5 tips for pitching your early-stage startup

By SproutX

Startups of any kind must pitch in order to tell investors and customers just enough about themselves generate excitement, a business relationship, or potentially even investment. However, this is unfortunately not a natural skill for many founders.

Most investors hear from dozens of startups everyday so it is essential for any entrepreneur that gets their attention, even for a few minutes, to make the most of it. When it comes to accelerator programs such as SproutX, there’s particularly a big focus on a startup’s pitch and emphasis on perfecting the skill of pitching and preparing a pitch deck. The reason being is that your pitch can be the difference between sparking investor or customer interest for your startup and being overlooked.

Below are five tips for any entrepreneur to keep in mind when pitching an early-stage startup.

1. Customise your pitch to match your audience

You should prepare a slightly different pitch and pitch deck for each of your different audiences. This is particularly important for startups in Agtech. For example, you will need to have one pitch angle for farmers or producers and another for potential investors or retailers. When pitching to farmers or customers, it is crucial to highlight the problems that your tech will solve for them personally. Whilst for investors, it is more important to highlight the value proposition and market for your tech or business model.

Also keep in mind that each investor has their own approach and preferences, some like to see a pitch deck in first meetings because it helps structure the conversation while others would rather have a casual, less structured conversation. These are key things to ascertain before going into a meeting or pitch.

2. Kick off by showing off your progress

Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet a little. Begin with “the traction sandwich”, featuring short and sharp insights into your startup’s traction and revenue when pitching. Make both your potential investors and customers aware of your startup’s progress in terms of revenue and customers or where you are on the journey. People love to support a business that is already operating on the ground and making some milestones.

You don’t need every number to be stunning, but there should be some evidence that you have something working and that it is special and unique. Measure your growth and share it in your pitches.

3. Bring all your energy and enthusiasm

This one is a no-brainer, and is especially true for early stage startups who are pre-revenue. You are most likely going to be relying more heavily on passionately conveying the viability of your startup idea and its innovative potential to win over investors or customers more so than existing traction and revenue (or lack thereof).

Put passion into your startup pitch. You’re an entertainer, so entertain them. You need a good story to tell, share the story of why you got started. Make the experience personal and worthwhile for your listeners.

Be human; use your body and voice to help convey your message. It may sound obvious, but it’s possible to over-prepare. Being too scripted means you’ll sound canned, and no one wants to hear a memorised pitch. And when it comes to silences, use them as an opportunity to gauge your audience’s reaction to what you are saying. The more feedback you get while pitching your startup, the better.

4. Talk about the problem… but the solution even more

Investors or customers will be more focused on how you are going to successfully solve a problem than the problem itself. Make it clear the problem you are solving, for example, inefficient and costly farm fencing, but make it equally clear how your startup creates a viable solution to this for customers.

Don’t over explain the problem and spend too much time in your pitch talking about it. This is an error that many early stage startup founders make all the time, which consequently diminishes the value of their idea.

Share what’s unique about your product and how it will solve the issue you have highlighted. Keep it short, concise, and easy for the investor to explain to others. Avoid using buzzwords unless your investors are very familiar with your industry.

5. Be clear and concise about what your company offers

It’s amazing how many startups we see at places like SproutX with initial pitches in which the business model or product of the startup is not clearly explained and actually leaves viewers confused. It’s no secret that in order to garner investor or customer interest, you’re going to have to convey to them exactly how your startup or technology is solving a customer problem, whether it be with a SaaS platform, physical device, or any other form of product or service.

It is equally important that you clearly explain how you as a business will make a profit from such a product (your business model), and your competitive advantage in the marketplace.

This again, may involve some critical thinking about your different pitching audiences and how best to convey your business model or how your product works to them. Decisions such as omitting certain technical buzzwords or jargon that may confuse some audiences, such as investors without a background in your relevant industry may be necessary.

In short, keep your pitch audience-specific, enthusiastic, and clear.