. Here’s why.

Most Pitching Tools Haven’t Changed

While the ways we work, communicate, and invest have all changed over time, most pitch tools have never evolved. They’re largely static, and that can make them feel stagnant. The majority of pitch tools are like stone wheels. Most pitch decks fall flat because they are flat – one-dimensional slide shows that struggle to engage the intended audience and certainly don’t compel anyone to action. 

Startup founders need a system – one that includes an interactive, highly-engaging pitch tool, an integrated system of developing and maintaining investor relationships, and a simple, secure, and fully-compliant way for closing deals and growing your business. 

I have good news: that’s exactly what The Main Stage does. We’ve reinvented the pitch deck, and this is how it works. 

A Dynamic Pitch Requires a Dynamic Story 

In the early life of your startup, your pitch is mostly you – your idea, your experience, your motivating force, and your vision for success. Investors, especially in pre-seed and seed funding rounds, are investing in you

“Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.” 

              – Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO (1999 – 2020)

This is why honing your story is so important. What do you want? Why do you want it? How are you going to achieve it? Investors want to know these details.

What if You Think You Don’t Have a Story?

As a startup founder, few things are easier than getting lost in the weeds of your own company. When you’re hyper-focused on things like products, features, and user experience, it can be hard to remember that there was once a time when all of this was just an idea. Of course, there was also a time before that. Some series of steps or even missteps brought you to today. You know what that is, right? It’s your story! 

Investors love these stories. It’s how they gauge passion, purpose, and your overall commitment to the idea. They want to know if you’re all in on your idea, or if it’s just a stepping stone to your next venture. Your story is a driving factor in an investor’s decision to put money into your company. That’s why it’s critical that you harness the power of your story and present it in a way that builds engagement and interest. While traditional pitch tools and presentations frequently leave investors bored and unimpressed, we help founders connect with investors in ways both groups love.

A Dynamic Pitch Starts With Story Vault™

Story Vault™ is one-third of The Main Stage’s proprietary platform. It’s also the first step towards developing your unique pitch. Unlike other pitch tools, Story Vault™:

  • Is accessible to investors by invitation only, putting you in control of who views your pitch
  • Enables your company to showcase its fundraise with video highlights and rich content
  • Allows you to demonstrate proof-of-concept, share deal terms, and answer questions

For investors viewing your pitch, it’s a chance to see how much money your company has raised in real-time, as well as an opportunity to learn more about who you are and what your strategic vision is. While other pitch tools depend on a slide-by-slide progression that’s easy to lose interest in, Story Vault™ brings your pitch to life. 

Given the time, budget, and network, there isn’t a startup founder who wouldn’t jump at the chance to meet face-to-face with any investor, in any location, and at any time – especially when the only other option has been a standard, one-dimensional pitch deck. 

Story Vault™ puts you – your voice, vision, excitement, and opportunity – in the room with investors in your network. You can try to create a compelling story in PowerPoint, or you can elevate your pitch with interactive software and a clear plan for success. 

Your Story Grows With Relationship Management

At The Main Stage, telling a great story is only the beginning. As your investor pipeline grows, you need a system for managing those relationships. Our CRM system provides:

  • Advanced analytics for tracking investor activity and interest 
  • Tailored communication that boosts credibility, cultivates trust, and maintains compliance
  • A built-in way of following up with interested investors so that prospects become shareholders quickly and easily

For startup founders, these tools have often been the missing link in their relationship management. They’ve used tools that aren’t intuitive and don’t work for them – like a spreadsheet that requires constant updating, their own email, or a calendar. The Main Stage’s CRM does the tracking and tells you when an investor is ready to move forward. 

For investors, the process has never been simpler. They’re able to experience your pitch, understand your strategic vision, and decide to invest all within a few clicks of their mouse. If you’ve tried to fundraise like this in the past, our CRM will revolutionize the way you work.

Our system is seamless, but there’s still one more way that The Main Stage has reinvented the traditional pitch deck and is helping founders get the funding they need. It’s time to close the deal.

Relationships Become Tangible in Our Data Vault

Rounding out The Main Stage’s platform is our Data Vault – the place where the story you’ve told and the relationships you’ve made come together to create capital for your business. The Data Vault includes:

  • A user-friendly interface that expedites the investment process making deals easier than ever to close
  • Document storage, including pitch materials, Pro Forma, Articles of Incorporation, and investor communications, all in one secure location
  • An Investor Dashboard that, once the process is complete, provides investors with access to their mutually executed documents

As a part of The Main Stage platform, the Data Vault simplifies the process of signing and filing documents, but it will also give you some much-needed order and peace of mind. When you don’t have to worry if your round of fundraising is secure, you’re free to focus on meeting new investors, building relationships, and growing like never before.

These three pieces – StoryVault™, our CRM, and the Data Vault – make up The Main Stage. They empower startup founders and entrepreneurs to achieve the success they knew they were capable of, but weren’t exactly sure where to start. Don’t worry. This is what we do. We can help.

The Main Stage is the future of fundraising and now is your chance to join us. If you’re ready to get started, so are we. Click here for a chance to learn more and sign up for a free 14-day trial. 

Did you really read my story about reinventing the wheel and then scroll straight to the bottom? Okay. Fair enough. Here’s the too-long-didn’t-read version just for you:

  • You are the message, so pitch a story you’d invest in
  • Traditional pitch decks can’t help you do that, but The Main Stage can
  • Our StoryVault™, CRM, and Data Vault create a seamless platform for engaging investors, compelling action, and closing deals
  • Even though you didn’t read all of this, you can still click here for two weeks on The Main Stage free-of-charge


Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as Creative Advisor for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on
LinkedIn.

The Top Questions VCs Ask During Pitch Meetings

The Mainstage - The Top Questions VCs Ask During Pitch Meetings

The Mainstage - The Top Questions VCs Ask During Pitch Meetings

Are you someone who thrives on winging it – on showing up to a crucial meeting or an important presentation without much preparation or practice? Probably not. In fact, if you’re reading this, your goal is most likely the opposite. As a founder or entrepreneur, you understand that preparation is an integral part of success. Everyone wants to be polished, and that bar is set pretty high, right? You reach it, of course, through a lot of hard work. Preparation and practice are the “wash, rinse, repeat” of startup success. 

If you’re all in, then keep reading. We’re about to take your prep work to the next level.

How To Have a Competitive Advantage in Your Pitch Meetings

Keep that word in mind, will you? Preparation and practice are all about gaining an advantage. Venture Capitalists sit through a lot of pitches. That’s part of their job. Emily Weiss, CEO and Founder of cosmetics company Glossier, said that “so much of venture capital is pattern recognition.” It’s true. Having a quick way of separating the good from the bad makes their jobs easier. 

Here’s something you should know: good and bad have more to do with preparation than products or ideas. You can have a brilliant idea and still bomb your pitch meeting if you show up unprepared. 

When you’re able to explain your business and can answer each question that is fired your way, it indicates a level of seriousness and commitment – that the process of launching a company and raising equity isn’t a game to you. 

This is the founder you want to embody, and becoming this kind of a leader takes effort. A lot of that work involves knowing what type of questions investors may be asking and having a plan to answer them. This is where we can help. 

The Questions VCs Ask Depend on the Stage You’re In

VCs tend to ask the same questions because they have a system for finding strong investment opportunities – and because they know how to expose holes in your product, plan, or model. Some of those questions will come up early, like during pre-seed funding, and others will emerge in later rounds. The stakes are high, and your job is to be ready. 

Since the majority of startup founders are in or between the pre-seed and seed stages of fundraising, we’ve organized the questions you’re most likely to be asked into those two categories. We’ve also included an effective way to turn the tables and ask some important questions of your own at the end! You’re not going to want to miss that.

Pre-Seed Questions

Pre-seed questions typically focus on as many as seven distinct categories: the team, the market, the competition, financials, legal, market validation, and your competitive advantages.

Remember: Pre-seed investors, whether they are traditional VCs or angel investors, are basically investing in you – in your ability to do the thing you say you’re able to do. The questions in this stage of funding reflect that. 

The Mainstage - The Mainstage - The Top Questions VCs Ask During Pitch Meetings

The Team

  • What expertise or background do you have in this industry?
  • How are responsibilities shared within your team?
  • What history does your team have working together?
  • Are you fully committed to this business, or do you have other commitments?
  • How do you and your team measure success and failure?

The Market & Your Product / Offering 

  • Why is now the right time to bring your idea or product to market?
  • Who is your customer base or target market?
  • What makes you believe that your company has high growth potential?
  • How long will it take to achieve market impact or disruption?
  • What is your TAM (total addressable market), and how will you achieve it?

The Competition

  • Everyone has competition. Who is yours?
  • What does your competition do well that you’ve yet to achieve?
  • What do you understand about the market that the competition does not?
  • Are you more or less expensive than the competition? 
  • How do your features and/or benefits compare to the competition?

Financials

  • How long until your business is profitable?
  • What are your three-year financial projections?
  • How much future debt or equity financing do you think will be necessary?
  • What is your projected burn rate?
  • What are you basing all of these projections on?

Legal

  • What, if anything, is your corporate structure/status?
  • If you incorporated, in which state or country was your company formed?
  • What pieces of intellectual property  – including domain names, URLs, patents (pending or otherwise), trade secrets, trademarks, and copyrights – does your company possess?
  • What due diligence has been performed to ensure that your company’s intellectual property does not infringe on the third-party rights of any other person or entity?
  • Would any employees (current or former) or their previous employers have a potential claim against your company’s intellectual property?

Market Validation

  • How can you demonstrate that demand exists for your product or service?
  • How do you know that customers want or need what you’re selling?
  • Have you built – and subsequently tested – a minimum viable product (MVP) in the market?
  • How did you find research participants, and how were results analyzed?
  • What sort of SEO analysis did you perform to gauge interest or demand?

Competitive Advantages

  • Is anything new or disruptive about your product or service?
  • Why aren’t other companies already doing this, or why might they have chosen not to?
  • How is your idea different from the rest of the industry?
  • Do you have any “unfair” advantages?
  • What do you understand that no one else has figured out yet?

At first glance, this may seem like an overwhelming number of questions, but many of them overlap with each other. Much of the work of preparation and practice is developing clear and concise answers to very specific questions. Focus one or two in each of these categories. Write them down on index cards and have your co-founder, a team member, partner, or friends pull questions at random. Not only will you hone your pitch, but your answers will become polished and predictable.

Seed Questions

Seed questions typically fall into nine categories – many of which focus on price, demand, and ability to scale. They include: your team, business model, the product and technology, market, growth opportunities, traction, intellectual property, existing financial round, and intended use of funds.

Remember: at this stage, seed investors are still interested in you, but now “you” includes a track record that is tangible and quantifiable. None of these questions should surprise you, so do your homework. Know what will be asked of you and prepare a straightforward answer.

Your Team

  • Where is your business headquartered? 
  • Who are the founders, key members, and what are their responsibilities?
  • What about board members?
  • How has any internal conflict been handled up to this point?
  • Have any founders expressed interest in being bought out?

Business Model

  • What is your current cost of acquisition per customer?
  • What are your profit margins – and how will scaling impact those?
  • How has your business model changed since your initial launch?
  • How many paying customers do you have right now?
  • What’s a real customer interaction you’ve had that supports your business model?

The Product and Technology

  • How has your product or service evolved from earlier versions?
  • What key features do you plan to add in the next 6-12 months?
  • Has user behavior surprised you or influenced design decisions?
  • Can you show me how the product works?
  • From prototype to current version, if you could do one thing differently, what would it be?

Market

  • What percentage of the market share can your business realistically own?
  • Who is your best customer and why?
  • Do you have a PR strategy? If so, what is it?
  • Who do you admire in your market or industry?
  • What’s a danger in your market or industry you’d like to avoid?

Growth Opportunities

  • Where will new users/clients/customers come from?
  • What is your user growth rate?
  • What is your current conversion rate?
  • What advertising will you do with additional capital?
  • Is there a way to reduce your per customer acquisition cost?

Traction

  • How many users, and how long do you retain them on average?
  • What is the total number of sales to date?
  • What is your annual growth rate?
  • What feedback – positive and negative – have you received so far?
  • Have you made any changes based on that feedback?

Intellectual Property

  • Have you discovered any legal or product liability issues?
  • Who has (and who continues to) develop your intellectual property?
  • What, if any, new patents do you have pending?
  • Are there any regulatory risks you’re aware of?
  • Have any partners or employees left the company that may claim ownership of your intellectual property?

Existing Financial Round

  • Do you have an exit plan – including M&A or IPO?
  • What is the timeline for this?
  • What is your current valuation (and how is that being determined)?
  • How much capital are you trying to raise now?
  • Are any previous investors participating in this round of fundraising?

Use of Funds

  • How will you allocate these funds between overhead and growth/expansion?
  • What technology will you be able to purchase with this money?
  • How much of this money will be spent on hiring more people?
  • What if you’re not able to raise enough money?
  • What are the risks and how are you mitigating them?

Again, many – if not most – of these questions are the same ones you ask yourself, your partners, or your co-founders regularly. At this stage of your company, questions about traction, growth opportunities, and how to allocate an infusion of capital are commonplace. If they aren’t, they should be. Don’t hesitate to work out your answers within a team. Come to a consensus, write down clear language that answers all parts of the question, and practice. 

Remember: if there’s an elephant in the room, a good investor will find it and call it out. Address it with honesty and transparency before you’re asked. Don’t obfuscate the issue or minimize the potential impact. Own it. This is your business. Ron Conway – a veteran venture capitalist and well-known angel investor – said he’s looking for that willingness to take ownership immediately: “When you’re talking to me in the first minute, I’m thinking – is this person a leader?” Here’s some advice: be that leader. If you’re owning the successes, own the obstacles too. 

Turning the Tables: Top Questions You Should Ask Investors

Although it may be tempting to imagine that any money is good money, working with investors is really about building a relationship. In the same way that you wouldn’t necessarily date each person you’d ever met, you won’t always want to work with every investor you meet. That’s okay. There will be times when your business isn’t the right opportunity for an investor, and other times when the investment being offered isn’t the right opportunity for your business. While you have little, if any, control over an investor’s decision, there are a few questions that will help you make – and feel good about – your choice. Remember these and be ready to ask them.

  • How would other startup founders describe working with you?
  • Beyond money, are there other ways you can add value to our business?
  • What do you look for in an investment besides the return?
  • Can you provide references for three founders you’ve worked with previously?
  • What was your worst investment, and why?

Remember: we’re all just human beings, even when one of us is wearing the investor hat and the other is wearing the founder hat. Which side of the table we’re sitting on is really inconsequential. We’re people, and most of us share similar hopes, dreams, and values. We may go about achieving them differently, but at the end of the day, we want good things for ourselves and the people around us.

How The Main Stage Can Help

That idea – of putting good into the world and finding new ways to make it grow – drives the work we do at The Main Stage. In practical terms, it involves helping founders like you:

  • Develop a clear, compelling, and interactive pitch that engages investors
  • Create a seamless pipeline for maintaining and cultivating investor relationships
  • Store executed agreements, correspondences, and regulatory documents

At The Main Stage, we take the hassle out of fundraising so you can turn your startup dreams into something tangible.

If you’re ready to get started we’re eager to help. Press the home button above to learn more or start your free 14-day trial. The future of fundraising is here – only at The Main Stage. 

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Brian A. Smith is a highly experienced investor, Co-Founder of The Main Stage, and Co-Founder and CEO of RedCrow™ Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform that specializes in cutting-edge healthcare startups. Connect with him on LinkedIn and

How Funding Works for StartUps: A Guide to Funding Rounds

How Funding Works for Start-Ups: A Guide to Funding Rounds

How Funding Works for Start-Ups: A Guide to Funding Rounds

 

If movies – and certainly reality TV – were to be believed, securing funding for your startup would be fairly quick, involve a significant influx of cash all at once, and only require minimal embarrassment. Although the potential for embarrassment is never really off the table (especially early on in the life of your business), the truth about startup funding is that it isn’t nearly so scripted. 

As much fun as stories of overnight success are, funding almost always takes time, and it rarely happens all at once. In fact, it’s because the entire funding process has so many misconceptions – along with its own confusing vernacular – that clarification, explanation, and some behind-the-scenes industry insights are necessary. In this guide, we’ll tackle the terminology, walk you through the key steps, and make sure you have a roadmap for navigating funding success by the time you finish reading. How does startup funding work? It’s time to find out.

A Quick Fundraising Overview

Before we go any further, remember that fundraising is a process, and like any good one, there’s more than one step involved, and a clear plan is required. In order to successfully raise capital, the process begins before you even talk with your first investor. Prior to diving directly into action, here are seven steps you’ll need to execute to get your idea funded:

  1. Forecast your financials – how much do you need, and what do you plan to do with it?
  2. Put together a pitch – start by reading this valuable piece on why pitch decks fail
  3. Develop a list of potential investors – who do you know?
  4. Schedule meetings, show up, and pitch your idea – this is the work
  5. Have a system for receiving proposals and responding – organization is key
  6. Navigate the (occasionally lengthy) due diligence process – keep your eyes on the prize
  7. Prepare and execute required documentation and accept funds – it’s go time!

How Funding Works

How Funding Works for Start-Ups: A Guide to Funding Rounds

Those seven steps almost make the entire funding process look easy, and maybe yours will be. We sure hope so. It’s worth preparing for it not to be, though. To be clear – and beyond those steps – startup funding only works if you have a good idea. You may be incredibly likable, have a well-polished pitch, and bring lots of energy to the table. Each of these is to your advantage. However, if you have a bad idea, no one is going to invest their money in your startup. Of course, there may be family and friends who want to see you succeed and are happy to push some dollars your way, but the money you need to actually get your business off the ground won’t materialize. 

Let’s start with the assumption that your idea is solid, though, because, of course, it is! You’re about to turn the market upside down and you’re going to have fun doing it – if you can get the funding you need, that is. Depending on how much money your startup requires, who (and how many people) you’ll need to work with will differ. In order to keep track of everyone, it’s helpful to categorize your potential investors into groups. The importance of maintaining some order here can’t be underemphasized. Knowing who you’ve talked to, where they are in the decision-making process, and what the next steps are will keep you from feeling like you’re flailing. The flailing founder is a bad look. That’s a promise. 

Organize Investors into Groups

Between your family, a couple of colleagues from the place you used to work, the friend-of-a-friend who mentioned investing that one time at a barbecue, and at least a dozen of the people you’re connected to on LinkedIn, it may be difficult to imagine any real groups at all. As your network expands, it’s worth thinking about organizing your potential investors like this:

Friends and Family

These are people you know personally or at least socially. Typically, they are some of your earliest investors, cheerleaders, and advocates. Eventually, they may not have invested the largest sums of money, but they championed your idea long before anyone else was clamoring for a chance to get on board. These are good people, and you’re lucky if you have a few of these. This group isn’t a guarantee. Remember that and don’t forget to thank them.

Angel Investors

As the name suggests, this is a special group with the ability to change the game for you and your startup. Angel investors are frequently accredited, which simply means they are someone whose:

  • Net worth either exceeds $1M (excluding the value of their home), or
  • Individual income exceeds $200,000 (consecutively for the last two years), or
  • Joint income (with a spouse) exceeds $300,000 (consecutively for the last two years)

Angel investors put their own money into startups in exchange for a percentage of ownership in the business or as convertible debt – that is debt that can be converted into common shares at a future date. 

Here’s a tip: Look for Angel investors who are local to your area and who also invest in your market or industry. Your odds of converting this prospect into an investor are much greater when both of those boxes are checked.

Venture Capital Firms

Unlike angel investors who are investing their own money, venture capitalists (or VCs) raise capital through private equity funds. With their own trusted network of investors, VCs build interest, excitement, and – hopefully – some capital on behalf of your startup. Like angel investors, venture capitalists exchange the funds they’ve raised for a piece of your company. 

Early Employees

While the first three groups probably made plenty of sense, including your earliest employees might leave you scratching your head. Here’s the deal, though: often, those initial hires are clocking in and out because they really like you or they believe in the idea. Maybe it’s both. It’s great when it’s both. Your startup has a lot going for it but the salary isn’t topping anyone’s list. In exchange for working for next to nothing, early hires will often accept shares of stock. In practical terms, these employees have more skin in the game than most. They’ve accepted a reduced wage and they’re working to help you build your business. That’s a solid investment.

Now, what about the “rounds” founders and investors are always talking about?

StartUp Funding Stages Happen in Rounds

Again, funding isn’t an overnight process. As your investor groups organize and grow, so too will your opportunities to raise capital. Of course, the needs of your growing startup will also change, as will the company’s appeal to potential investors. Here’s what you need to know about how startup funding works. 

Those seven steps almost make the entire funding process look easy, and maybe yours will be. We sure hope so. It’s worth preparing for it not to be, though. To be clear – and beyond those steps – startup funding only works if you have a good idea. You may be incredibly likable, have a well-polished pitch, and bring lots of energy to the table. Each of these is to your advantage. However, if you have a bad idea, no one is going to invest their money in your startup. Of course, there may be family and friends who want to see you succeed and are happy to push some dollars your way, but the money you need to actually get your business off the ground won’t materialize. Let’s start with the assumption that your idea is solid, though, because, of course, it is! You’re about to turn the market upside down and you’re going to have fun doing it – if you can get the funding you need, that is. Depending on how much money your startup requires, who (and how many people) you’ll need to work with will differ. In order to keep track of everyone, it’s helpful to categorize your potential investors into groups. The importance of maintaining some order here can’t be underemphasized. Knowing who you’ve talked to, where they are in the decision-making process, and what the next steps are will keep you from feeling like you’re flailing. The flailing founder is a bad look. That’s a promise. Organize Investors into Groups Between your family, a couple of colleagues from the place you used to work, the friend-of-a-friend who mentioned investing that one time at a barbecue, and at least a dozen of the people you’re connected to on LinkedIn, it may be difficult to imagine any real groups at all. As your network expands, it’s worth thinking about organizing your potential investors like this: Friends and Family These are people you know personally or at least socially. Typically, they are some of your earliest investors, cheerleaders, and advocates. Eventually, they may not have invested the largest sums of money, but they championed your idea long before anyone else was clamoring for a chance to get on board. These are good people, and you’re lucky if you have a few of these. This group isn’t a guarantee. Remember that and don’t forget to thank them. Angel Investors As the name suggests, this is a special group with the ability to change the game for you and your startup. Angel investors are frequently accredited, which simply means they are someone whose: Net worth either exceeds $1M (excluding the value of their home), or Individual income exceeds $200,000 (consecutively for the last two years), or Joint income (with a spouse) exceeds $300,000 (consecutively for the last two years) Angel investors put their own money into startups in exchange for a percentage of ownership in the business or as convertible debt – that is debt that can be converted into common shares at a future date. Here’s a tip: Look for Angel investors who are local to your area and who also invest in your market or industry. Your odds of converting this prospect into an investor are much greater when both of those boxes are checked. Venture Capitalists Unlike angel investors who are investing their own money, venture capitalists (or VCs) raise capital through private equity funds. With their own trusted network of investors, VCs build interest, excitement, and – hopefully – some capital on behalf of your startup. Like angel investors, venture capitalists exchange the funds they’ve raised for a piece of your company. Early Employees While the first three groups probably made plenty of sense, including your earliest employees might leave you scratching your head. Here’s the deal, though: often, those initial hires are clocking in and out because they really like you or they believe in the idea. Maybe it’s both. It’s great when it’s both. Your startup has a lot going for it but the salary isn’t topping anyone’s list. In exchange for working for next to nothing, early hires will often accept shares of stock. In practical terms, these employees have more skin in the game than most. They’ve accepted a reduced wage and they’re working to help you build your business. That’s a solid investment. Now, what about the “rounds” founders and investors are always talking about? Funding Happens in Rounds Again, funding isn’t an overnight process. As your investor groups organize and grow, so too will your opportunities to raise capital. Of course, the needs of your growing startup will also change, as will the company’s appeal to potential investors. Here’s what you need to know about funding rounds.

Pre-seed Funding Stage

If you’re nervous about beginning the funding process, here’s some good news: you may have already experienced your first round without even fully realizing it! Pre-seed funding typically happens when a founder (or a group of co-founders) injects their own money in an effort to get the company off the ground. Family and friends who simply want to see you succeed – that is, who aren’t investing in a strict sense – may also be included in pre-seed funding.

Seed Funding

If the pre-seed funding stage felt less than official, the seed funding series is where that changes. In this round, the focus is on growth, because that’s what seeds do. Potential investors are able to look at your business like a seed and ask themselves a few pertinent questions. For example:

  • How much potential does this business have to grow? (TAM = Total Available Market) 
  • Are the conditions right for success? Is there Product:Market fit? Is there revenue traction? 
  • Is money the only thing preventing growth or expansion? How strong is the team?

Thinking back to the groups of investors you’re working with, several of them will be drawn to this round. While friends and family may certainly take this opportunity to invest officially, venture capital firms and incubators will too. Seed funding is also a chance for an angel investor to enter the picture since they often appreciate the risk/reward ratio of a brand new venture. 

Know What You Need (and Who is in Your Network)

While it’s impossible to project what a seed funding round might look like for cash in the bank for your startup, much of your success in this round will come down to need and network. Normally a good seed funding round can produce anything from five to seven figures. If your funding needs are relatively small and you have a broad network of potential investors to work with, it’s possible that your startup will receive all of the funding it needs to launch and be sustained. On the other hand, if you know you need several hundred thousand dollars or more, it’s possible that other rounds of funding will be necessary. This isn’t unusual. Here’s what you need to know. 

Series A Funding

Ideally, between pre-seed and seed funding, you were at least able to get your startup off the ground. All of your funding issues aren’t solved yet, but the wheels are turning. Yes, of course, it may have been nice to raise all the startup funds and capital you needed early on, but that’s not what happened – which could be to your advantage. You have a tremendous opportunity to focus on key performance indicators – from developing a customer or client base to maintaining consistent revenue numbers.

Creating this kind of track record sets your startup apart. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that your business is more than just a good idea. At this point, you have something tangible – some proof. As with each funding round, a key (or “anchor”) investor can often generate interest among other investors once they sign on. If venture capital firms were slow to invest during the seed funding round, know that they will be paying attention this time. Angel investors may still look for an opportunity, however, with the kind of capital that is often raised in a Series A round, private equity crowdfunding has the opportunity to create a significant impact. 

Series B Funding

For startups that are past the development phase, Series B funding has the potential to elevate your business or brand to the next level. Much of the basis for Series B funding comes from unmet demand. In short, your startup may grow quickly – faster than even you can imagine. Sustained growth presents an opportunity for later-stage investing, because production or warehouse space, talent acquisition, expanded technology to boost supply takes an infusion of cash. 

Companies that fall into the Series B category are well-established. Their valuations range from $30 to $60 million. As with Series A, a key investor – someone with their own track record of investing wisely – can be helpful to get the ball rolling, and you can expect even larger VC groups to get involved before the chance is gone.

Series C Funding

Businesses that navigate their way from seed funding rounds to Series C funding all have one thing in common: they are really successful. At this point, additional funding isn’t about making payroll or staying afloat, but rather things like new product development, market expansion (nationally or internationally), and/or competitor acquisitions or mergers. These are all questions of scale, and for businesses ready for Series C funding, scaling as quickly as possible is the goal.

While additional funding rounds (including Series D and E) do exist, the businesses that qualify are no longer startups in any realistic sense of the word. While a company may utilize Series D or E to pursue unmet goals in earlier rounds, that isn’t the only purpose. The kind of funding that is raised in rounds like these – typically in the hundreds of millions of dollars – is put in place for global expansion, market takeovers, or a final valuation boost before an initial public offering (IPO). 

Okay…Understood, but What About…?

Organizing your potential investors into groups and understanding when and why they may be interested in making a move is important – but those aren’t your only questions, are they? We didn’t think so. At The Main Stage, we work day in and day out with founders just like you. Not surprisingly, many of you share the same questions and concerns. As you might imagine, quite a few of these questions have to do with funding. We’re going to tackle a few of the most common here. Let’s go!

“How do startup companies receive funding?”

You may not believe just how frequently we hear this question, and typically it’s asked almost apologetically. Cut yourself some slack, founder. If this is your first startup or even the first one you’ve gotten this far into the funding process, the process is brand new. There are no bad questions. Here’s what you need to know:

Rounds of funding through investors, as we’ve described above, are one of the ways startup companies receive capital, but they aren’t the only ways. Here, in no particular order, are a few others you should at least be aware of:

Self-Funding (or, “What’s in Your Wallet?”)

Self-funding is often referred to as bootstrapping because, well, you’re effectively pulling yourself – by way of your startup – up by your own bootstraps. Whether you have savings or the ability to liquidate some assets, self-funding isn’t without at least two key advantages: 

  1. Using your own money allows you to retain full ownership of your business
  2. You can avoid paying interest

Borrowing Money

Interest, of course, can become an issue when you borrow money. Frequently, startup founders apply for loans through some combination of traditional banks, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and online lenders. Unlike the groups of investors we helped you break down earlier, these lenders won’t be interested in ownership stakes, but they will expect the loan – with interest – to be repaid. 

NOTE: One particularly helpful program is the SBA microloan. Designed specifically with startups in mind, the microloan has term lengths as high as seven years, relatively low fees, interest rates that tend to range from 6% to 9%, and low amounts up to $50,000. If pre-seed of seed rounds were uninspiring, if you need a smaller amount to launch your startup, or if ownership (especially early on) is important to you, one of these programs might be advantageous. 

“How do investors get paid back?”

It’s a common concern and one that’s kept many founders awake at night. Exactly how do investors make their money back? Here’s a hard truth: Sometimes they don’t. We need to address that upfront before we go any further. Despite all the work, each and every hope or dream, and even thousands – or hundreds of thousands – of dollars, sometimes an investment fails. Startups stop. People try again. It happens. Reward almost always includes some degree of risk. The more risk, the higher the reward. 

Now that the hard part is out of the way, let’s focus on the reward. Let’s imagine that one or more round of funding was sufficient and you have made the most out of the capital invested. Bravo! Here’s some more good news: Those investors were not lenders. Whether you had an angel investor, a few venture capitalists,  or a group or family, friends, and colleagues (or some combination), they didn’t invest their money in exchange for repayment with interest. These were not loans. They were investments into your company in exchange for a share of ownership – typically in the form of stocks or shares. As your startup grows into a full-fledged business, these shares continue to grow in value. These shares can payout significantly when there’s an exit – that is when your company is sold to or acquired by a larger competitor. 

“How long does it take to get funding for a startup?”

Once you’ve made a decision to launch your startup and pursue some form of funding, the days, weeks, and months that follow can often feel like a race against the clock. Other times it may seem like that clock is standing still. Like any good founder, you’re eager for there to be money in the bank because that will allow you to make more products, hire more employees, or invest in better technology. 

Much of the timeline, for good or bad, will come down to you – the founder. If you’re a relatively unknown quantity – as most startup founders are – funding may take a little longer than it would for someone who’s had some previous successes (e.g. businesses that launched, grew, and were acquired). We’re talking months, not weeks. Possibly longer. Likewise, if you initially have a small network of investors, it might be harder to get the funding ball rolling. Again, this underscores the importance of the organization we mentioned at the beginning. Know who’s in your network, build those relationships so that you can connect to their networks, and watch your business grow. 

On average, the fundraising rounds we broke down earlier take place every 12 to 18 months, however, a good seed round can potentially replace the need to raise any more capital. The time spent between rounds is often reserved for the due diligence process.

The Bottom Line

For founders who just want to go to work building their dream or putting their idea into motion, fundraising can feel unnatural, overwhelming, and even confusing. No one understands that better than we do. At the Main Stage, each member of our team has walked the journey you’re now on. We’re investors, start-up founders, and, well, real people who know the ups and the downs of forecasting, pitching, building a network of investors, and finally – thankfully – seeing that hard work pay off.

That’s good news for one reason in particular: It means we can help you. Whether you’re:

  • creating the perfect pitch on our Story Vault™ platform;
  • organizing and managing those investor relationships in our proprietary CRM system;
  • or closing the deal and putting cash in the bank with our industry-compliant Data Vault;

The Main Stage is how and where fundraising happens. Are you ready to get started? So are we. Click here for a chance to learn more and sign up for a free 14-day trial. 

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Aishlin Harrison is the co-founder of The Main Stage, as well as an artist, musician, and passionate entrepreneur. In addition to these roles, she serves as Creative Advisor for RedCrow™, Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform for healthcare companies. You can connect with her on LinkedIn

 

Why Your Pitch Deck is Failing

The Mainstage - Why Your Pitch Deck is Failing

The Mainstage - Why Your Pitch Deck is Failing

The Truth About Start-Up Pitch Success

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: 

Someone you know has a really good idea for a new business. That person – the founder – is excited. This idea is the thing they spend all their time thinking about, working on, and believing in. They love the idea. Maybe their friends like it too. There’s only one problem: launching this kind of business requires money – more money, perhaps, than the founder has on hand. They make the decision to recruit some investors, but figuring out where to start, or how to explain the business, is immediately overwhelming. 

Ultimately, and with more than a few starts and stops, a pitch deck is created. That’s what start-up founders do, right? They make decks and rehearse pitches. This pitch gets practiced in the shower and while stuck in traffic. Any family member sitting still for a few minutes is likely to get pitched until – finally – that first official investor meeting is set. It’s game time now. Let’s go. 

Ten minutes after getting in front of their investor, and with what feels like everything on the line, it’s game over. The meeting ends without a deal, and the founder is left wondering what went wrong, who to blame, and how to fix it. 

That kind of story might be too familiar – maybe painfully so. Here’s the truth about start-up pitch success: it can be a hard thing to achieve, and it’s likely to include more than a few similar stories. Believe it or not, it’s the pitch decks themselves that account for many of the mistakes.  

Where Start-Up Pitches Fail

Your pitch deck is probably failing for more than just one reason, and we’re about to tell you why. In the meantime, take a deep breath and know this: you are not on your own here. We’re going to get through this together, and with some help, your next pitch meeting is going to be infinitely better than your last. Right now, though, we have work to do. 

Dealing with a problem begins with an acknowledgment that something – possibly several things – is wrong. In this situation, it’s your pitch deck. In a broader sense, it’s nearly every pitch deck. Over the next few sections, we’re going to help you understand where pitch decks fail, why failure is all but guaranteed, and what steps you can take to avoid it. Here we go.

You Have an Idea, Not a Business

Yes, we know that some well-meaning mentor or podcast host told you to think like a business. That’s not necessarily bad advice – as long as you remember that having a great idea or thinking a certain way aren’t the only things required to start a successful company. 

Don’t miss the point, here. Ideas are great and we love them. The idea is the inception; the moment it all begins. Without great ideas, there would be no great businesses. There’s only one issue: no matter how interesting your idea is, and regardless of how much time you spent describing it in your pitch deck, it still isn’t a business. Mistaking your start-up idea for a full-fledged company is a guaranteed way for your pitch deck to fail. 

Businesses have financials like P&L statements and balance sheets. When someone invests in an established business, these pieces of information clarify the financial picture and inform their decision. This is a luxury that start-ups don’t have, but the story doesn’t have to end there. 

Projections can be made and estimates should be provided. But don’t forget that no matter how certain your future business success seems to you, a good investor lacks the same strong emotions.

You Didn’t Participate in Pitching Competitions

We’re going to cut to the chase here. Sometimes pitch decks fail because not enough time was spent in preparation or practice. Bad news for people trying to wing it: when this happens, it shows. A lot of investors meet with start-up founders regularly. When you show up with a sloppy presentation or a thrown-together pitch, they have something to compare you to. You want to set the bar here, not struggle to reach it. Thankfully, you have options.

While it may feel like Shark Tank, you don’t have to go on television to get practice pitching your idea. Competitions exist, and virtual as well as in-person platforms are available. In both settings, you’ll have the chance to get comfortable sharing your idea with strangers. Don’t get frustrated if it feels like people are poking holes in your idea. Even if you’re just getting up in front of friends and family to work out your rhythm and flow, allow them to ask questions and let those guide your approach and tighten your pitch.  More often than not, investors appreciate – and even look for – founders who can handle feedback and criticism. The expression that “people invest in people” is true. Investors want to know why are you the right individual or team to bring them success once they make their investment. 

Getting this right, and with the help of some much-needed give and take, you’ll be better prepared for your next one-on-one.  

Why Failure is All But Guaranteed

As technology goes, a pitch deck is certainly more evolved than an easel and some markers – and when PowerPoint first came onto the scene, it was revolutionary. Originally only available on Mac, Microsoft released its popular version three years later…in 1990. Even as other software has joined the market, and despite having better graphics, animation options, and fonts, the antiquated technology used to create a pitch deck is largely the same as it was more than 30 years ago.

Relying exclusively on your pitch deck to do the work of attracting investors and converting them from prospects to shareholders is difficult. It’s a bit like asking your dog to wash the dishes. Your plates may get licked clean, but you’re probably not going to want to eat off of them afterward. With that visual in mind, here are two key points to consider:

One Size Fits All (or Barely Anyone)

Even some of the better decks we’ve come across all suffered from a similar problem: they were either too broad in their pitch or incredibly narrow. Both impulses make sense, but neither will help you accomplish your goal of finding funding. 

Some founders cast a wide net in an effort to appeal to as many people as possible. That’s understandable, but it has the effect of watering down the pitch to the point of being underwhelming. If the opportunity to invest in your start-up is “perfect for everyone,” then it’s not good for anyone.

In a reflexive move to avoid that, other founders have a hard time letting go of who they believe their ideal investor is. Whether it’s someone who shares their background or understands the intricacies of their industry, it may be hard to imagine that someone who doesn’t fit this persona would be interested. 

The same struggle exists for founders who fall into either of these categories: pitch decks aren’t designed to craft your company story or present it in an engaging or compelling format. A deck is just a deck, and it’s only as good as what it includes and how it’s delivered. 

The Need to Follow Up With Investors

The second reason pitch decks are all but guaranteed to fail is because they don’t provide an easy way to follow up with the people you shared your pitch with. Again, they aren’t designed to, and you’ll need to create some other workflow to list, sort, and transition your prospects through each stage of the investment process. 

At this stage of your start-up, pitching to prospective investors is only one aspect of your job. Whether you’re still working for someone else until you secure funding or nearly all of your available hours are being spent on product research and development, you need a simple process for keeping up with who you’ve reached out to, what the outcome was, and how to get back in touch.

As a founder, you also want to present a professional image when you communicate with your audience of prospective investors. When you’ve made a pitch and promised to follow up with some bit of requested information, nothing looks as unorganized as missing a deadline or worse, forgetting altogether. 

If pitching was the only thing on your calendar, then maybe this wouldn’t be so challenging. Instead, it seems to sink more meetings than it doesn’t. Pitch decks have plenty of limitations, but this one might hurt the most. 

What You Can Do to Avoid It

That’s the goal, right? After learning why your pitch deck is failing, as well as why a pitch deck’s own limitations pretty much guarantee that outcome, wanting to know how you can avoid a similar fate is fair – and smart. Here are three easy steps to help put your pitch and your start-up on the right track:

It’s Starts With a Story

Here’s a hard truth: as much as you love your idea, investors are far more interested in the story you tell them about your idea. Because of that, your pitch should be designed to engage investors around your company story – and determining what that is can be hard to do by yourself. As serial entrepreneurs, the founders of The Main Stage experienced this dilemma time over time and knew there had to be a way to bring the fundraising process into the digital and virtual era. 

At The Main Stage, our Story Vault™ software helps founders bring their stories to life. From visually appealing content to video highlights, you’ll be able to create dynamic, highly engaging, content that allows investors to understand what you do, get excited about the opportunity, and make the decision to get on board. Raising money for your start-up has never been easier or more exciting – and this is true for founders and prospective investors alike.

It Grows Through a Workflow

Unless you’re committed to building and maintaining your own database, having an easy way to keep up with your growing network of investors is quickly going to become a full-time job. Can you go it alone? Of course, but the risk outweighs the reward and it’s not even close. 

That’s one of the reasons why our proprietary CRM system is such a powerhouse. With advanced analytics, you’ll know who’s reviewed your pitch, whether or not they were interested, and how you can follow up with them personally. When you need to maintain compliance, deliver tailored communication, and cultivate credibility, our CRM software has you covered. 

It Thrives Over Time

Although you’re sure to have some one-time interest, the start-ups that succeed are the ones who partner with investors for the long term. To build those relationships, you’re going to need a trustworthy system that goes the distance.

The Main Stage’s Data Vault is an investor dashboard and secure document storage central location rolled into one. Once an investment is made, your shareholders will have access to their mutually executed documents and you’ll have everything you need to thrive. It’s that easy.

________________________________________

If you’re ready to get started we’re eager to help. Press the home button above to learn more or start your free 14-day trial. The future of fundraising is here – only at The Main Stage. 

________________________________________

Brian A. Smith is a highly experienced investor, Founder of The Main Stage, and Co-Founder and CEO of RedCrow™ Inc., a direct investment and marketing platform that specializes in cutting-edge healthcare startups. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Top 10 Best Pitch Deck Software Tools to Use in 2022

 

What Is a Pitch Deck? 3

What Is the Main Purpose of Developing a Business Pitch? 3

Reviewing the Top Pitch Deck Makers 4

Key Criteria to Compare Business Pitch Deck Tools 4

Range of Customizable Templates 4

Data Dashboard Interface 4

Ease of Use 5

CRM Access 5

Support and Digital Requirements 5

Price 5

Business Pitch Deck Creators Review 6

  1. Firstly, The Main Stage Review 6
  2. Visme Review 7
  3. Canva Review 8
  4. Piktochart Review 9
  5. Slidebean Review 10
  6. OnePager Review 11
  7. Beautiful.ai Review 12
  8. Google Slides Review 13
  9. Prezi Review 14
  10. Sketch Deck Review 15

Final Verdict 16

Best Pitch Deck Creator for Customizable Templates 16

Top Data Dashboard Interface 16

Easiest to Use 16

Most Effective CRM Access 16

Ultimate Support and Range of Digital Requirements 17

Best Value for Your Money 17

Comparing Top 10 Site for Creating Business Pitch Decks 17

Common Questions 18

1- How much does a pitch deck cost? 18

2- Investor deck vs pitch deck – what’s the difference? 18

3- What is a business pitch? 19

4- What should an investor pitch deck include? 19

5- What is a one-pager pitch deck? 19

6- How do you maintain your pitch deck with updated data? 19

7- What are investors looking for to evaluate a pitch deck? 20

8- How does a pitch deck creator help me tell the story? 20

9- What mistakes do I need to look out for? 20

10- How much training do I need before I use these tools? 20

11- How do I include my own charts and infographics? 21

12- What media format is best? Should I include a video in a pitch deck? 21

13- How do I then connect with investors once I have a pitch deck? 21

14- Should I be using social media to share the pitch deck? 21

15- Why are business pitches important? 21

Our Vision for the Future of Business Pitch Decks 22

 

Top 10 Sites to Create a Business Pitch Deck

Entrepreneurs and people belonging to the world of startups are well aware of the term pitch deck. And they know how difficult it can be sometimes to create the perfect presentation that has all the information necessary for securing funds.

You have to carefully decide on the content of the pitch deck and then arrange it all to tell a compelling story. The purpose of creating this presentation is to invite investors and VCs to invest in your business. 

If you don’t have experience with fundraising and creating a business pitch deck then this process can seem daunting, because there is a lot at stake.

The good news is that there are plenty of great tools out there that can help you create pitch decks, even if you have no experience in designing. Technology has revolutionized the way we create pitch decks

But we believe that a basic investor presentation can only get you so far. So like other inventions, The Main Stage was created out of necessity. 

Our primary investor facing dashboard – The  Story Vault was created to tell your company’s story but in a much more interactive and holistic way than any other pitch deck currently available.  

We’re not saying there is anything wrong with a traditional pitch deck, but in the modern investing world, you need more. In fact, one of the primary components of our Story Vault is a visual investor presentation such as a pitch deck. 

In this article, we’ll review the top 10 sites that you can use to create a business pitch deck that can be easily integrated into your Main Stage dashboard. We’ll also discuss other information that should help you be more informed about creating stunning presentations.

What Is a Pitch Deck?

A pitch deck by definition is anything that gives your audience a quick overview of your business. 

Its purpose in private equity fundraising is to wow the investors and present a business opportunity they simply can’t refuse. You can do that by presenting a compelling story of your business and showing your position in the market.

A perfect pitch has all the components that your potential investors need to make a well-informed decision about your business.

That could include the capital required for the investment, the customer’s needs, how your product is the perfect solution to a problem, business model, and a bit about the team behind the scenes.

In addition, your presentation should also include information on your competitor and the risks involved with an investment in your business.

When creating a pitch deck, numbers and data are your friends. But you’ve got to use them strategically by employing visuals and graphics. Use just a few key indicators and make sure that those are enough to get the message across. 

What Is the Main Purpose of Developing a Business Pitch?

The flow of information in your pitch deck can either hook the investors or have them checking their watches until you’re finished speaking. 

For that, you need to make your presentation look and sound unique while also including all the necessary information.

The primary purpose of developing a business pitch is to get VCs or angel investors on board. You can do that by piquing their interest and convincing them of the value of your startup.

Pitch deck tools can help entrepreneurs present the right information while canvassing investors. Not all business owners can be great at highlighting their key business features during fundraising. But tools can help you fix that by efficiently creating flawless presentations.

Reviewing the Top Pitch Deck Makers

Your startup concept or invention won’t matter much unless you can convince investors to, well, invest. And the way to do that is to show them your vision, product value, and long-term goals in the form of the best pitch deck you can create.

But the issue is that investors today are pressed for time. And frankly, so are you.

The old techniques used for fundraising don’t always work these days. You need to move with the times and meet the investors where they are.

That’s why entrepreneurs should use pitch deck tools. These offer different features, and you can select the one that solves the biggest challenges for you. Pitch Deck creators can save your time and improve the quality of your presentation.

Key Criteria to Compare Business Pitch Deck Tools

Here are some of the factors that you should be looking at when choosing a pitch deck tool for your business:

Range of Customizable Templates

A primary reason for choosing to use a pitch deck tool is to prepare a professional-looking presentation quickly. So the range of templates a tool offers you is an important factor to consider.

Here, you need to check how many designs they offer, if there are any industry-specific templates available, whether or not you can apply filters, do they offer images by default, and how customizable the themes are. 

Data Dashboard Interface

Let’s face it – data can be boring. And if you’re an investor looking at numbers and charts all day, it can be exhausting as well. So for your company to stand out, you need a unique and interactive data dashboard for your investors.

Pay close attention to the dashboard features that various tools offer. The best pitch decks almost always have amazing data dashboards. 

You need to examine how eye-catching yet straightforward and user-friendly the data dashboard interface is for the pitch deck tool you want to select.

Ease of Use

Technology is supposed to make your life easier. So check the ease of use of the various business pitch deck tools in your list before finalizing one.

You’ll be using the tool quite often while fundraising. Sometimes you’ll have to revise the information on the spot and so you should be able to navigate the site easily.

Support and Digital Requirements

Different tools offer varying levels of customer support. You might even receive different levels of support based on the plan you’re on. But remember that the best pitch deck tools come with great support for all users. 

You also need to check what digital infrastructure you need to run the tools. Can you use them on a mobile device? Do these work offline? Can you easily download and present the pitch deck?   

All these questions need to be answered before you select a pitch deck maker for your business.

Price

Compare the plans and details of different business pitch deck tools before making your decision. And choose the one best suited for your requirements.

You don’t always have to go for the most expensive one, although there is no harm in choosing the pricy options if your budget allows it. But sometimes, simpler tools can offer you all you need for creating your pitch deck.

The important thing is that you should be able to justify the price you’re paying.

Business Pitch Deck Creators Review 

Here’s our review of the top 10 pitch deck makers:

1. Apple Keynote Review

Keynote is Apple’s presentation tool that you can use to create amazing pitch decks. It has over 30 customizable themes and people from almost every industry can find a template that works for them.

We say it’s a great tool because it offers users great collaboration tools, compatibility with PowerPoint, remote presentation, multiple device access, and the feature to integrate stunning animations or live videos in your pitch deck slides.

Some of the templates are amazing as data dashboards. You can simplify complex charts and make it easy for investors to digest the information. Plus, it’s free to download!

Keynote is not the easiest to use though. It has a steep learning curve for new users which makes it unsuitable if you’re looking to create a pitch deck quickly.

The downside of this tool is that you can’t make a video pitch deck here. Also, an obvious limitation is that you need an Apple device to work on this even though it offers some level of cross-over with other operating systems. 

2. Visme Review

Visme is an excellent tool for making business pitch decks. It contains a massive library of 1000+ customizable templates. It also has various images, vector graphics and animations that you can use to add your logo and charts to the presentation.

You don’t need to download any additional software or use specific devices for Visme. It has both mobile and desktop apps for creating pitch decks and infographics, but you can’t present the slideshow on a mobile device.

The dashboard interface is also pretty amazing, but you don’t have the option to collaborate with the team, at least not in the free or basic paid options. 

You can make data charts and tables in a single slide and create an interactive dashboard for your investors.

Visme’s interface is user friendly and it’s easy to use. It also offers charts and data widgets in the paid plans. Paid users also get 24/7 customer support.            

The key drawbacks of Visme are the limited storage even in the paid options and the high price for the business plan compared to the features you get.

It has one free and three paid plans – basic ($15/ month), business ($29/ month), and enterprise (custom pricing). But the basic one has such limited features that it’s not worth the price they ask for.

3. Canva Review

Canva is a multi-purpose tool that you can use to create logos, social media posts, ads, investor deck designs and presentations.

It’s mainly a graphic design platform but has a lot more to offer than just that. You can use it to create a stunning presentation within a few hours.

It has multiple industry-specific templates that are 100% customizable. So you can adjust the background color or image, upload a brand logo or create one on the spot, and add charts or data.

Canva is easy to use. You can pick it up quickly and start using it right away to make your presentation.

Its mobile app deserves a special mention. You can use it to create a pitch deck from scratch or make quick edits. It has the option of uploading images directly from the phone gallery which saves time.

After testing it for some time, we believe that Canva has everything you need to create a simple pitch deck quickly and effortlessly.  You can add collaborators even in the free versions and present the pitch deck directly from the platform.

The downsides are the limited storage with the free version and that the mobile app doesn’t have all the features of the desktop version.   

Also, while you’re working on a design it’s only stored in the platform’s own storage and not in your local file storage. That means you could lose access to your designs if the website goes down or you suddenly lose internet connection.

This could be terrible if you’re editing a design right before a meeting and then it doesn’t load when it’s time to present. 

4. Piktochart Review

Piktochart is a great pitch deck creator tool for rookie designers. You have access to several customizable templates to make your presentation along with graphics and animations to make it visually appealing.   

The platform also gives you tips on how to proceed and make your business pitch deck unique.

Its range of data charts and maps is also an admirable feature. You can use it to translate your data and growth figures into stunning charts for your investors

By linking it to your excel sheet, Piktochart will automatically update the charts in the presentation thus saving your time.

You can use this pitch deck tool on Windows, Chromebook and Mac desktops but it doesn’t support mobile devices. They offer customer support through email, live desk and chat or you can read the FAQ section which offers detailed answers to common problems users face.

All in all, this was a great platform to use and we created a few different mock pitch decks with amazing visuals. It’s easy to use and offers more storage in the free and paid plans than Canva or Visme.

The cons are that there are limited features for collaboration. You have to pay per user which can get expensive if you’ve got more than one founder and you need to buy memberships for each of them.

Some other limitations include a small gallery of charts and graphics. You can also not edit small sections of text and have to redo the entire block if you need to make a change. These small limitations add up when you’re trying to edit a presentation quickly. 

The dashboard interface can be tricky to navigate for some users. It’s great for infographics but has limitations for creating sophisticated pitch decks.

5. Slidebean Review

Slidebean is designed to help small business owners and other professionals create amazing investor decks designs with zero background experience in designing.

It has many customizable templates for creating business pitch decks and a massive media library. You can create data dashboards in Slidebean and then manually import your data from the source.

A great feature it offers is presentation analytics. You can use it to check how many views your presentation got, how many slides are viewed on average, and how long it takes investors to complete the slideshow.

You can also use Slidebean to present the pitch deck offline and share the screen for virtual webinars. It offers collaboration features to edit with your team and share updates.

The cons are that the interface is not user-friendly. For instance, clicking once during the presentation of your business pitch deck will move only one element instead of one slide. This drags the slideshow and wastes time if you’ve got a few different elements in the slide such as a table, graph and text box.

Plus, the paid versions are much more expensive than other pitch deck tools, especially for non-frequent users. The customer support can be slow sometimes and it doesn’t have a lot of storage or mobile access. 

There are several limitations to uploading your brand images and videos as well. For instance, you have to upload the video to either Vimeo or YouTube before you can add it to your pitch deck. That makes the UI a bit less impressive than what other tools offer. 

6. OnePager Review

OnePager gives you a platform to create business pitch decks that are much more than simple PDFs or presentations. 

It’s a place to store all your fundraising information. Here, you can add links to your website, social media channels or other platforms that you’re on so that investors can conveniently look them over.    

This pitch deck creator tool is easy to use and has an excellent UI. On OnePager, you’re not restricted by any format or template. You can arrange your business plan, founder profiles and financial information charts in whatever way you want.

There is a dedicated section to show your fundraising progress as well. You can update your pitch deck anytime and the updated pages will show for your investors with whom you’ve shared the link. That saves you from having to resend the link again if some information changes.     

Another great feature is that you control who has access to your pitch deck. The tool also offers analytics like most of the other tools on this list. You can know how people are interacting with your pitch deck, what links they’re visiting and how much time they spend on your pitch deck.

All things considered, this is a great platform to use if you’re looking for a unique pitch deck. The only downside in our opinion is the lack of a CRM.

7. Beautiful.ai Review

This pitch deck creator offers 75+ slide templates to make presentations. So you can use it to create unique investor deck designs. These are customizable and the slides automatically adjust as you add charts and text boxes.

While that’s a great feature if you have limited elements in the slide, it can also be a downside because the content will keep rearranging automatically as you add animations or bullet lists.

Beautiful.ai is easy to pick up since the templates are ready to go and you just need to add specific information. However, it doesn’t offer CRM access so you have to copy and paste or drag & drop the data in your presentation.        

You can add collaborators and edit together in real-time. Beautiful.ai also offers analytics tools so you can determine how many views your business pitch deck is getting.

Another great feature is that you can present your pitch deck directly on Zoom.

The biggest drawbacks of Beautiful.ai in our opinion are the limitations in offline features. And the fact that it only works on the web – not on Android or iOS.

You can’t add videos or audio in offline mode. Also, some of the graphics can get misplaced when you export the presentation to PowerPoint.  

This platform is not suitable if you want to present a lot of data in your pitch deck. That’s because none of the templates has a good enough dashboard to showcase data.

Plus adding data into the tables can be time-consuming since it currently only has the copy-paste option. 

8. Google Slides Review

Google Slides is a user-friendly presentation tool, but a bit basic. It offers 23 customizable themes – one of the smallest ranges as compared to the other tools in this list.

So although you have plenty of options to create a business pitch deck, chances are that you’ll still need to add several animations and graphics from outside sources to make your presentation unique.

Google Slides has excellent collaboration tools and offers cloud storage. You can access it on the web, Android app or iOS app so it’s great for editing and reviewing your pitch deck on the go.

It has an incredible user interface which makes it easy to use. If you’ve used PowerPoint or any other presentation tool before, then you won’t have any trouble working on Google Slides. In case you need user support, you can reach the Google Slides team through chat.

There are a few different built-in options to create an automated data dashboard in Google Slides. Or you can get unique dashboards styles from third parties and add them to your Google Slides presentation. 

You can also use it as a fundraising CRM. That way you can compile, review and track investors’ data. But since Google Slides isn’t intended to be used as a CRM, there are limitations.

There are restrictions on editing images. For instance, you can’t change the resolution of the images in Slides. Also, the fonts are limited to what Google offers and adding your brand animations can be a time-consuming task. 

9. Prezi Review

Prezi is a great pitch deck creator tool with over 200 unique customizable templates – several of which are designed specifically as data dashboards. This is a great feature if your presentation has lots of figures and numbers and you need to make them look visually stunning.

The presentation transition style in Prezi is unique. It feels like you’re zooming in and out to focus on the different slides, which can make your pitch deck stand out.

It offers a free trial with limited features but no free plan. You get a range of collaboration and presentation options in the paid versions that start from $14/month. Prezi can run on the web and has apps for both Android and iOS devices.

Prezi analytics gives you data on who viewed your presentation based on the links you send to potential investors. It also tells you how long they viewed it and how many times it was reopened by the same person.

Despite all the great features, this tool crashes a lot. It resizes images and text. Its instability is a risk so you need to have a backup in PPT or PDF.

Some of its features are hard to figure out so it’s not the easiest to use. But you can get customer support through email, phone, chat and the FAQ section.

The bottom line is that Prezi is a great pitch deck creator – but only if you have the time to learn its features. You also need a stable internet connection to present your pitch deck with this tool.

10. Sketch Deck Review

SketchDeck is a pitch deck creator that is different from all the other sites mentioned in our list. Here, a professional team creates the presentation for you.

You provide the content and discuss your goals. Then SketchDeck delivers a customized pitch deck in one or two days.

They have several pre-designed templates that are 100% customizable to fit your exact needs. The best feature of SketchDeck templates is that they are developed by expert designers.

The company has a long history of working with big and small businesses. So these templates are designed by keeping in mind what founders need in their pitch decks.

Because these are made by designers and for businesses, SketchDeck templates have excellent data dashboard slides. You can present as much information as you need to and the team will create a stunning dashboard.

The user interface is great as well. There are tools to collaborate with the design team and other members at your startup. This pitch deck tool is ideal for you if you have zero experience in creating a pitch deck and don’t have the time to test a new tool.

By using this site to create your business pitch deck, you can be certain that it’ll be unique and on-brand, that the graphics will be of high resolution and you won’t have to do any formatting or resizing.

The price of creating a pitch deck with SketchDeck is significantly higher than all other tools we’ve covered above. It starts from $3,500 and can go higher if you ask for additional designs or services. 

Final Verdict

All the sites we’ve reviewed above have great features and are widely used by business owners. But you need to decide which one is the best pitch deck tool for you based on your requirements and priorities.

Here are our top picks of sites to create business pitch decks. We’ve divided them into six categories to help you choose: 

Best Pitch Deck Creator for Customizable Templates

Canva is the best pitch deck tool in terms of the range of customizable templates. Here, you have access to thousands of industry-specific templates even in the free version.

You can select the best pitch deck template according to your needs. Then customize it with imported brand images and fonts or with the graphics offered by Canva. 

Top Data Dashboard Interface

SketchDeck has the best data dashboard in all the pitch deck creator tools. It gives you a great interface to add figures to your slides without overwhelming the investors or cramming too much information. 

Since you have access to experienced designers here, you can ask them to modify the dashboard template to be exactly how you need it to be. 

Easiest to Use

Google Slides is by far the easiest to use. That’s because it has a user-friendly interface and it’s a lot like PowerPoint. Google also gives you a quick tutorial of its features when you first use Slides.

Options for collaboration, presentation, downloading or editing the file are built-in and super convenient to use. You can quickly create captivating business pitch decks with this tool. 

Ultimate Support and Range of Digital Requirements

Prezi takes the lead in the ultimate support category. It offers multiple channels for users to ask for support. These include email, FAQs, phone support and live chat features. 

You can use this pitch deck tool on Mac or Windows desktop. It also has Android and iOS apps for editing and viewing your presentation.                  

Best Value for Your Money

Apple Keynote offers you the best value for your money. That’s because you get unique features such as live video integration in the presentation and stunning animations.

There are many advanced features such as extensive collaboration tools, presentation options and offline access. All users have the same set of features since it’s free and doesn’t restrict features behind a paywall. These features make it one of the best pitch deck tools.

 

Comparing Top 10 Site for Creating Business Pitch Decks

 

Customizable templates

Data Dashboard Interface

Ease of Use

User- Support

Free plan

Price

Apple Keynote

★★★★☆ 

Visme

★★★★☆

Starts from $15/mo

Canva

★★★★☆

Starts from $119.9/year

Piktochart

★★★★☆

Starts from $14/mo

Slidebean

★★★☆☆

Starts from $8/mo

One Pager

 

 

★★★☆☆

 

Starts from $14/mo

Beautiful.ai

★★★★☆

Starts from $12/mo

Google Slides

★★★★★

       

Prezi

★★★☆☆

Starts from $14/mo

Sketch Deck

       

Starts from $1,500

 

Common Questions

Business owners and startup founders often have a bunch of questions when they first set out to create a pitch deck. If you’re one of them, then this section will help clarify a few points for you. 

1- How much does a pitch deck cost?

The cost of developing a pitch deck varies widely. The key factor that affects the cost is whether you’re making the presentation yourself or outsourcing it to professional designers.

If you’re making it yourself then you can do that for as little as $8/mo membership of a business pitch deck creator tool. Or you could pay over $5000 to hire designers and strategists to develop your pitch deck.

2- Investor deck vs pitch deck – what’s the difference?

For one, an investor deck is not a pitch. You send it to a potential investor to secure a meeting or to give a teaser of your pitch deck ahead of the presentation.

The investor deck is a document that resembles the pitch deck because it outlines your company’s vision, revenue sources, market opportunities and business plan. But it generally includes more words than visuals.

It’s designed to be read by the investors without you having to present or translate the information for them.

3- What is a business pitch?

A business pitch is a presentation that founders of a business give to potential investors. It could be in the form of an email, elevator pitch or a pitch deck presentation. The term is mostly associated with startups.

It’s essentially a summary of your business plan, market opportunity and how your product solves a problem for the users.

The purpose of a pitch is usually to get funding for the business. It can also be used for increasing brand awareness and selling products.

4- What should an investor pitch deck include?

It should include everything that a potential investor should know to get excited about investing in your business.

That could mean your mission and vision, background on the founders and the team, the problem and how your product/service can solve it, the target audience and your current numbers such as sales and projected revenue. 

5- What is a one-pager pitch deck?

A one-pager pitch deck is exactly what the name indicates. It’s the most concise form of a business pitch that you can put in front of investors.  It includes your unique business plan and strategy.   

Condensing your business pitch in one page doesn’t mean that you should fill it with information. This page should only include the most critical data and statements that can pique the investor’s interest to learn more about your business. 

You’ll find many one-pager ideas in the various pitch deck site’s templates.

6- How do you maintain your pitch deck with updated data?

You can maintain your business pitch deck by regularly going back to it and updating the data. PowerPoint offers a great feature where your charts in the slides are updated with one click if you’ve linked them to an excel sheet.

If you’re not using PowerPoint then you can manually update the charts and tables with updated data.

Maintaining your pitch deck should be a priority for all startup founders even when they’re not actively fundraising.  It keeps you on top of your game and you can immediately present your pitch if an opportunity pops up.

7- What are investors looking for to evaluate a pitch deck?

Here’re the top five things investors look for in your presentation. Most of the best pitch decks include these points:

  1. Introduction to the problem.
  2. The product/service idea and how it solves the problem. 
  3. The founders’ background
  4. Your business strategy
  5. Financial data and projections. 

8- How does a pitch deck creator help me tell the story?

Pitch deck creators have ready-made customizable templates that outline how you should tell your story to investors. This can help you in case you don’t know what you should be including in the pitch deck or how you can create excitement around the business idea.              

Some pitch deck creators also have experts who are great storytellers. They can help you shape your pitch deck in the most compelling way to hook the investors.

9- What mistakes do I need to look out for?

The biggest mistakes founders make are either filling the pitch deck with too much information or too little. 

If you’re giving the presentation in person, then don’t make your investors read the slides and listen to you. For that, you should use graphics and images in the slides and use your words to tell them the story.

But if you’re sending the investor deck via email then you should include paragraphs for the context of the images and charts.

10- How much training do I need before I use these tools?

You don’t really need any training for using pitch deck creator tools. These operate much like MS Word and PowerPoint combined.

So you can simply drag and drop animations, images and graphics where you need to. Then add the data in charts from your excel sheets and click save to see it all come together.  

The tools that offer unique features might require some training. But these are generally quite straightforward and you can pick them up in a few minutes or an hour or so. 

11- How do I include my own charts and infographics?

You can either copy-paste or drag and drop your own charts and infographics in your pitch deck. You might face an issue if the format is incompatible with the tool you’re using. So you’ll have to convert it before adding the charts or graphics to your slides.

12- What media format is best? Should I include a video in a pitch deck?

The best media format for your pitch deck depends on how you’re pitching. Presentations with pictures and graphics are suitable for an in-person business pitch where you can complement the slides with your words.

Whereas a more paragraph style presentation is suitable for an email.

You can also include a video in your pitch deck. Investors find it much easier to watch a video than to read a presentation. So a video pitch deck can set you apart and show your passion more clearly.

The Main Stage offers a variety of areas for video and an enhanced media experience. These features are easy to use so you can make amazing videos even with no experience in designing or filming. 

That can improve the quality of your pitch and help you leave a great first impression on potential investors.

13- How do I then connect with investors once I have a pitch deck?

Networking is the best way to connect with angel investors and VCs.

You can send investors an email with your elevator or investor pitch and a compelling introduction. Or you can participate in startup events and conferences and approach investors there.

Once an investor shows an interest in your business, you can then share your pitch deck with them. You can also implement your pitch deck into an investor communication platform such as The Main Stage. And then invite investors to view it there. Such platforms allow you to communicate with investors and share updates in a simplified and efficient way. 

14- Should I be using social media to share the pitch deck?

Preferably not. It is actually illegal to solicit investments on social media unless your investment is registered under a specific regulation. The reason behind this is that social media provides opportunities to fraudsters.

15- Why are business pitches important?

Business pitches are important because these help investors’ understand the potential in your business. And thus help you in securing more investments.

It also helps you find long-term partners, recruit employees and gives you a bird’s eye view of your business plans and trajectory.

The Main Stage – Much More Than A Traditional Pitch Deck 

The Main Stage is more than just a tool for creating pitch decks. It’s a platform where you can create video presentations and invite investors to view your pitch at their own time.

Once there, the potential investors can look over all your documents and related information for investing in your business.

Not only that but our Data Vault, CRM and the Story Vault features add value to the pitch deck and increase investor engagement tenfold. We guide new users on how to use our video tools to shoot amazing videos that can engage investors in the business plan.

The data dashboard on the site is an amazing feature you won’t find in other tools. And the interface is easy to use as well. Founders can upload the business financial documents in the dashboard that investors can view.

There is another dashboard for storing investors’ data after the investment. This data includes communications, details of the investment, progress reports and much more.  

A unique feature of The Main Stage is the advanced CRM (customer relationship management) system. You can store investors’ information here, get analytics on your pitch deck and maintain communication with potential investors through this software.

The pricing is another thing that’s great about our tool. The sites’ starter plan costs $49/month – which is a steal considering all the amazing features you get.

Our Vision for the Future of Business Pitch Decks

At The Main Stage, we intend to revolutionize the way founders interact with investors during fundraising.

We believe that impressing the investors with a great story is only the first step of fundraising. You need to keep them engaged with your business even after they’ve invested.

That’s why we offer The Investor Dashboard where investors can log in to see updates, communicate with the founders and track progress. Our invite-only story vault lets your investors hear your pitch in a much more interactive way than what a traditional presentation can offer.

Check out our home page to learn more about how all of our amazing features come together to give you one of the best platforms for bringing your company’s story in front of investors.