Making a compelling pitch

  • Columns
  • Monday, 14 Sep 2015

To sell your company or product to prospective investors, employees or customers, you need to be able to make a brief and concise pitch, an investor presentation deck and push your founder story.

IF you’re a founder and CEO of a startup, you have to master how to sell your product and story in a compelling way. If convincing others is simply not your strong suite, that’s fine.

Consider getting a co-founder that can fulfill that role.

A founding CEO should ideally be able to sell the company and its product vision, not only to potential co-founders, but also to prospective employees, investors and customers. Many early-stage investments are first made based on the strength of the team and traction, rather than just the product or idea itself.

You need to create a compelling elevator pitch, an investor presentation deck and highlight your founder story.

An elevator pitch is meant to be a persuasive summary used to quickly define a company or product’s value proposition. The name “elevator pitch” implies that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the span of an elevator ride (30 seconds to two minutes), in the event of an accidental meeting with a potential investor in an elevator.

A successful pitch will result in an exchange of business cards, and the investor wanting to hear more.

The problem with most elevator pitches I’ve heard is that it’s too complicated or doesn’t clearly articulate the solution to the problem the company is trying to solve. If you cannot distil your product down to a one-liner, then your product is probably not focused enough and too complicated.

Go back to the drawing board and really focus on what that one core value proposition is that will differentiate and make you a market leader in the industry.

A simple formula to creating a good elevator pitch goes like this: “My company (company name), which is (unique value proposition/what it does) is building a (product) to solve (problem), addressing the (market need).

Feel free to tweak the formula, but all the basic elements should be there.

Once you get this 30-second one-liner, you can expand into your 2-minute pitch by adding the traction that you have so far, or the credibility of your team.

The pitch should almost always end with a “call to action” or an “ask” like this: “I’m looking to raise US$500,000 for my startup and already have US$250,000 committed from angel investors. We’re still looking to raise the remaining funds from value-added investors.

“If this is something you’re interested in, perhaps we can exchange business cards and have coffee next week?”

Beyond the elevator pitch, most entrepreneurs also have a presentation deck to pitch a potential investor when they meet. Here are the important elements that should be in a good presentation deck:

Cover: Startup logo, startup Name, founders names, tagline (if any)

Page 1: Problem statement (Why is this problem important to the world?)

Page 2: Founder story (Why this problem is important to you, the founder? Why are you passionate about solving it?)

Page 3: Proposed solution (Is this solution a “painkiller” or a “vitamin”?)

Page 4: Product Screenshots (Show how it works. Visuals speak a thousand words)

Page 5: Why Now? (Why it’s the right time for your product to succeed)

Page 6: Unique proposition (Why yours is better than existing solutions? Who are your competitors?)

Page 7: Initial target market and eventual market size (You can start with the addressable local market, but need to show the larger Asean market opportunity for this to be interesting to investors)

Page 8: Unit economics & business model (Show that the maths business makes sense. Do you understand the costs and profit margins of your business at scale, even if the economics early on will be different?)

Page 9: User acquisition & distribution (The different channels you’re going to use to acquire your customers and the costs for each. Are they scalable and sustainable?)

Page 10: Traction Over Time (Growth chart since your product launch)

Page 11: Validation Factors (Testimonials or proof of concept from early customers)

Page 12: Team (Credibility and background of your team. Why you’re the right team to execute on this vision?)

Page 13: Existing investors or advisors (If any)

Page 14: Call to action or ask (How much are you raising? How much has been committed? What are you using the funds for?)

Page 15: Conclusion (End with a bang!)

Entrepreneurs can play with a variation of this and rework the order of the slides. However, make sure pages 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10 are there, which are often missing from most decks I see.

They are absolutely crucial to show that you really understand your business.

Another part that is often neglected is the founder story. It’s so important for investors to hear why a founder started the company, how it started and how the co-founders got together. The story is important because everybody wants to know why you’ve given up a stable corporate job for something so risky and where that passion came from.

If you find your story a bit shallow, then you really should question why you’re building this product and whether you’re in it for the long haul.

The best entrepreneurs tend to be those who have figured out their “founder-product-fit” (as opposed to “product-market-fit”). So make sure you can tell a good story as to why you care so much about the problem you’re working.

Last but not least, it takes a ton of practice to get comfortable pitching and presenting. You have to always put yourself out there and solicit feedback.

You can usually tell if you’re engaging your audience or whether they seem disinterested, so keep tweaking and changing your pitch until it’s compelling enough and until you gain more confidence.

And don’t forget that humility is important for personal improvement and growth.

To improve your pitching and presentation skills, look out for upcoming MaGIC Academy workshops at

We also host casual pitch drill sessions called “Grill or Chill” on the last Friday of every month. Follow our Facebook page for more information

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Metro , Central Region , Cheryl Yeoh , startup , pitching


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