Topic 12. Master Your Pitch

Your pitch is your moment to shine. How can you inform and entertain while still communicating and reinforcing the belief that you are a low-risk high-return investment for this investor. You need to show that you know your audience, that your data supports your work, and that you are the right team for the job.


What's Included in this Guide:

1. Entrepreneurs Suck at Pitching

2. Make Your Introduction Interesting

3. Demonstrate What You Sell

4. Show Me the Money

5. Stick the Landing

Let's get started
Part 1.

Entrepreneurs Suck at Pitching

For all the effort entrepreneurs put in to understand their audience, solve their customer’s problem, and build a compelling business, it seems almost impossible that they would make a terrible pitch. And yet it happens all the time to most entrepreneurs. The purpose of this video is to give you an overview of how to build and deliver an effective pitch so you can get a meeting with an investor.

Nicole Glaros is a partner at Techstars. She’s is an entrepreneur and mentored, supported, and invested in entrepreneurs for over 15 years. Nicole co-founded a tech startup that retailed products to the property management industry. It was there she developed her lifelong passion for supporting tech entrepreneurs. She’s been with Techstars since its earliest days, and instrumental in its growth from one office in Boulder, CO to a global powerhouse, featuring investment offices in 18 cities worldwide, events in over 500 cities globally, with $265M in capital under management and a market cap of over $5B. Through Techstars she’s invested in over 90 startups, most of which she still supports to this day.

Nicole has listened to thousands of pitches over her 15 years of entrepreneurship and helped startups develop their elevator pitch to attract customers and investors.

What you’ll learn:

How to prepare your audience, deliver what investors care about in a pitch, and begin to build out the four sections of a pitch

One of the keys to delivering an effective pitch is knowing your audience. And for entrepreneurs, preparing for a pitch competition or Demo Day, means the ultimate goal of the pitch is to get meetings with investors.

In order to suck less at pitching, start with knowing your audience, develop a pitch that entertains and impresses people, and gets them excited enough to want to meet with your team.

Be More Interesting Than Their Cell Phone

Depending on your audience, the pitch needs to be adjusted to meet that audience’s need.

For investors, your pitch needs to be more interesting than their cell phone. No really, what about your messaging is going to keep them off their cell phone and listen to you?

What Do They Really Care About?

Entrepreneurs spend too much time on the product and their story, and don’t spend enough time convincing investors that they are going to lose out if they don’t put money into the company.

Simply said, investors want to know that if they are going to give you money and one day you will give them more money back. During your pitch, they are evaluating your entire pitch and figuring out how you are going to make them money. That’s it.

In the end, you need to adjust your messaging around what your audience cares about.

The Goal Is to Get a Meeting

Now that you’ve figured out your audience, the goal of the pitch is to get a meeting!

At the end of a competition or Demo Day, investors aren’t going to write a check on the spot, your goal is to get them excited enough from your pitch that they want to come up to you after the pitch to set up a meeting. You’re only going to do that by entertaining and impressing them!

Remember: while an investor’s job is to listen to pitches, you can help them turn on their listening ears by entertaining and impressing them. We’ll help you get there...

4 Sections of Your Pitch

The four sections of a pitch include: Intro, Demo, Biz Stuff and Landing.

For an average five minute pitch, the following graphic illustrates how much time you should spend in each section.

The Intro – 1 min

The Demo – about 2-3 min

The Biz Stuff – about 1-1.5 min

The Landing – about 30 seconds


Fine tune your pitch deck through the self-guided exercises HERE.

Part 2.

Make Your Introduction Interesting

When pitching your business to investors, in less than 30 seconds you have to introduce yourself, build credibility, define the problem, and make the audience care. This video walks you through strategies to help you grab the attention and capture the heart and mind of the investor.


What you’ll learn:

How to capture an investor’s attention in 30 seconds and keep them engaged.

The introduction section is the first 30 seconds of the pitch where you are competing for an investor’s attention. If you don’t grab it, expect them to pick up their cell phone and half listen or ignore you completely.

No really, the introduction is where you must be so interesting that the investor chooses to ignore the buzzing in the pocket, the latest push notification, text, email...whatever it is.

If you get in the mindset that you are competing against all of these distractions, then your messaging will become more engaging and entertaining. Because if you lose their attention, it’ll be hard to impossible to get it back.


You Have 30-60 Seconds

Within 30-60 seconds you need to accomplish the following:

  • Introduce yourself and your brand

  • Establish credibility

  • Illuminate the problem

Before you start writing your introduction, think about how you can bring the audience to you by answering these questions:

  • How you can make this introduction personal to the audience?

  • How might you visualize the customer, their problem, and your solution for this audience?

  • And how might you use language, sounds, and visuals to engage the senses of this audience?

Now that we have your brain working, here are some ideas on how to kick off the introduction of you and your brand:

  • Start with an interesting fact

  • Start with a personal story

  • Contradict conventional wisdom

  • Make them laugh

  • Plant a fear

Establishing Credibility

  • Set up some baseline credibility

  • Give them a reason to pay attention

Illuminate the problem

  • Identify what is valuable to customers

  • Explain why investors should care

  • Explain why the customer should care

  • Don’t just let them hear the problem, make them feel your solution

And all of this has to be so interesting that an investor continues to pay attention. There’s a high likelihood that an investor has heard your business before and you’re going to have to figure out how to stay head and shoulders above of everyone who’s pitched before you about your type of business.

Nicole recommends spending 75 percent of your time getting this intro right, because if you don’t, none of what you say in your pitch after that matters - people will check out and tune out and you won’t get it back.


Here are some examples of two startups that went through a Techstars Accelerator program and used different techniques to capture the audience’s attention based on their product.

Using a Story or Metaphor

Keen.io | Techstars Boulder Accelerator

Watch Keen’s demo here

Keen provides custom analytics backend for modern developer. Keen is a very technical product and initially the founders had a hard time explaining what they do to investors, gaining traction, and more, so they decided to explain their product through telling a story and using a metaphor.

This demo illustrates how the audience learned something, their attention was captured, and how they using storytelling and a metaphor to explain their product. And what was buried in that story was the huge opportunity in the market. What they made the investors think about was  how many companies have mobile applications and the amount of data companies can use to learn more about customers.

Twist the Knife

ScriptPad | Techstars Boulder Accelerator

Watch ScriptPad’s demo here

Scriptpad transforms the iPhone or iPad into a digital prescription pad, enabling doctors to write prescriptions faster and safer than their current paper process. In this example, the founder of ScriptPad uses our technique called “Twist the Knife,” which emotionally impacts the audience with their solution and makes them feel the pain of the problem.

Through examples, he shows the audience again and again, how important the problem it is, the audience feels the pain and fear of the problem and opportunity to save people, and your own family, from the danger hand-written prescriptions and realize the importance of digital prescriptions.

Fine tune your pitch deck through the self-guided exercises HERE.


Part 3.

Demonstrate What You Sell

This is a game of show, not tell. How might you show how you will make your customers’ problem go away? In this part you will see how to show your investor audience the strengths of your business, your vision, and most importantly—how they will make money.


What you’ll learn:

How to leverage the demo part of your pitch and show investors how you’ll make them money and why your company is better than the competition.

Too many startups stand up on stage and tell the audience what they do to the point where the audience has to imagine what the product actually does - instead show them! The demo portion of the pitch is about selling investors on your vision and how you’ll make them money.

The demo is an opportunity to show investors the strengths of your business, how you’ll make them money, how you’re better than the competition, etc., by leveraging the power of visuals storytelling. This portion should last two to three minutes max.


The Two Main Features

For a five minute pitch, you don’t have time to “tell” the investors all the different features of your business. Realistically, they are only going to remember the top two or three features and how they felt about the product. This means your presentation deck needs to deliver a succinct message about what it is you do, the top benefits, solution, and how you’ll make money.

Visual Aids

Showing your “how” means delivering a simple, clean and easy message using visual aids that sell your company’s vision, highlight your top features, illustrate how you’ll make investors money, and explain the future of your business. Each visual aid needs to have as few words as possible and gets to the point.

If you have parts of your business/product that don’t exist today, but it’s part of your vision, then include a slide about “where we are today and where we’re going,” at the end of your deck.

Building Your Deck

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you build your presentation deck:

  • Who are the primary customers/users and what primary problem are they facing?

  • How might you show how you will make that problem go away?

  • What are the strengths of your business?

  • How does this work make investors money?

  • What is your vision for the product, business, and relationship with the investors?

  • How can you show all of this as opposed to telling the audience this information?

The big takeaway from this section is to make your pitch deck a game of show, not tell.

Example of a founder’s pitch using visual storytelling

Jukely | Techstars New York City Accelerator

Jukely is subscription service for going to live music shows. Watch the founder of Jukely Bora Celik, leverage his demo to illustrate all the strengths of the business, the business model, customer acquisition strategies, how they will make money and how they are better than the competitors HERE.

Fine tune your pitch deck through the self-guided exercises HERE.


Part 4.

Show Me the Money

It’s imperative that you show the business side of your startup so that investors understand how much risk they would take on your business. This video will help you think through some of the information you need to provide so investors can feel more confident in your solution.


What you’ll learn:

How to effectively present the business side of your startup and help investors feel confident in the risk they’ll take on your company.

This section in your pitch is considered “the risk section” where investors evaluate their risk associated with your business. And all the information you present in this section is going to test the investor’s risk tolerance.

This section should only be 1-1 ½ minutes long. So, it’s critical to really drill down the message and show the business side in as few as words and as creatively as possible.


As mentioned in the Demonstrate What You Sell section, you want to “show” the investors the opportunity with your company. I recommend including the following components in “The Biz” section that will help investors become more confident in investing in your company.

Components of The Biz section

  • Market Size

During your pitch you want to find a way to communicate to investors that there is an opportunity in the market. If you don’t know the market size, because what you’re doing hasn’t been done before, you can still talk about it in creative ways.

    • Watch the founder of SendGrid (IPO) talk about his market size in a creative way HERE  

  • The Business Model & making money

One thing entrepreneurs forget to include is the pricing or a pathway to making money in their presentation. If investors can’t see a path to how you’ll make money, it’s going to be hard to convince them to take a risk on your company.

Some ways to communicate the pathway is through comparables - showing other companies that have been acquired or doing well in your market - or through various revenue options. However you get it done, you need to show that pathway to success and how an investor will eventually have an exit.

  • Differentiation

Entrepreneurs tend to want to talk about the competition and how they are different. While there might be a tendency to bash your competition, it’s better to focus on showing investors how you’re going to win in the market.

At the end of the day, investors don’t really care about the competition, they want to know how you’re going derisk their investment, become a winner in the market and beat your competition, and why you’re better.

Watch the founder of Dash talk about his differentiating factors in the market and why their product is better than the competition HERE.

  • Team

This section is an opportunity to be clever when talking about your team. If you’re creative talking about your team, the message you’re conveying to the audience is: imagine how creative we could be building a company and overcoming challenges.

    • Watch this example from founders of Next Big Sound (sold to Pandora) on how they got creative and captured investors HERE.

  • Timeline

Here you can leverage the opportunity to show your growth and accomplishments since the company was founded or within a particular timeframe.

The information you present could help the investor feel more comfortable about taking a risk on your company. Remember, investors want to invest in teams that can execute and your timeline slide could illustrate that point.

  • Traction

This is all about derisking the opportunity for the investor by putting some data around your progress and showing the investor your team can execute and perform.

Within the business section of your pitch deck, the more you can show investors the pathway to success, the more they can feel comfortable about showing you the money.

Fine tune your pitch deck through the self-guided exercises HERE.

Part 5.

Stick the Landing

You need to leave a great lasting impression. Leave your audience with a specific call-to-action. How might you leave investors feeling like you are confident? In this video, you will learn the importance of communicating the key strengths of you and your business so that you walk off stage leaving the best possible impression.

What you’ll learn:

How to optimize the last few minutes of your pitch and leave a lasting impression with investors

So many times entrepreneurs finish their pitch and rush off stage without taking the opportunity to create that lasting impression with investors. It’s here that you need to “Stick the Landing.”

Before you go on stage you have to mentally prepare yourself going into that pitch, that you are going to own it, and you are going to show complete confidence to the very end. Reason being if you feel awkward doing a pitch in front of investors and customers, and it shows on stage, it’ll be difficult for investors to believe you’re confident enough to do the hard things.

During this section, as you’re wrapping up your pitch, restate your top features and benefits and make a call-to-action.

Remember, the day you decided to become an entrepreneur is the day you decided to become sales people, so ask for something. You always need help with something, so ask. If anything just say, “If you’re interested in learning more about my company, come find me afterwards, I would love to answer your questions.”

Final Thoughts about Pitching

Delivery of your Pitch

“I’d rather watch D-level content with an A-level delivery than A-level content and a D-level delivery,” Nicole said.

As you’re practicing the delivery, it’s important to learn how to adjust your tone, speed of talking and gestures when delivering your pitch.

As an exercise, change up the different speeds during your pitch because certain parts of the content you may want to speed up the content delivery and show excitement, and other parts you may want to slow down for emphasis, or add in pauses and embrace the silence.

Power of Silence

Silence on stage can be a powerful tool if used correctly. A pause during your pitch can be very powerful if you want to make a point.

Also, when you are on stage and silent for a moment, the people who are paying attention are taking in your information and the people who are on their phones look up and wonder what is going on, and may re-engage with you.

People Will Listen or Read, They Won’t Do Both
You have a choice, either the audience will read or they’ll listen, but they won’t do both.

Most importantly, stop using bullet points because it causes people to start reading and stop paying attention to you.

It’s way more powerful when there is very little on the slide and your audience is listening to you.

This strategy also applies to complex charts and graphs. Complex charts and graphs are ok for one-on-one conversations because you can walk them through the chart. But when you’re up on stage and trying to keep the attention of investors and fighting against their cell phone, you have to keep it simple.

Watch an example of charts/graphs

No Generic Information

Using generic language to describe your business is deadly. Entrepreneurs like to fall into the trap of telling people who they are - instead of tell people how you do what you do, and that will keep you out of generic language.

Example of a descriptor: Our sales and intelligent tool helps people close deals faster

This startup doesn’t explain what the company actually does. It leaves me thinking about what do they do and what’s the product? It’s just too generic.

Another example: We help companies collaborate on social media content.

Again, what does the company do? This descriptor sounds like a thousand other social media startups.

Practice Like Your Company Is on the Line

The more you practice your pitch as though your company is on the line, then the more you will train your brain on the type of message and delivery you want investors to hear.

When you stand up on stage at pitch practice and deliver it at a mediocre level, then you’ll only rise to that level. Instead, practice being awesome, practice like your company is at stake - because when your company is on the line, you’ll be ready.

Practice Your Answers

As you’ve been pitching your company out, you might have a list of common questions. Take the top 5 questions, develop answers and practice those answers so you know them solid.

Make sure your cofounders or team members are writing down all the questions received, then take the top 5 questions, develop answers and practice those answers so you, and your team, know it solid.

The consequences of not doing this exercise is it will communicate to investors that you really haven’t thought about your business

Now if you really don’t know the answer to a question, most importantly, don’t lie and don’t B.S. someone, ever. Instead, be honest and offer to follow-up with an answer. Plus it gives you a reason to reconnect with the person.

Example of a response: “That’s a great question, and I’m embarrassed I don’t know the answer, but can I get your contact information and follow-up with you?”

Then do the research and follow-up immediately.


Fine tune your pitch deck through the self-guided exercises HERE.