Pitching for investment any time soon? – some dos and don’ts


Yesterday I was part of the IntertradeIreland Seedcorn judging panel chaired by Intertrade’s CEO Liam Nellis – that’s a photo of the two of us taken last week on the steps in Stormont.  Also on the panel were Taxback.com’s Terry Clune, Xing’s Bill Liao & e-synergy’s Fergus McIlduff.  Over the course of the day we watched 6 pitches as if we were an investment panel, then scored the companies & selected winners to go through to the next stage of the competition.

I thought whilst it was in my head – because I know a lot of my friends & associates are entrepreneurs who are no doubt entering these sorts of competitions or pitching for investment – I would scribble out a few dos & don’ts for anyone that’s interested:

·         Work hard to distil your value proposition & get it out there early in your preso – remember that the investment or judging panel will be seeing loads of companies, often in a short space of time

·         If you have a tangible product & have brought samples, pass them round early in your pitch

·         If you turn up with a colleague, which is a good idea, only one of you pitch – it hardly ever works to try & share the pitch between you so let the person who’s best at presenting do it; also do try & behave as if you are a team

·         Don’t ramble & do stick to your allotted time – it’s annoying when people go over time because they either haven’t rehearsed enough or because they spend too long telling you irrelevant stuff

·         Use some pictures or graphics in your presentation to bring it to life

·         Don’t use a video that’s longer than a minute

·         If you’re very early stage, think about your sales and marketing plan – it isn’t enough to state the market opportunity – you need a go-to-market plan that hangs together

·         Don’t argue with the panel – it just makes you look bad

·         Be honest when answering questions

·         Know your numbers back to front and the assumptions behind them – expect to get asked about anything that isn’t self explanatory

·         If you’re referring to high level numbers in your presentation, make sure you have identified what they are – are they £s, people, units

·         Include some innovation – you don’t have to be an inventor – it might just be something unusual about your business model or your presentation that makes you stand out

·         Keep your pitch consistent with any business plan you’ve already submitted

·         Finally – don’t use corny or gimmicky presentation techniques unless you are very certain of your delivery capabilities – they can be excruciating to watch (think Angelcot woman on Dragon’s Den insisting on singing…)

I know there’s a lot out there about this stuff for entrepreneurs but I thought I’d take 5 minutes out to share my take – interested in your comments so keep ‘em coming.



  1. Thanks Mary. Great advice and timing as I’m just working on our deck ahead of the final on the 24th! Connor (DataHug.com – CRM Pulse LTD)


  2. Thanks Connor – I was beginning to think no-one was ever going to leave a comment on this blog… I love Data Hug & would like to meet you guys for a chat sometime soon. I’ll be at the Seedcorn dinner on 24 Nov so come & seek me out.


  3. Pitching to investors has certainly been one of my biggest learns since starting Learning Pool and I’m not sure that there’s a way to advise people on it – I certainly wouldn’t have listened to anyone as I thought I knew better. For what its worth though, here are my additions to Mary’s comments:1 – remember that investors don’t really care about what your business does. They see it as an ice cream machine into which they pour money. They only care about how long it’ll take for the icrecream to be ready and how nice it’ll taste.2 – be realistic about your market and know which bit of it is addressable (no, I mean really addressable). This is a really tricky thing – if your market is too small no-one will care and if its too big you’ll be accused of being unrealistic. Doug Richard advises that a small, growing niche is the sweet spot. Tell them what your market will be worth in 3-5 years3 – My experience has been that VCs in Ireland and to a lesser extent the UK are really only excited by companies that can grow into the US. I think this is because they understand the market there and have contacts there. This is one of the main reasons that Learning Pool has been bootstrapped. I guess the advise is to find an investor who has a portfolio that you could see your business fitting into. 4 – be clear about how you will spend the money. This might sound obvious but if you aren’t 100% certain how will an investor be? This one is also good if you do manage to get the investment… don’t let a non-exec push you into spending money on things you don’t need. 5 – pick the 2 best things about your pitch and get one of them out in the first 60 seconds (to get that ‘oh hello’ moment) and the other in the last 60 seconds so they remember you.6 – remember that 90% of investors simply won’t get your business.. its not you its them.. pitching is a numbers game7- Don’t over pitch. I did this loads of times and learned the lesson eventually. Just tell the story with passion and pride and you’ll be grand. 8 – remember to cover the obvious things. If you have revenue, say what it is, if you have profits, for god’s sake shout about it. We once did a pitch that went very badly and the investor went through us until he found out we were profitable… then he went through us for doing a rubbish pitch!Seriously, I may not be the best person to advise on this stuff!!best of luck everyone


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