The Art of the Seed Pitch

I meet 20+ seed and pre-seed founders every week. Every founder has a unique presentation style. Some like to go through the deck slide by slide. Others prefer a more dynamic conversation without a deck. After studying hundreds of pitches, the most effective and efficient pitches follow this framework — Founder-Product-Market-Fit.

Founder – why you are the right team to invest in

A pre-seed/seed investment is mostly a bet on the founding team and their ability to move fast, execute, learn, and overcome adversity. Because this is potentially the beginning of a 10+ year relationship (hopefully), start your pitch by talking about you and the team. Tell your story. Highlight your professional accomplishments, industry and functional areas of expertise, and any unique insights you have about the problem you are solving. In this segment, some founders rely on logos (Stanford, Google, McKinsey), others rely on pedigree and experience (X years leading B2B Sales teams), and some on results and exits. The main goal is to help the investor understand why you are the right person to bet on, right now.

Product –  your solution to an existing problem

After convincing the investor that you have done other cool things before this, the next step is showing that you can do this. To do that, you need to answer two questions. First, is it even possible to build this solution? Second, can you build this? If the answer to either of those is no, it might be hard to raise money for your idea. Otherwise, this is the perfect time to talk about the specifics of your product. What it does. How it works. How it solves the problem. How much of it have you built so far. This last part is important because it reflects your ability to move fast and execute. If you started the company in 2018, and it’s 2020, and you don’t have an MVP yet, it raises red flags. If you can convince the investor that your product truly solves the problem and you have made meaningful progress towards putting this product in the hands of the customers, this section is successful.

Market – customers care about your solution

If the (all too) recent demise of Quibi proves anything, it is that building a cool new product isn’t enough to attract customers. As a result, you need to first highlight the segments that face the problem you have set out to solve. It’s okay if it’s not a precisely defined market, it’s helpful to show your thinking around how you are slicing and dicing the market and how you are creating your ideal customer profile (VCs will use this in their internal market sizing).  Once you show target customers, the next step is to show your progress in reaching them, and their ability and willingness to pay for your solution. The best way to do this is revenue. If you are really early you can use a combo: show how much the problem costs them in dollars and time, and how much you found they are willing to pay through customer interviews. You want the investor to walk away from this segment thinking that you understand the customer profile, their needs and wants, have a strategy for how to reach them, a preliminary understanding of how much the solution is worth to them, and how much traction you have so far with your early adopters.

Fit – okay so you did it once but can you do it again, and again?

Once I hit a full court basketball shot. Is the NBA calling? No, I have never been able to do it again. To succeed as a startup founder you need to sell your product to a customer. Then do it again. Then do it a million more times, atleast. The final key piece of the puzzle is discussing how you can repeatedly get customers to use and pay for your product. In VC-speak this is your go to market strategy. Walk through your process for acquiring customers and how you can repeat it, even if it is not ironclad. If you have a few different channels, mention them all and then highlight your favorite one and why you like it. The secret to sticking the landing here, is to show that you have figured out a way to repeatedly get customers.

By the end of this pitch, ideally, you showcase your founder highlight reel, prove you can build a product that actually solves a problem, demonstrate that customers care about it enough to pay for it, and that you can do it again, and again, and again. Thinking through your pitch in this format will help you modify your pitch for any situation, from the elevator pitch, to a 30 min intro call, to an hour long partner meeting.

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