Education, entrepreneurship, pitching, startup

How to Pitch Your Startup


Yours truly live on stage at LeWeb in Paris pitching “Gauss — The People Magnet” (Image CC @francois_tancre)

How to Pitch Your Startup

I see a lot of startup pitches and pitch decks. And most of them suck. So let me share some basic knowledge to help you avoid my rookie mistakes and to help you massively improve your pitch before you reach out to investors, before you start raising that funding round.

(If you like this post, you’ll probably love the much more in-depth Pitching Masterclass.)

There are actually three pitches you need to master.


This is the short-enough-to-fit-on-the-back-of-a-business-card summary that describes your business. It’s the “We’re the X for Y” pitch or the 140 characters (or less) @twitter pitch.

By using known and common concepts and ideas, you evoke people’s interest and capture their imagination in one single short sentence — and you enable people to understand and share with others what you are about, to talk about you. And as an early-stage startup, your most important resource is die-hard fans — so you want as many people to talk about you as possible.

Think of it as the ice-breaking introduction at parties and events. You say as you shake the investor’s hand:

“Hi, I’m Chad — I’m creating flickr for videos!”

(Yeah, you guessed it — that was YouTube’s high-concept pitch. Bonus points for you.)

Hopefully the investor you’ve just introduced yourself to will say “That sounds interesting. Tell me more!”.

What do we proceed to tell the investor next?


Now that the investor has invited us to continue the conversation, we continue with a 30 second executive summary that contains the following ingredients: Traction, Product, Team and Social Proof. Although you want to make it sound less like an executive summary and more like an entertaining story you’d tell a friend or family member. And use the ingredients like you’d cook a meal; Use what you have at hand and emphasize what you think will impress the most, what you have the most of.

Whatever you do, don’t go much over 30 seconds. Consider that the elevator pitch concept originally came from Wall Street where the only way to present your new ideas to the management used to be stepping inside the elevator of the office skyscraper with your boss and pitch them the 30 seconds it took to arrive at their floor. Much like the boss was captured in the elevator and couldn’t run away, most people won’t turn you down or run away for the 30 or so first seconds of a conversation even if you are a bore.

Let’s say your name is Marc Andreessen and you’re a bit younger than today. Your elevator pitch would perhaps sound something like:

“Ning lets you create your own social network for anything. For free. In 2 minutes. It’s as easy as starting a blog. Try it at: We built Ning to unlock the great ideas from people all over the world who want to use this amazing medium in their lives. We have over 115,000 user created networks, and our page views are growing 10% per week. We previously raised $44M from Legg Mason and others, including myself. Before Ning, I started Netscape (acquired by AOL for $4.2B) and Opsware (acquired by HP for $1.6B)”.

The investor would hopefully then answer something like “That sounds fantastic. Please send me your deck!”.

So what do we send the investor next?


It’s the 13 magic slides that will hopefully lead to an investment decision. It should contain the following:

  1. Cover
  2. Mission
  3. Summary
  4. Team
  5. Problem
  6. Solution
  7. Tech
  8. Marketing
  9. Sales
  10. Competition
  11. Milestones
  12. Conclusion
  13. Financing

You do NOT need more than 13 slides, (of course you’ll have any number of extra details in the backup slides).

Prepare the presentation in Keynote or PowerPoint using 30pt or larger fonts. Export it as a PDF file and send it to investors. Do not send the KeyNote or PowerPoint file to the investor. Do not use exotic file formats. Use PDF and only PDF.

Practice pitching and presenting the contents of the deck in anything from 2.5 to 7 minutes until you could do it in your sleep. Literally. You cannot over-prepare. Practice is what separates an average (forgettable) pitch from an awesome (memorable, convincing) performance.

Now we hope to be invited to pitch the investor you sent the deck to. Because you did remember to send it on the same day or the day after, didn’t you? Failure to follow up is the silent killer of your startup — don’t be that kind of person.

If you get invited, you’ll usually have somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes to pitch them. Bring tons of backup slides for discussions. Make sure the meetings have partners and not only associates present if you want a funding decision and beware that any answer they give you other than a yes is a no.


  1. The high-concept pitch gets people’s attention and acts as an incentive to let you keep talking to them
  2. The elevator pitch convinces investors to ask for your pitch deck. The deck convinces investors to take a meeting with you
  3. That meeting should lead to a funding decision — if the decision makers are participating in that meeting


For more information about what the investors are really looking for, a much more detailed description of what your pitch deck slides should contain and why — in short, learn how to pitch your startup to investors like a pro, I recommend taking the Pitching Masterclass online course.

entrepreneurship, Lessons Learned, startup

On Location Based Services

Painted in Waterlogue

Writing on the Wall: A Business Model Canvas, complete with festively colored Post-Its, Atherton, CA June 2013.

This post has been gather digital dust in private draft form since May 2013. I thought I’d finally publish it to share with anyone interested in location based services.


In what now seems like eons ago, I founded a location based tech startup called “Gauss — The People Magnet”. It took me on a roller-coaster ride around the world — from the front page of The New York Times to near personal bankruptcy in the course of about two years. It folded before we got somewhere significant. If you’re interested in the background for founding ‘Gauss — The People Magnet’, there are a couple of old posts for that.

In this post I’m completely cleaning out the closet with my thoughts and experiences related to that startup, including potential revenue sources and business models. It’s a long and winding read — a very mixed bag, assembled from scattered notes.

Caveat Emptor in 2016: If any of this looks familiar or straight forward today, rest assured they weren’t when we started out back in early 2011. To wit: successful monetization of non-dating social discovery apps arguably still hasn’t happened yet.


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Education, Lean Startup

The Lean Launchpad goes to Turkey


Presenting the Lean Launchpad curriculum to the faculty of the Dokuz Eyül Üniversitesi Izmir, Turkey

Recently I was honored and delighted to be invited to introduce the world’s premier startup entrepreneurship curriculum, The Lean Launchpad, to the faculty to one of the largest universities in Turkey, Dokuz Eyül Üniversitesi.

Here are the slides I used to introduce it to the faculty.

Teaching the Lean Launchpad in Izmir Turkey! #llp

A photo posted by Vidar Andersen (@blacktar) on

Education, Events, pitching

Rheinland Pitch Winter Finals 2015 in Cologne


And the winner is…

Yesterday saw the first ever winter finals of the Rheinland Pitch event series – and a spectacular success it was!

The Rheinland Pitch is a monthly startup event where regional startups receive professional pitch training and a stage to present themselves to investors, media and the general public – for free. I’ve been involved from the start in April 2013 and thus far I have trained over 270 startups to pitch – and counting!

Once in a while we pick the best of the best to pitch in a grand finals. This summer the first ever Rheinland Pitch finals took place in Düsseldorf and was a rip roaring success and we were very excited to bring the finals to Cologne, hosted by the wonderful Wallraf-Richartz Museum.


Quiet before the storm – The foyer of our awesome venue, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne

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