Y Combinator’s Paul Graham has seen his share of pitch decks and startups. Started out in 2005, they have funded and reviewed thousands of startups. Here are some of his tips for a more efficient presentation. Although written down first in his essays in 2006, they are still relevant on nowadays pitches.
1. Explain what you’re actually doing
Before investors can assess your startup, they have to understand what kind of product or service you came up with.
Explain what you ‘re doing as soon as possible. “We’re Jeff and Bob and we’ve built an easy to use web-based database. Now we’ll show it to you and explain why people need this.”
2. Demo as quick as possible
The only thing worth talking about first is the problem you’re trying to solve and why it’s important. But don’t spend too much of your time. Focus on the demo next. When you demo, don ‘t run through a catalog of features. lnstead start with the problem, and then show how your product solves it.”
3. Narrow down instead of making it too complex
Your primary goal is not to describe everything your system might become, but simply to convince investors you’re worth talking to further. Begin with a description that perhaps may be a bit narrow, then extend on that.
4. Don’t talk and drive
Have one person talk while another uses the computer. lf the same person does both, they’ll inevitably mumble downwards at the computer screen instead of talking clearly at the audience.
5. Keeping it relevant
lf you only have a few minutes, spend them explaining what your product does and why it’s great. Second order issues like competitors or resumes should be single slides you go through quickly at the end.
6. Don’t dive into business models too deep
Experienced investors probably don’t care about business model in a brief presentation so skip the details. Any model you have at this point is most likely wrong anyway. If you’re solving an important problem, you’re going to sound a lot smarter talking about that than the business model.
7. Talk slowly, be clear
Present in an artificial way, and yet make it seem conversational. lf you want to write out your whole presentation and memorize it, that’s ok. But make sure to write something that sounds like spontaneous, informal speech, and deliver it that way.
8. Have one person do the talking
Startups often want to show that all the founders are equal partners. This is a good instinct but trying to show it by partitioning the presentation is distracting. Pick the one or at most two best speakers, and have them do most of the talking.
9. Look confident
Probably the single biggest piece of evidence the audience have, is your own confidence. You have to show you’re impressed with what you’ve made. lf you’ve truly made something good, you’re doing investors a favor by telling them about it.
10. Don’t try to seem more than you really are
Don ‘t worry if your company is just a few months old and doesn ‘t have an office yet, or your founders don’t have business experience. Smart investors are looking for raw talent. All you need to convince them of is that you’re smart and that you’re onto something good.
11. Avoid having too many words on your slides
Try to keep the number of words below 20 and don ‘t read your slides. They should be something in the background as you face the audience and talk to them, not something you face and read to an audience sitting behind you.
12. Tell user stories
The biggest fear of investors is that you’ve built something based on your own theories, but that no one wil/ actually want. So it’s good if you can talk about problems specific users have and how you solve them. The best stories about user needs are about your own. A remarkable number of famous startups grew out of some need the founders had: Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google.
13. Create something to remember
Professional investors hear a lot of pitches. The first cut is simply to be one of those they remember. And the way to ensure that is to create a descriptive phrase about yourself. In the startup world, these phrases usually seem like “the x of y” or “the x y.” Viaweb’s was “the Microsoft Word of ecommerce.”