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

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.

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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, 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.