October 9th at UNC-Asheville

October 10th at Lenoir-Rhyne University








Pitch Application

  • Because the cover is typically the first thing investors see when previewing your deck, it’s your first big opportunity to grab attention by simply and succinctly answering the question, “What’s the big thing you do for your customers.” Some call this an elevator pitch.

    Stating the big thing you do for customers, users, etc. is usually the first thing you communicate to your audience. It's typically answered right on the cover slide of the deck and describes the fifty thousand foot perspective, the big picture of your business. It can even be your tagline if your tagline adequately describes your big thing.

    BIG TIP: You are the presenter, not your deck. Use what’s on the pages to reinforce the what you say. This requires that you develop a script and practice until you can nail it in your sleep.

  • What's not easy is, of course, the problem statement, and it's essential to achieving to a fundable pitch deck. In fact, it's the most important element because, without an obvious and believable problem, the solution is meaningless. We don't need solutions for problems that don't exist, right?

    Consider the obvious anxiety, frustration, or roadblock your customers face today. You should be able to state it in a sentence or two.

    Because the problem you define is unique to your market, you’ll want to briefly identify your customers. The highest level description is all that needed. You’ll define them further in your market section. Uber’s are taxi riders, the previous example, Cadee’s are golfers.

    BIG TIP: In addition to the crystal clear believable, obvious problem statement on the page; the presenter’s explanation of the problem should include alternatives that are lacking and credible proof of the problems.

  • Now that you've defined the believable problem, it's time to describe quickly how your product or service will remedy what's wrong with or what’s missing from the market today better than anything else. How does it lower or remove the same anxiety, frustration or roadblocks you just described in the problem statement?

    While it’s not time to fully describe your products or services, you should broadly identify the nature of your solution. Is it a website, a consumer product, a SaaS platform, or something else?

    BIG TIP: The solution statement must be in clear alignment with the problem statement for it to make sense. If not, investors may believe there’s a problem worth solving but doubt your ability to solve it.

  • Now that you've communicated what you have and why the world needs it, it's time to describe what makes it better than everything else out there. It's also the time to communicate the key attributes of your offering, but only the highlights.

    Be careful not to make the common mistake of putting investors asleep with a dissertation on your products or services. For tech, stick to key functionality screenshots or very quick videos that reinforce the solution you just described. And certainly mention things that are hard to replicate like patents, proprietary tech and processes, and the like.

    BIG TIP: Up to this point, you’ve provided a rough sketch of your products or services to investors. Now they’re ready for more specifics and it’s best to use target use cases. Uber example: “Here’s how the app works for riders and here’s how drivers use it.”

  • Describing how your venture will make money is second only to establishing a believable problem that's worth solving. Unbelievably, lots of startups miss this!

    Investors understand that if you don't understand or can't communicate the pathway to revenue and profitability, you have little chance of actually figuring it out later.

    Simply walking through a typical transaction for each of your primary sources of income will usually suffice. The emphasis should be on gross profit for now- the sale price of an item less the cost of delivering the product.

    BIG TIP: This is a great place to add basic sales stats to prove that customers are buying your product today.

  • If you've effectively hooked your audience at this point in the pitch, investors should be wondering is this a big enough opportunity to make some real money. Your answer needs to both define the market and how you will reach them.

    You'll need to do your homework and site credible research that defines the big markets you'll be playing in and also the submarkets where your offering will be most successful.

    Uber's big market is taxi riders worldwide, but they're most successful with customers between the ages of 18 and 25 who own smartphones. They reach them on social media and through campus reps.

  • One of the biggest factors separating "great ideas" from fundable business ventures is traction. Customer acquisition, retention, and engagement, as well as users, revenue, and growth are best, so share them!

    Keep in mind that investors love business models that are sustainable and can grow rapidly. So it's as important to describe how you've improved your sales or user acquisition over time as it is to report your metrics. Example, "We've sold X number to date but what's more impressive is our month over month sales growth."

    BIG TIP: Investors expect you to know your key metrics, even if you don’t have traction yet. Fundable startups know how much it should cost to acquire a customer even before they acquire them. You need to also.

  • Understanding the competitive landscape and where your startup sits within it is essential to a fundable investor pitch. First, you'll need to identify all of your bone fide competitors, both those you compete with directly and those you don't. Next, you'll need to convince investors that your direct competitors are beatable, specifically by your offering.

    Whatever you do, don't make the rookie mistake of downplaying competitors. Investors understand the battle that is startup and they want founders who both study their adversaries and have a battle plan that exposes their weaknesses.

    BIG TIP: If your market is worth pursuing and you’ve done your homework, you will be comparing your startup to several competitors. Use a matrix or grid to quickly show why your offerings are superior.


None other than Asheville’s very own business-mentor-extraordinaire, Tom Ryan of Start100 Fund. Thanks Tom for sharing your pitch expertise!!

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