Before You Pitch Your Startup, First Read This
18th September, 2019
By Julius Masaba
I have read articles by so many writers; on local and global startup blogs, entrepreneurship websites, e-zines, etc. I have also come face-to-face with funders at entrepreneurship events and pitch contests. Some of them even sharing sample materials they use like templates.
Note that these templates varied from person to person or from entity to entity.
While working with an angel investor network, and ofcourse being an entity with a goal of bridging the gap between early stage startups and investors in Uganda and probably East Africa, they needed startups to apply for investment.
Just like with any investor group, it applied processes in selecting the most suitable startups to invest in or entrepreneurs to fund. Most prominent is the use of working documents like business plan templates, term sheets, pitch deck templates, financials templates, among others.
But most prominent, like on any startup financing street, was the use of a pitch deck template. You will also find that each investor (individual or group) has a slightly different format from the other but most of the common items will never be left out.
Before any startup eventually gets hold of an investment, the owners/co-founders have to apply using a pitch deck, physically present to a panel (using the slides) and get screened. Thereafter, you’re given communication on next steps (probably doing due diligences/back ground checks), term sheets and legals, if investor(s) are satisfied.
At other pitching events or contests, entrepreneurs are allowed to have fire-side chats and moments of courting or ‘investor speed dates’. You’re lucky if you know how to sell your idea.
Anyway, that is not the point of this story.
The point is that, as a tech community, a WordPress Community in Uganda, we always have presenters at these monthly meetups with themes on: how to build a website, how to start a WordPress blog, how to troubleshoot backend bugs, how to install a plugin, how to create a theme, hot to create a plugin and so on and so forth.
Yet we have forgotten that there are members in the community who are from a non-tech background but are also interested in things like blogging for a living, creating startups for to solve society’s problems.
This time round we had a WordPress blogger, a member of the community and also an entrepreneur. This was none other than Martin Tumusiime. I have met Martin, for the fourth (4th) time now.
First, at WordCampKampala 2018, then last December at Parliament during the innovation exhibition where he was testing/piloting the same solution he has turned into a business, at the GDG DevFest 2018 at Outbox and last Saturday at Hive Colab (usual venue for our meetups).
Martin is the co-founder and Lead at Yo-Waste (www.yowasteapp.com), a startup using a mobile app platform to connect or link homesteads to garbage/waste collection and disposal companies in Kampala. He is also a blogger at www.ugtechmag.com.
A guy who has experienced the hassles getting financing from investors, he decided to share tips with us, aspiring entrepreneurs. In his presentation he said you need to be prepared with some research on your fingertips, prepare your pitch deck and then start the pitching journey, from one investor to another.
He highlighted that, when building your pitch deck, don’t leave out the following;
- Problem Statement (the pain being faced by people, consumer/society or another business)
- Solution (what is easing the pain for the customer/consumer/society or another business)
- Market Size (how many customers are yours in the whole industry and the geographical area)
- Product (tangible, intangible offering to the market, an app, a platform, a consumable etc.)
- Business model (how you make money)
- Competition (benchmark players in your industry, your rivals – their SWOT and yours)
- Financials (past/historical and projections for P&L, EBITDA, etc.)
- Team (co-founders with their brief bio, at times a team of advisors is asked for, etc.)
- Traction (what you did and at what time, duration/stage, etc.)
- Key metrics (numbers on: subscribers, partners, funds, past sales, areas expanded to, etc.)
- Investment (sometimes called the Ask)
- Domino (an emerging trend, a circular graphical growth in market capture, size, etc.)
However, the above is not final, you can add other slides like “Contacts”, to show your individual contacts, email address, social media handles, etc. You can also add social media handles of your startup and its website.
These days many investors do background checks on prospective startups by doing a Google search to see your web ranking (your SEO should be super my friend – Arthur Kasirye will tell you), and social media. Tech and online-based startups should be active with their online presence (marketing strategy).
Martin did not stop there. He went ahead to show us sample of past pitch decks used by top global startups like Uber, AirBnB, but mostly the latter. You can get the sample for free here: https://bit.ly/2mo5J7L
He did not stop there, he also went ahead and highlighted some of the things that you should not do, stuff that does not define a pitch deck. And these are;
- Writing a lot of text (being too wordy yet time is always little to read them)
- Showing a lot of code (in a bid to scare off people with their ground breaking idea)
- Overly praising your product (you’re not selling the product but the solution/idea)
- Not using graphics, images, charts, etc. (these make the pitch look captivating)
- Having more than 20 slides (have at least 15)
- Using small fonts
- Ugly pitch decks (different slide size, many colours, mixed fonts, poorly headed, etc.)
- Leaving white spaces in the deck (for what?)
- Having no competition (there is no new thing under the sun, there are players in your industry)
So as you prepare your pitch deck, bear in mind that one or all of the above can make you miss that first penny from an investor you would never see again.
Presenting your pitch deck should not be more than 10 minutes, the minimum is 5 minutes. When investors want to press you hard, they will want you to do it in just 3 minutes!
Now, all those who didn’t show up for the meet up missed one thing – mock pitches, thanks to Rogers Mukalele. We decided that atleast those present with startups in the house be given an opportunity to pitch to the audience and be judged, and take the feedback given.
Some of those that participated in the pitching were Abubakar Suleiman Tsamiya of Petograph Wearable, a health-tech for pre-eclampsia toxaemia; Rogers Mukalele of Sharebility, an edu-tech by teacher at the same time a computer scientist, web designer and programmer, and Julius Masaba – Business Development Lead at Ablestate, a software developer-employer matching startup.
As members of the WordPress Community Uganda, we also go an opportunity to go through/navigate the community website (www.wcuganda.org) that was built some months back. This was led by Rogers. He took us through the registration process and what features to see, like the members in the community, a menu for writing articles and publishing on the website, Support Forum, Meetups & Events, etc.
I personally got the opportunity to register. You should do the same to grow the community. It also has an area for “Call for Speakers” at any upcoming WordCamp, especially for 2019. The URL is already up and running on several WhatsApp groups, plus Telegram.
Submit your application as a speaker here: https://www.wcuganda.org/call-for-speakers/
You also need to view Martin’s presentation here: https://bit.ly/2kKO0H8
We also have good news for you from the team. We have got another venue at Makerere Innovation and Incubation Centre (MIIC Hub), 5th Floor Computer Science Block, every first Tuesday of the month, from 5pm to 7pm. We start October 1st, 2019.
See you next month.
About the Writer
Julius Masaba is the Business Development Lead at Ablestate and a WordPress writer/blogger on startups, entrepreneurship, business and finance. He loves tech.