How to pitch for investment like a pro

Growth and strategy

4 July 2016

You only have to watch a few episodes of Dragon's Den to see that undertaking an investor pitch is one of the hardest parts of launching a business. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to launch without funds, no matter how good your idea is.

Before going into the den to meet your own dragons, take time to prepare. Think of it as going to a job interview – you wouldn't walk in without prior knowledge of the company. And in this case, it's your own company that you need to know inside out…

Choose your investors wisely

Pursuing an investor who has never worked with businesses at your level or shown interest in your type of product is probably a waste of time. Instead, look for angel investors who have a passion for your industry, as they're more likely to say yes.

Give non-verbal cues

First impressions really do count. Dressing for success (in a smart suit, for example) will show that you're taking the meeting seriously. A strong handshake and eye contact will make you appear confident, increasing the investor's confidence in you and your product.

Write a slick slide presentation

Investors are busy people with short attention spans. Keep your presentation as short as possible without cutting any of the essential information. You want to get the key points across without rambling. If your investor deck goes on for more than ten slides or 20 minutes, it's probably too long.

Have a solid business plan

This will show the investors clearly who you are, what you're doing, where you plan to be next year and how you're going to get there. Your start-up’s business plan should be comprehensive. Make sure you include a SWOT analysis (looking at your product's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), some practical financial projections and a cost breakdown. Include a clear idea of what funding you need, what it will be spent on, and the kind of return your investors can expect.

Present SMART projections

The business goals you present should all be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Keeping your goals SMART will show investors that you've thought carefully about what your company can achieve, and gives them a yardstick to measure performance by.

Develop a working prototype

While not applicable to every business type, a good working prototype serves multiple functions:

  • It shows investors where you are in the development process.
  • It lets them get hands-on to see how your product works in practice.
  • It shows any weaknesses, giving them an idea of where their investment could be best used.

Don't bring the prototype out until after you've finished presenting the facts and figures. Otherwise, your investors may be distracted while they play with the model.

Detail existing patents

If you've already applied for patents, bring along the paperwork. Be completely honest. Let the investors know exactly what has been done, what needs to be done and what's standing in the way of getting a patent for your product.

Demonstrate a clear view of your business' USP

Your investors should leave the meeting with a clear idea of what makes your product special. This should be the overall goal of your presentation.

So have you ever made a successful bid for investment? Or had a pitch go embarrassingly wrong? Why not share your tips and stories in the comments below?