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99 Problems but a pitch ain’t one – top VCs and investors on the secrets of a perfect pitch

pitch part 1

This summer Europe is bursting with opportunities to pitch your startup idea and if you've managed to bag some stage time at a pitch event or got an investor's ear for a minute or two, the last thing you want to do is blow your chance with a weak or just plain crazy pitch.

In Part 1 of our series, VentureVillage has picked the brains of some of the top business experts and insightful VCs that were among the first to see the magic of businesses such as Soundcloud, and Dawanda to discover their ultimate pitch turn-ons...

Read on for the secrets of pitch success.


Max NiederhoferMax Niedehofer

Max is VP at Accel Partners focusing on consumer internet, mobile, gaming and SaaS. He has previously worked with portfolio companies such as Seatwave, DailyMotion, Zoopla and MOO and was an angel investor in

Be concise Have a succinct way of summarizing your business.

Be passionate Have a good reason why you are doing this business and why employee #20 would join your company over a Google or Facebook.

Be deep We get lots of handwaving about the size of the opportunity and that we need to move fast now. It's much better if you know in-depth facts about the industry, understand competitive CPC/CPA and your own unit economics.

Pawel ChudzinskiPawel Chudzinski

Pawel is co-founder of Point Nine Capital and previous co-founder of Team Europe, where he led investment activities. Investments include StyleSeat, Madvertise and Dawanda.

Use visuals But not more than a few, say 10 slides.

Focus on the problem Why is what you do important and is it really a big problem.

Mention others who address this problem Never hide competition, people will find out anyway.

stefan tirteyStefan Tirtey

Stefan is a partner at Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures, specialising in early-stage VC. He is an investor in and board member of Soundcloud and mentor at Seedcamp.

Remember The purpose of the first meeting is to get the second meeting and embark on a process.

Get your opening statement right It is pivotal. Capture your audience’s attention and imagination early on in the meeting. Tell the group what you do, what problem you solve, and help the audience understand why this can be massively valuable businesses and do it in a way that creates an “emotional journey” for the audience.

Do intros, but keep them short and relevant! Sometimes it is a good idea to let the CEO introduce his team. Remember that the VC is looking for experience, vision, passion, integrity, skill, commitment, and realism. Be careful in deciding who to bring to the meeting. Sometimes the CEO is enough. If you bring your time, make sure the pitch is well understood by everybody and minutely orchestrated.

Be cautious of time If you have been given one hour, then prepare slides for 30 minutes. Rehearse. Keep your slides to a bare minimum. You want the audience to listen, not read your slides. They can’t do both.

Handle questions professionally Listen carefully and answer to the point. Don’t ever be defensive. Sometimes confidence is expressed in your ability to concede that not everything is known and that risks do exist (and you understand them).

A tiny dose of humor can be refreshing 

olaf jacobiOlaf Jacobi

Olaf has over 18 years of experience as a manager, entrepreneur and business angel. He is a partner at Target Partners. In the past Olaf has invested as a business angel in young IT and internet ventures.

Brief If a founder takes too long to explain his business case something must be wrong with it. A founder should have the ability to describe his business model and technology briefly and precisely. The following guidance questions are helpful: What do I actually offer? Who is my target group? For what price am I selling? How and why should someone buy my product or service?

Complete Despite the brevity all necessary points must be adressed and answered entirely.

Interesting "Interesting" does not mean "death by Powerpoint", but rather that founders should present and elaborate their case in an interesting way.

ingo drexlerIngo Drexler

Ingo is VP and Executive Board Member at Mountain Super Angel AG.

Clear description of the business model.

Its uniqueness, potential and entry barriers regarding competitors.

Proven ability of the management team to execute its visions.


nico richterNico Richter – Venture Stars

Nico is Venture Manager at Venture Stars and responsible for founding and supporting startups in the first few months, as well as spotting a great idea when pitched to him.

Value for the customer - build solutions for real world problems Identify the problems your customers have and try to solve them. Only this will lead to a sustaining business model.

Show off your market size – bigger IS better Size matters. If your market is not big enough, let your company grow over a certain size in revenues (eg €20m). Show your potential, but investors are more interested in the bottom-up approach: based on a number of users, a certain size of transaction and a return rate. It's definitely better than claiming a 1% market share of a 10bn market.

Be better than the others! Why are you better than your competitors? Expert knowledge, patents or intellectual property, exclusive partnerships – show your competitive advantage!

Less is more! Be short. Be precise. Focus on the most important facts. If your audience (in this case investors) doesn't get your concept in a short time span, they won't be convinced that customers will.

lindaLinda Dannenberg – eVenture Capital Partners

Linda is an Associate at eVenture, a VC company specialising in internet consumer and digital media, who are always on the lookout for “fearless internet entrepreneurs”

Many people say that a founder/investor relationship is similar to a marriage. So, what would be the most important things you would want to convince a lifelong partner of upfront? You have to show the best of you and impress us as an investor. From our point of view, you should prepare to score in these areas:

TEAM: Convince us that you’re the perfect team. As a founder you should demonstrate that you and your co-founders have the skills and qualifications to take your idea off the ground and attract more of the right people to scale the business.

PASSION:  Show us that you are convinced of your business idea and that you are the most ambitious person/team on this planet to realize it and conquer the market.

ENDURANCE: Demonstrate that you are flexible and still willing to learn. Being convinced of your business is not enough to succeed: You might have to continuously adapt your idea to the market conditions and have to be open for business model pivoting, because that might help pushing your success even further.

Coming soon – successful CEOs and public speakers give their top tips for the perfect pitch

Olaf, Ingo, Nico and Linda are just some of the 40 internationally renowned investors that will be attending the Heureka! Conference's Speed Pitching event.

Get your ticket now for Berlin's exclusive Web conference with a focus on ideas and implementation and to mingle with the Web elite today to discuss the issues of tomorrow!

Heureka! facts
• Location: Energieforum, Stralauer Platz 34, 10243 Berlin
• Date: Monday, 7 May 2012
• Price for startups and students: Early Bird: €149 + VAT. Standard: €249 + VAT.
• Price for VCs, service providers and agencies: Early Bird: €449+ VAT. Standard: €799 + VAT

Image credit: memegenerator

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