How to successfully pitch investors in today’s economy
- As the fundraising environment continues to tighten, fintechs are challenged to make the most of every meeting and interaction with venture capital firms.
- To successfully pitch investors, fintechs should prepare with a pitch deck, demo, research and questions.
Elizabeth McCluskey, director CMFG Ventures
CB Insights reports that fintech funding has decreased 64% year-over-year; the $12.9 billion raised in Q3 2022 is the lowest level since Q4 2020. This is indicative of how venture capital firms may be shifting their investment strategy due to changing economic conditions. Fintechs may be challenged to present a compelling pitch and demo that stand out in this highly competitive environment.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there are best practices to ensure success in both raising capital and securing the right investor. Fintechs should start with preparing these three steps to successfully pitch investors.
Use a pitch deck the right way
Effective pitch decks are high-level, simple, and easily digestible. The deck should include key information on the problem being solved, product and vision, and a high-level timeline or roadmap. Potential investors will want to know where the company is today versus where it’s planning to go; this includes fundraising, product enhancements/developments, partner launches, etc. Other slides can include details on the team members and notable advisors, as well as traction made with customers.
Send the deck ahead of time and be prepared to walk through it in an initial meeting to help investors familiarize themselves with the company. Information that doesn’t make the deck should be included as follow-up materials if an investor shows interest in the round (i.e., longer pitch decks, sales pipelines, financial projections).
In the fintech bull market of 2021, some companies probably raised money with little more than a pitch deck and a vision. However, investors today are scrutinizing deals much more closely, so it’s important that entrepreneurs can clearly distinguish what currently exists from a revenue, customer, and product perspective, and discuss the tangible progress of their company.
The pitch deck should be a conversational tool, not something read or recited. The conversation should be fluid and flexible, adapting if investors have questions or need additional insight. Start the conversation by sharing more on the origin of the company, its mission, and why the company exists. And don’t forget to turn the focus inward; while details about the company and product are important, investors are also investing in the founders themselves, and want to hear the founder’s personal story.
Consider all demo options
If the company has a software product, consider providing a demonstration during the pitch or in a follow-up call. There are several different options for demos, depending on the product’s state of development.
Investors always like to see a live demo of a product if possible. Although it is a slightly risky choice due to internet issues or broken links, it’s authentic and allows the investor to see the product in the real world. If a product is still in a testing or beta environment, it’s also common to see a more “static” demo, consisting of screenshots or Figma mockups. Similar to a pitch deck, a demo should be an opportunity for conversation, so make sure to really listen to the questions the investor is asking.
Increasingly, we are seeing companies share pre-recorded demos of 2-10 minutes in a data room or a follow-up email. This allows investors to watch it in their own time and come back to the entrepreneur with questions in a subsequent call. Again, make sure to be clear about the current state of the product and what exists today versus what is in the roadmap.
Do research and ask questions
There will be a multitude of questions throughout the pitching process, and it’s not one-sided. Just as investors are determining fits for their portfolio, fintechs should ask questions to ensure the right partner for their business. Consider preparing a list of questions in advance to help guide the conversation and inform decisions, such as:
- What kind of investments have they been looking at lately?
- What type of company fits best into their portfolio?
- How do they support portfolio companies?
- How do they see themselves adding long-term value?
- What does the diligence process look like? How do they get to a decision?
Fintechs should also research the investor’s portfolio to see if there are any competitors, companies they’d like to collaborate with, or companies they admire. And it’s fair to ask about these companies specifically. This shows investors that the fintech has done their homework and has an informed perspective.
Taking this one step further, don’t be afraid to have conversations with these companies and ask what it’s like to work with this investor. Much of an investor’s credibility and reputation comes from their portfolio companies. Hearing a portfolio company’s firsthand experience and perspective may help determine if this investor will fit from a business and cultural standpoint.
As the fundraising environment continues to tighten, fintechs are challenged to make the most of every meeting and interaction with venture capital firms. This is best accomplished through a pitch deck, demo, research and questions. Although the pitching process can be exhausting and disheartening at times, it’s best to focus on what founders can control – being prepared and knowing their business.
Elizabeth McCluskey is a director at CMFG Ventures, the venture capital arm of CUNA Mutual Group. She leads the Discovery Fund, which invests in early-stage fintech companies led by underrepresented founders. To learn more about CMFG Ventures, visit https://www.cmfgventures.com/