As an entrepreneurial support organization, the UNeTech Institute team coaches and mentors entrepreneurs on a variety of skills — business strategy, company branding, financial planning. Each of these skills is crucial to a new startup depending on where it is in the lifecycle of the incubator.
One of the most challenging skills for a new entrepreneur to master is how to pitch an idea to a potential backer. A recent article by Hillel Fuld presents five ways to prepare yourself before you pitch anything to anyone, and they are pretty important ones.
Look at the person’s actual work. This is pretty straightforward. Be sure you are pitching someone who will be interested in your project by researching the type of projects that they have supported in the past. Don’t pitch a fintech project to a foundation that only funds fine arts organizations. Don’t pitch your project to a funder who only backs the work of Black women founders if you are a white man. These mistakes will earn you a bad reputation and keep others from potentially funding your work in the future. People talk, and you want them to talk about you and your work in a positive way.
Figure out the best place to pitch them. There are so many ways to reach out to people thanks to technology, and it’s crucial that we pitch people the way they want to be pitched. A few years ago, I worked in the development office for a small arts organization, and I mailed an “ask letter” to the home of a donor. Why did I do this? Because her address was listed online, and I had no idea that this was not the way she liked to be contacted. Turns out, the proper way to reach out to her was through her foundation office. My letter came back Return to Sender, unopened, and I was informed that she would not open any mail other than personal letters at her home address. Luckily, no harm was done as she had an assistant who managed the mail that arrived at her home, but this could have been a major mistake. All because I had not done my research to determine where this donor prefers to be pitched. Rookie mistake.
Try to find information on how they like to be pitched. Most funders make it pretty clear how they prefer to be pitched, and every formal investor will tell you directly how they want to receive your information. Fuld’s article spells it out clearly: “Do they want your press release as an attachment to your e-mail or do they prefer it as text in the e-mail itself? Does this investor only like to receive a pitch with a deck attached or do they prefer a personal e-mail first and only after want to see a deck?” Sending information the wrong way and in the wrong format could mean the difference between a funder looking at your pitch and simply deleting an email, especially if the website clearly states rules to follow for pitches.
Always try to get a warm intro. Imagine what it must be like for an investor who receives pitches all the time. A warm intro is a huge selling point for you and your project. If someone can vouch for you and introduce you to a funder, do it. Your chance of successfully pitching have just increased tremendously.
Start your message with the ask. You know what you want from the person you are pitching. Ask it upfront. Be direct and concise. And ask it at the beginning of your communication so they know immediately what you need. Do you need money? Say that. Do you want them to feature you in their online publication? Lead with that. Would you like access to their technology equipment? Put that in the very first sentence. Begin your message with the ask, and then give context to the request.
At UNeTech, we teach our founders all these tricks and more because it’s our job to coach entrepreneurs to be successful. Our staff works with startups every day. On the phone. On Zoom meetings. On site. Across Omaha. We love coaching and training entrepreneurs so they can find success running their new businesses.
What tips and tricks do you need as a founder or entrepreneur? UNeTech is looking to begin some free basic courses for innovators, entrepreneurs and inventors. What would you like to learn about? Let us know what is missing from your current skillset so we can help build your confidence to pitch.