3 Tips for Pitching Investors at Demo Day

By Elizabeth

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There’s all kinds of advice about creating slide decks for investors but very little about how to ace a Demo Day.  With the rise in startup accelerators, this is becoming increasingly important and to a certain extent has even made other pitching materials obsolete.  (e.g. we don’t even have a full deck for investors, because of our Demo Day presentation)

3 Tips to rock your Demo Day:

1) Tell a fairy tale

Demo Days have back-to-back pitches for hours on end.  It’s hard to be forgotten amidst the myriad of pitches that day, that week, that month.  Yet, not everyone is naturally entertaining.  But, everyone can tell a fairy tale.  When we were kids, a good fairy tale went something like this:

  • Jack aspires to marry into a wealthy family
  • Problem: he’s poor
  • Solution: he exchanges his family’s only cow for magic beans.  Thought it was a great deal
  • But, it was unclear what the results of those beans were going to be
  • So, the beans grow into a magical beanstalk, allowing Jack to capture all kinds of treasures upon climbing it
  • Jack lives happily ever after

Fairy tales have a lot of ups and downs – this is what makes them entertaining.  You can see that this story starts out heading down, but after a bunch of ups and downs, it ends way up.  A demo day pitch should be similar.

  • Intro about the narrator (you) or the main character who is affected by your solution
  • Problem that you, someone you know, or the main character is facing
  • Solution that you believe might work
  • But, your audience has at least one fear.  Address the primary fear — e.g. does your technology work?, will the engagement #s look good? etc…
  • So, after working on this for x weeks/months, show great results that appease this fear
  • Ask others to join you in living happily ever after with a call-to-action to talk with you

The purpose of the pitch is to get intros and meetings set up with as many potential investors as possible.  The point is *not* to go into nitty gritty details.  In order to do this, you need people to stay awake enough to remember to get in touch.

2) Show compelling results

Now that you have people on the edge of their seats, you need your results to be compelling for the build-up in the end.  The problem at the seed stage is that few teams actually have phenomenal results.  If you already are making millions of dollars or have millions of users, then that’s great.  But, chances are if you are in this situation, you don’t even need to pitch.  So, how do you show good results when you don’t have them yet?

The key is to show results that show potential.  When Facebook first started and received investment offers, they only had thousands of users.  But, investors loved just how engaged those users were.  Those users came back to Facebook all day everyday.  And, the user growth was phenomenal.  So, while their absolute numbers were pretty terrible, they found compelling unit metrics.  Examples that might be helpful to you include:

  • Revenue per paying customer
  • Growth of number of users or number of paying customers
  • Engagement: ave time spent, clicks, how frequently they come back, etc…
  • Testimonials from your customers

3) Work the room

This comes fairly unnaturally to me, but it’s a big part of any Demo Day.  Meeting investors in the room in between pitches is key to getting meetings after Demo Day.  The more people you can meet, the better.  A few rules of thumb:

  • Find out how you can be helpful — do intros for your fellow companies, especially to investors who aren’t interested in investing in your space.  Saying great things about others is the best way to brag and get bragged for in return.
  • Bring your business cards and make sure to collect email addresses from every person you meet — even if they forgot their business cards.
  • Don’t line up to meet with anyone in particular.  Your time is too valuable, and you shouldn’t be desperate to meet anyone in particular.  If there is someone you want to meet, make a mental note to yourself to keep an eye on the person.
  • Get in and out of conversations as quickly as possible.  Obviously, you’ll want to be polite about it, but you’ll want to figure out as quickly as possible if it’s worth a follow up meeting with someone and discuss that possibility.  Otherwise, get out of a conversation by extending your hand to say it was “Great meeting them” or doing an introduction to someone else.

With these three tips, you’ll set the stage right for your first investor meetings after your accelerator program.  In addition, I highly recommend reading this post on the mechanics of a Demo Day presentation, written by Jason Baptiste, CEO of OnSwipe.  I relied on this post heavily in creating the skeleton for our Demo Day pitch.

LaunchBit pitch presentation

View more presentations from 500 Startups

Even though I was absolutely nervous, it tickled me to no end that one of the biggest days of my professional life happened just a few blocks from my elementary school, where I first became an avid computer user.  I’d highly recommend the 500Startups accelerator program, which places a strong emphasis on metrics, design, and user experience.  It takes place 3x a year in my hometown Mountain View, CA, where all the accelerator teams work out of 500′s headquarters.

For more tips and resources on starting a web business without coding, visit LaunchBit.

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