Think Big and Create Value

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

A few weeks ago, I spoke to MBA candidates at a business school conference. They were passionate about becoming entrepreneurs and were in the process of refining prototype products. Yesterday, I met with another aspiring entrepreneur – a corporate veteran with a product, a patent and a launch plan. Despite the obvious differences in career and product development timing, the students and the corporate veteran shared common traits: they were passionate about their ideas, dreaming big and determined to perfect their investor pitches.

Dreaming big vs thinking big

In each of these conversations, I flashed back to a pitch deck I developed more than 15 years ago, as part of the senior management team of a startup. The team met with an advisor, recommended to us by a board member, to review our pitch deck before raising our second round of funding. The advisor listened politely as we presented our pitch and then asked for his thoughts.

I’ll never forget his first comment: “You’ve put together a nice presentation. But it tells me nothing about why an investor should fund you.” As uncomfortable as it was to hear, his comment was arguably the best fundraising advice we received. Our pitch showed that we could dream big. But it didn’t address a central question: Could we think big, incorporating an investor’s perspective?

Investors aren’t in the Investment business

Many entrepreneurs think that professional investors - angel investors, angel groups and venture capital firms - are in the investment business. They fund inventions and big ideas. The reality, as professional investors will tell you, is that they are in the business of identifying opportunities with an upside. They’re in the successful exit business. Integrate that fundamental mindset into your thinking before you develop your pitch and start your journey into fundraising.

Thinking big is about creating value

This doesn’t mean that you have to gear your entire presentation to the exit. Thinking big means that your slide deck is centered on demonstrating the value that your company, product or service creates.  Here are a few starter questions to consider as you review your pitch deck and discussion:

  • How is your product/service an improvement over what is currently available?
  • How does this improvement create value for your target customers?
  • What will they pay for the value you create, and why?
  • How will your company use the investment, and what value will that use of funds create?
  • How will the value you create lead to a successful exit?

Investors bring more than funding to a start-up. A positive relationship with investors provides a wealth of expertise, resources and networks to a high-growth start-up.  As you develop your pitch, be honest with yourself: is your start-up dreaming big or thinking big?  Think big and create value.


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