Recently, I met with an aspiring entrepreneur that had a concept for a product and he wanted my feedback. I agreed to meet with him at a local coffee shop. This particular aspiring entrepreneur hit on three of the gravest mistakes MOST aspiring entrepreneurs do and I was inspired to share. If you have done these, not to worry! If you are aware of them from this point on, you are already ahead of the game.
Mistake One: Requiring PowerPoint to Get Your Point Across
As I mentioned, this particular entrepreneur and I met in a local coffee shop. We sat down and did our usual introductions (how are you? how did you end up in this city? etc.). The introductory talk was actually succinct and to the point. I was excited. I thought, “Great! This entrepreneur knows I want to get right to the point.” He had an idea for a website/app that related to a particular industry.
He pulls his laptop out of his bag and tries to pull up his PowerPoint describing the concept. This ended up taking 10 minutes to do. He opened his laptop and there were system errors. He tried to fix them to no avail. He tried logging in to Google Drive to bring up his slides and there was an internet connection problem. THEN, his whole computer crashed and he had to restart it. (Personal recommendation here: Get a Mac, this was a PC.)
Now, if I were an investor (I was merely an advisor in this scenario), I would have walked away right there. If you are any kind of aspiring entrepreneur dealing with technology, your technology better work when you need it to. Frankly, at this point, I’ve lost complete interest because of your inability to execute due to a lack of preparation. Relying on an internet connection is one of the biggest pitfalls I’ve seen in pitches. Have the pitch on your computer’s hard drive, have it on a USB, or (horror at the thought) have it in hard copy in case all else fails. Relying on the internet to get your point across is a rookie mistake. Back up plans are essential in entrepreneurship and pitching is no exception.
Mistake Two: Not Adjusting Your Pitch For Your Audience
When this particular aspiring entrepreneur and I sat down, he did ask me (to his credit) “do you know about X industry?”. I informed him that I was actually quite informed about this industry. When his PowerPoint finally did load, he proceeded to explain the industry to me for 20 minutes… seriously, 20 minutes. He showed charts about the growth of the industry, the growth of popularity of the industry, how the industry worked, how the industry stated, what was popular about this industry, etc. I WAS SO BORED. I thought to myself: “Umm… buddy, I just told you I knew about the industry.” In a sense, he was insulting my intelligence. If I were an actual potential investor, at minute FIVE, I would have excused myself – or if I were more polite, started checking my smart phone for more interesting updates until he had something interesting to say.
Mistake Three: Telling the Magical Story of How You Came to this Idea
As an experiment (and actually thinking of this blog), I sat through the 20 minutes of this entrepreneur telling me about his journey and all of the things he saw wrong in the industry (along with an extremely wordy PowerPoint presentation he was eventually able to load on his laptop). He went into excruciating detail about how existing companies in the industry frustrated him and how other models made him happy. You know what? I don’t care. Frankly, most investors don’t care either. I don’t really care how you came up with the idea or how your friends think it is the best thing since sliced bread. Your friends are ALWAYS going to tell you that your business idea is a good idea; that’s why they are your friends.
What intrigues investors is a proof of concept. Do people want this? Are people willing to pay for it? Unless you have gone out into the world and talked to people that don’t know you, I don’t care. Investors don’t care either. Have you gone to where industry people are and talked to them? Have you reached out to individuals in the industry? Have you attended a conference in this industry? I mean, geeze, you have a self-assembled focus group ready for inquiry in the last example. This entrepreneur had done none of these things and seemed to think just his idea could peak investors’ interest and raise money. Nope. Not gonna happen.
Provide a proof of concept with data – number of people that tried your product and their reactions, number of people that would pay X for your product, and even more compelling the number of people that have actually PAID for your product and are SATISFIED.
Don’t tell us a story about you. The harsh reality is: we don’t care about you. We care about the opportunity, and it is only an opportunity if data and fact tells us so. Don’t tell us a story, tell us “just the fact’s ma’am.”