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How to Pitch an Angel (or VC)

In the early days of New York Angels, we noticed what appeared to be an anomaly in our operations. We had quickly established a good incoming flow of deals, and had followed that up with an effective screening process, but we found that we were actually funding a much smaller percentage of the presenting companies than we had expected. What was particularly puzzling was that we KNEW these were likely fundable companies, because we had spent over half an hour with them around a table during the screening session, and only picked the very best ones (typically the top 10%) to present to our whole group. But after hearing the fifteen minute pitches during our monthly meeting, our full membership just didn’t get excited enough to put their money to work. A puzzlement. We eventually figured out the problem: the companies were great, but the pitches were awful!

That was when we instituted mandatory pitch coaching for every single company that was selected to present to our membership. The result? Our investment rate more than DOUBLED, and we have funded over $35 million into more than 50 companies during the past six years. In that time, I have handled most of the coaching duties on behalf of the group, and have gotten pretty good at helping entrepreneurs refine their Powerpoint presentations to meet the need of their target audience: early stage investors. Word began to spread about these sessions, and soon BusinessWeek came by to do a story about them, giving me the moniker of The Pitch Coach. The next thing I knew, there seemed to be even more demand for presentation training than there was for my investment dollars!

These days, I spend quite a bit of my time teaching entrepreneurs how to clearly and persuasively get their message across. Most of this happens for New York Angels, at business schools like Yale, Columbia or NYU, or for institutions like the National Science Foundation. However a couple of years ago Chris Anderson, the Curator of the renowned TED conference (and a fellow New York Angel member) asked if I would do a session during the “TED University” event before the main conference. I agreed, but wondered how I would be able to compress what is usually an hour long presentation into the allotted 12 minutes. The answer? Talk faster! [grin] So, with the compliments of TED.com, here is The Pitch Coach, in the super-express-version of “How to Pitch an Angel (or VC)”. I hope you find it useful! (The ‘expand’ button in the corner will bring up a full-screen version.)

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