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How to convince investors

A good presentation is a vital part of obtaining financing for startups

Carreiras ilustraDaniel BuenoThe greatest challenge for new entrepreneurs, especially those straight out of college, is to clearly and objectively present their company in just a few short minutes in a way that anyone who may be interested in supporting them is able to understand. This takes place at innovation and entrepreneurship events such as competitions, technology trade shows, conferences and incubators, primarily for investors. This practice was developed in business accelerator meetings and the term used is “pitches,” defined as brief sales presentations. Accelerators are companies or institutions that offer training and mentoring programs to assist entrepreneurs in shaping their business ventures.

Most presentations or pitches run about seven minutes, requiring conciseness and clarity with regard to the business, the market and the competitors, besides demonstrating that the entrepreneurs or the team are capable of developing a given technology or innovation. “The most difficult part is telling a linear story. If you do, you’ve already won half the battle,” says André Fossa, a trainer in making pitches for Desafio Unicamp (Unicamp Challenge), a yearly competition sponsored by the Innovation Agency of the University of Campinas (Unicamp). The idea is to stimulate new projects based on technologies developed in universities. Fossa is a businessman who earned an MBA at the Columbia Business School and founded Agenda Pet, a services portal for pets. He also has a blog (www.milliondollarpitches.com) that gives tips for presentations.

“I discuss 11 topics for a pitch that begins with an opening and personal presentation and goes to the end, when some sort of result has to be presented,” Fossa says. “I suggest that when presenters start to train, they should make the presentation last twice as long as the actual presentation will be. They prepare the presentation, record it and revise it, taking care to be as succinct as possible,” he explains.

For businessman Alan Leite, a partner in a business accelerator known as Startup Farm, entrepreneurs should clearly express that they are capable of turning the project into something that gets results. Startup Farm held an acceleration program in June 2015 in partnership with the Institute of Mathematics and Statistics (IMR) of the University of São Paulo (USP) (see Pesquisa FAPESP Issue No. 233).  “Strong passion as well as detailed knowledge of the market and what the entrepreneur plans to do needs to surface in the pitch,” Leite says. “In many cases, highly technical entrepreneurs think about what makes sense to them, but doing so makes the presentation unclear and lacking in objectivity for everyone else,” he notes.

“If the structure of the business is problematic and logical reasoning is lacking, it will emerge during the training phase,” he says. “The problem is not the pitch; it’s the failure to understand the business venture,” Fossa says. Leite makes another recommendation: transparency is required for the figures presenters use, such as market size, for example. In more restricted presentations, such as presentations made to potential investors, Fossa says that entrepreneurs need to be flexible because they will be interrupted and they have to respond then and there, not later. They cannot say “I will present this later.”

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