How To Make Your Entrepreneurial Pitch Perfect

Slay your presentation, collect the bags of startup cash.

16/08/2016 7:20 AM AEST | Updated 16/08/2016 7:21 AM AEST
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Yes! This is how you want all your small business pitch presentations to end up.

You don't need fancy pyrotechnics, showtunes or a cameo from Rebel Wilson to impress competition judges or potential investors if you're an entrepreneur pitching for dosh.

But you do need a killer idea, self-confidence and a good dollop of financial nous to make your commercial or social enterprise appealing.

Co-founder of ThankYou Daniel Flynn says it's a tough market for entrepreneurs looking for funding, even for social enterprises which make profits for good.

"There are so many ideas out there," he told The Huffington Post Australia. "It's crowded, it's flooded, the whole market, even the social space right now -- everyone is running in so you've got to stand out."

Thankyou co-founder Daniel Flynn said your pitch needs passion to stand out in a crowded market.

For Flynn, whose business profits gives disadvantaged people across the globe access to sanitation and clean water, and now assists new mothers in Nepal, the key ingredient is passion.

"You've got to make whoever you are talking to feel something -- and you can't fake it," he said.

"You've got to be authentic and the use of story is very powerful -- stories that evoke emotions and passion."

Cheryl Mack, general manager of Sydney event StartCon, says entrepreneurs just need to keep it simple -- you don't need to be a showman.

"The guys who pitched Twitter, their social skills were very limited and investors understand that sometimes the best entrepreneurs and founders aren't necessarily the most sociable or socially-apt people," she told HuffPost Australia. "What they're looking at is your model, your execution, your plan and your strategy and how you'll generate money."

Cheryl Mack, general manager of Sydney event StartCon, has some pretty comprehensive tips for pitchers.

The StartCon pitching competition last year attracted 75 entrants and this year organisers expect even greater numbers with $150,000 in products and prizes. Thanks to a new partnership with the Startup World Cup, the winner will be flown to San Francisco to represent Australia in the grand final to compete for a whopping $US1 million in investment bounty.

So, in order to find out what really makes a pitch perfect, we asked Mack for her top pitching tips from an investors' point of view, and picked up some advice from the winners of the recent Optus Future Makers competition for which Flynn was a judge.

1. Get to the point quickly

"Make sure that investors know straight away what you do and they are not left playing a guessing game halfway through the pitch," said Mack. "Think of it as your elevator pitch."

2. Be clear on how you will make money

"Most companies will have one major revenue stream and you shouldn't be listing a litany of potential ways that you could possibly make money," she said.

3. Why you and your team will make this happen

"Ideas are a dime a dozen -- it's all about execution," Mack said. "You can pretty much be sure that if you thought of that idea a dozen other people have thought it, pitched, it, tried it. So your job isn't to prove that your idea is awesome, it's to prove you are the one who will be able to execute it better than anyone else."

When pitching for funds, whether through a competition or directly to investors, you need to be crystal clear on how your idea will make money.

4. Know how much you need to get through the Valley of Debt

"If you do need to raise money, make sure you are raising enough so that you can get to the next demonstrable milestone in the value of the company," she said. "That could be signing your first big company or achieving a certain revenue."

5. Know your market and be ready to be quizzed

"If your startup is going to sell a platform for brides to book their venues, then you better be the world's expert on brides, weddings, venues and more before going into that room," she said. "Investors will be impressed by founders who can confidently and accurately answer questions about their market."

6. Prove the model

"Find a way to prove the concept works -- even if it's on a small scale."

7. Know who you're pitching to

"A common mistake that startups make when pitching for money is asking for too little," she said. "Think about it from an investor's perspective -- a venture capital fund will only make money if one of the company's investments ends up being worth more than the entire fund. If you ask a $100 million fund for $100,000 and you do the math on that, that investment couldn't possibly return what they need."

Your job isn't to prove that your idea is awesome, it's to prove you are the one who will be able to execute it better than anyone else.

8. Make sure every dollar is positive for return on investment

"Investors want scaleable strategies where they can clearly see that every dollar they put in, they will generate more than a dollar coming out. So you don't want to ask for more money just for the sake of asking for more money, you need to prove every dollar will be ROI positive."

9. Keep VCs updated and follow through

"The best investor-startup relationships I've seen are the ones where the founder has started the relationship early," she said. "Ask the investor for a coffee, update them on your progress every three months. If you can actually prove you're going to follow through on the things you say you're going to do, it proves you are the team that can make that idea happen."

10. What not to do

"Don't think that your product is going to be the next Uber for ice-cream or the next Airbnb for dog houses -- they have heard it before and it sounds tacky," she said. "You're better off to simply state what you do well or what problem you're going to solve.

"Don't finish your pitch with 'well if you don't like this one I have seven other ideas I can do instead.' It shows a lack of passion and focus for the project."

Here, several winning contestants from the recent Optus Future Makers competition reveal how they prepared their killer pitches to win $50,000 each to start or scale-up their social enterprises.

Marita Cheng, 2Mar Robotics

2Mar Robotics founder Marita Cheng designed an interactive robot for children in hospital to still attend school virtually. She has done a lot of public speaking so doesn't get super nervous but she still rehearses -- a lot.

"I like to practice a speech at least 20 to 30 times," she told HuffPost Australia.

"And also try to think about the audience -- will they understand what you're talking about, how can you bring them along on the journey so they don't get lost? So don't use complex words, don't try to muddle them, just keep it really simple."

Robotics guru Marita Cheng says you need to keep it simple and avoid using too many technical terms.

Marina Paronetto, Biz App

Marina Paronetto had a secret trick before successfully pitching Biz, her app to encourage schoolgirls to become more entrepreneurial.

"You go to a private place and do a very funny version of your pitch just for yourself," she said. "Do some funny poses and make yourself look silly -- that way you bring some humour, you're relaxed,and it really brings down some of that 'freeze' that you'll say the wrong word or forget things."

Marina Paronetto's advice is to practice a silly-billy pitch first to relax yourself.

Colin Jowell, Guide Dots

On stage Guide Dots' Colin Jowell is confident and seemingly seamless, but inside he's a bundle of nerves. But his trick is to imagine the best-case scenario.

"I learned through this process that trying to make myself un-nervous and pretend that I am going to love the experience is an exercise in futility," he said.

"Anxiety is caused by imagining a future and imagining it going wrong and you create a memory and you bring it back to the present. And so I imagined a different future where I was really successful.

"You also need to rehearse so much that it is no longer reading from the script -- you're no longer thinking about all the words; you're telling the story. If you get to that point you've got it made."

Rehearse until you're telling an authentic and engaging story, says winner Colin Jowell.

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