Category: Funding Pitch

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” – Spanish Proverb

I was listening to a news report on the radio yesterday.  The interviewer asked a tough question of a Marine General, which was followed by about 6 seconds of silence.  Although 6 seconds is not a long time, the interviewer found the silence so excruciating that she had to finally say “…OoooKaaaay….”

Silence is a very powerful thing and yet we seem utterly terrified of it, which is why we live in a world with a constant drone of noise.

This finds it’s way into our company pitches, elevator pitches, company tag lines and branding.  In all these things, less is always more.  I’ve coached enough company pitches now to know that 8 minutes is a better time constraint than 12 minutes.  The lesser time forces you to really think about the most important things to say and leave it at that.  Of course this takes time and a lot of practice.  This is the way with excellence.

As for story telling, slow down and relax.  And if you really want to grab the audience’s attention, pause your narrative for about 6 seconds. Do it deliberately and look at them in the eyes.  The tension will grow until it’s brittle and bound to break.  When you break it, make sure it’s profound…

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Experience makes liars of us all.” – Dr. Who

Having accomplished some great goal, we all tend to look back and find out things about the journey:

  • It’s usually harder than we thought
  • We ran into problems we didn’t anticipate
  • It cost more money than we planned
  • People we respect and admire may have gotten hurt in the process
  • There are mean people out there
  • (Fill in your own blank)

So when you are pitching your company, there is no way you can know what will happen in the next 6 months, let alone 2 to 3 years.  Your pitch today will not be what it is a year from now.  You will pivot – perhaps several times as you learn more about the market you want to play in.  Your financial projections are lies the moment you make them.  You may have to invite friends and good people to leave the company.

It’s OK!

You have to get started and you can’t wait until all the truth is revealed.  Otherwise someone else will solve your customer’s problem before you do.

Start with what you know now, but start nonetheless.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine…” – Dr. Who

“I don’t need to practice.  I’ve done this a number of times,” was the reply I got from an entrepreneur when I tried to schedule time to hear his pitch prior to the big pitch competition.  I strongly suggested he practice for me but he was adamant.  Practicing for others does not help him, he assured me.

His pitch turned out to be full of “um’s” and “ah’s” and “you know’s” .  He used technical jargon nobody understood and the story fell completely flat.  Too bad.  He had a great idea.

Communication is a two way street.  You have to say what you say and the listener has to hear and understand.  You can’t do this in your head.  There’s only one way to make sure your thoughts communicate what you want and that’s to test it for other’s feedback.

Guy Kawasaki says you should practice your pitch 25 times.  That’s how you are able to tell a good story rather than merely flip through slides.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson



“In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add,… ” – Antoine St. Exuprey

“…but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

To celebrate the coming of 2014, I share my favorite quote.  It speaks to everything.  It’s about simplicity in all you do.

For the entrepreneur, it’s about your Minimally Viable Product and your feature set.  It’s about managing your time.  It’s about crafting your pitch, your mission statement, your strategy.

It’s about filtering out all the noise that distracts you from accomplishing your goals; email, Twitter, Facebook and those who don’t believe in your dream.

And perhaps, blog posts…

Happy New Year!

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“I see your deck of 47 slides with twice as many words per page and closing “Thanks For Your Time” slide… ” – Jeremy Floyd

… and I know you hate your audience.”

You have a story to tell.  But it’s not about you.  It’s about your message and it’s about your audience.

Having the opportunity to pitch your story is an honor and privilege.  It means someone or a  lot of someones chose to share with you their most precious commodity, their time.

Don’t waste it by trying to prove how smart you are, how great your product is, or the intricacies about how your magic box works.

Tell them how their world is going to be different because you found a solution to their problem. Give them a reason to care.  Do it simply and elegantly.  Do it truthfully and with passion.

And then thank them for their time….


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Real Learning is Outside the Building, Not Demo Day” – Steve Balnk

Just yesterday, I was having this conversation.  The big question is what happens after Demo Day?  So much energy is directed toward getting the pitch ready and that effort is by no means wasted.  Understanding your business model and telling your story is foundational.  But, as Steve Blank might say, that is all “inside the building” stuff.

One of our clients gave a great pitch yesterday.  I congratulated her and then asked, “Have you sold anything yet?”  The question threw her…

Your pitch is a means to an end.  The end is having customers.

Here is Steve’s post:

“They can’t kill you and eat you” – Unknown

When I was with a former employer who was a rather large multi-national corporation, there were, of course, meetings.  Lots of them.  Usually you were reporting to people who reported to other people who didn’t really know about what you were doing but they wanted to provide value anyway because they got paid a lot of money to “help” you.”  This is all a nice way of saying that you usually got your butt handed to you no matter what.

My colleagues and I would remind each other while preparing for the meetings, “Just remember, they can’t kill you and eat you.”

For those who worry about making that funding pitch in front of a crowd of strangers, that’s pretty good advice to remember.

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” – Herm Albright

If you can’t be passionate about your ideas and your company, why would anyone else care?  I see a lot of researchers present their world-class technologies with the very objective, emotionally measured presentation style.  At the risk of passing judgement on that community I often find myself asking why I should care; or even more basic, how is this going to make a difference in the world.  This reflects more on my limited technical view of the universe perhaps and to be fair, researchers are out to do good science and the thought of market potential is anathema at worst and at best, not part of the equation.

For the startup, it’s ALL about the big “So What?”.  The innovation has to find it’s way into something people will want to buy because they believe it while change their lives.

If you don’t believe it, why should anyone else?  Passion counts.  Make us believe you know how to change the world.  Annoy some research scientists!

“Now then, that is the tale. Some of it is true.” – Mark Twain

This sentence is how Mark Twain chose to close his autobiography.  Twain was the consummate story teller and even his autobiography was dictated to a stenographer in order to maintain a conversational feel to the work.

CEO’s do wear a lot of hats but perhaps one of the most important things a CEO must do is communicate.  For the startup, that means telling your story over and over;  to customers, prospective staff, partners, and of course, investors.

Great story tellers get to be great because they tell a lot of stories.  As Twain’s quote seems to imply, the stories get better over time as the teller practices, getting feedback from the audience and refining the message so it resonates with the listener.

Guy Kawasaki says you need to practice your pitch 25 times before it’s ready to unleash in the world.  By that time, you have it memorized and your mind can begin to focus on the delivery of the message rather than the words of the message.  Only then can people really see the passion of your ideas.

Start pitching as early and often as you can.  Look for angels groups, tech councils, inventors clubs Rotary Groups.  Every club struggles to fill their programs.

If it’s been a few weeks, go find an opportunity.  Keep it fresh.  Make sure that some of it is true.

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

Guy Kawasaki says in “Art Of The Start” that you have to practice your funding pitch 25 times before you are ready to pitch.  Here’s the point: until your can internalize your message so that it comes out like a good story, you are not ready.  If you don’t know what’s on the next slide, you’re not ready.  If you can’t tell the story without the slides, you’re not ready.

If you want someone to give you a million dollars, your story should be worthy of it.  Practice!