The 4 most dangerous pitch mistakes founders make

26 May 2015 / / By Kaila Lawrence

Nathan Gold is an award-winning demo coach with over 10,000 hours and 15 years’ experience coaching founders on how to deliver high-stakes presentations.

Nathan Gold joined us at our offices to deliver personalized feedback on the most common pitch mistakes – and how to address them.

Too much what, not enough why.

The biggest challenge that entrepreneurs face is spending too much time on the “what” question.

If you look at Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle of why, how and what – founders don’t spend enough time on why they’re doing what they’re doing. They get too deep into the technology too fast because they think that’s what people want to hear. Especially in the Silicon Valley context, it’s easy to assume that the tech aspect is what will impress investors the most. But in reality, all people–especially investors–really need to know first why you’re doing it, how you plan to do it, and then what it is you’re building. To sell anyone on the what, you need to first establish a compelling why. That is what will make your pitch truly stick.

A weak opening.

One of the most common public speaking mistakes I’ve seen is that people often don’t have strong openings. With a weak opening, you’ll end up playing catch up trying to get the audience on your side. You don’t have a lot of time – I recommend that founders have a 30, 60 and 90 second version of their pitch ready to go – and every moment counts. That’s why I’m a big believer in spending a lot of time on the opening, where you can make sure you’ll captivate their attention, so they’ll listen to what you have to say.

Behind every great idea is a story – which is why I often recommend starting your presentation with a good one. Rather than leading with a bunch of facts right away, share an acedote that illustrates a problem. Everyone loves a storyteller – and this way you can make your idea relatable to anyone, no matter how technical your material may be.

Not having a clear ask.

You’ve spent all this time developing your ideas and working on your presentation. You’ve devised the perfect opening to hook your audience. But then there’s the opposite problem: a weak conclusion. When you’re presenting to an investor, if you don’t ask them for something, they don’t know what to give you. You have to ask.

This is more common that you might think – entrepreneurs who aren’t clear about what they need. Investors may have money, but they aren’t mind readers. As a startup founder, you understand your product and its trajectory better than anyone. So don’t forget to ask for exactly what you need. If you’ve suffuciently convinved your audience that yours is a worthy product to invest in, you’ll more than likely get it.

Missing the big picture.

I like to tell people that there are three types of investors: there’s the traditional investor you go to for money- the angel or venture capitalist. The next is your customer who’s investing their time and money in your product. Finally, your third investor is people – regular people, whether they’re a customer or not. Every time you tell someone about what you’re doing, they’re investing their time in your product as well. Friends, relatives, strangers who may or may not ever use your product – you still have to communicate with them what your product is and why you’re doing it.

If you’re stuggling with how to sell your idea, it’s always good to reframe your idea of what an investor is, because it’s not just about money. Help comes in many forms. And if an investor – whether a traditional one or not – likes you, they might offer you help. Help can be money; it may be free office space; it may be an introduction you need. It might be a hug, who knows! But overall, it’s important to remember that your pitch isn’t all about money – and by seeing it that way, you’re limiting yourself. Your pitch is ultimately about convincing people that your idea matters, and that you’re the right person to lead on it.

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