Ten-step Formula to Rock Your Business Plan and Investor Pitch

Originally posted on Medium on November 29, 2013

The Art of the Start - ImageI’m frequently asked for my recommendations on the best book to prep for business plan competitions or for creating an investor pitch. My answer is Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. Why? Because it lays out the check boxes that every business needs to figure out before presenting a plan to judges or investors. It helps organize your business and helps answer the question: “Is my business idea viable?”

Every business plan, one sheet, or investor presentation must address the following ten items:

1. Title – Who are you and what does your business do better than anyone else? Present this in as few words as possible. Keep it simple so that anyone can get it and repeat it.
2. Problem – What major pain point or problem does your business solve? Provide an example that helps your audience relate to the problem.
3. Solution – What is your solution to the problem? Show how people’s lives are made better.
4. Business model – How will you generate revenue by solving the problem? [For proven business models check out 24 Types of Business Models with Examples].
5. Underlying magic – What can you and your team do better than anyone else that will give you a competitive advantage? Do you have intellectual property (IP) that you can patent?
6. Marketing & sales – How are you going to find customers and convince them to buy your product or service? What is your sales model?
7. Competition – Who else is trying to solve this problem and why are you better or serving a niche that your competitors are not doing yet?
8. Team – Why is your team the right team to solve this problem? If you are low on years of experience, consider amplifying your team with seasoned advisers.
9. Projections – How much money are you looking to raise? What will that money get you? How much runway? When will you turn a profit?
10. Status & timeline – Show the benchmarks you’ve hit and plan to hit. For example, when will you complete your proof of concept? When will you have your first customers and hire key employees? When will you launch your product or service? When do you expect to start making money and break even?

A bonus slide I would add is:

11. End with a bang – What do you want your audience to take away? Give them the top three to five reasons of why they should invest in your company, and remind them what you do better than anyone else in the world.

Guy Kawasaki also argues that the pitch deck should be no more than 10 slides, no less than 30pt font and be more visual than text heavy. I completely agree. The more image-rich you can make your slides the better.

This formula has helped me win two Seattle University Business Plan Competitions, present a winning pitch at Start-up Weekend, and be selected as a finalist at MIT’s Fast Pitch Competition and the Northwest Entrepreneur Network’s First Look Form.

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The Subtle Aspects of Sexism Women Face: ABC’s Scandal Is Packing a Powerful Punch

In a recent Scandal episode, Lisa Kudrow’s character, Congresswoman Josephine Marcus, delivered a commanding speech about the subtle aspects of sexism women face.

Here’s what Congresswoman Marcus had to say in a nationally televised interview with Reporter James Novak:

“I know what prejudice looks like. It’s not about experience James, it’s about gender. Reston saying I don’t have the balls to be President, and he means that literally, it’s offensive. It’s offensive to me and to all the women whose votes he’s asking for.”
“I’m sorry, are you saying Governor Reston is sexist?”
“Yes, yes I am. It’s not just Reston speaking in code about gender, it’s everyone, yourself included.”
“Excuse me?”
“The only reason we’re doing this interview in my house is because you requested it. This was your idea and yet here you are thanking me for inviting you into my lovely home. That’s what you say to the neighbor lady who baked you chocolate chip cookies. This pitcher of iced tea isn’t even mine, it’s what your producer set here. Why? Same reason you called me a Real Life Cinderella Story. It reminds people that I’m a woman without having to use the word. For you it’s an angle, I get that and I’m sure you think it’s innocuous, but it’s not.”
“Congresswoman Marcus…”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking. You’re promoting stereotypes James. You’re advancing this idea that women are weaker than men. You’re playing right into the hands of Reston and into the hands of every other imbecile who thinks a woman isn’t fit to be Commander and Chief. Yes Governor I’m talking about you. Seven years I served in the United States Army, which is seven more years than Governor Reston ever served. A fact you conveniently omitted from my intro. How about soldier, Lieutenant…”
“Yeah that was an oversight, I’m sorry.”

She put Novak in his place, he was speechless and I cheered fists pumping with audible cries of “yes”, “yeah”! Congresswoman Marcus could have easily answered Novak’s questions with her stock answers, smiled and moved on to the next task. However it’s important to call out the elephant in the room, to be controversial and call out discrimination when warranted. I cheered because I watched the injustice and sexism in Senator Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign and in the campaigns of many of our top female candidates. These Top 50 Most Sexist Quotes make me cringe. I loved seeing Congresswoman Marcus call out the injustices – and that is one of the most important pieces – I got to hear her out… This segment was two minutes long; it was not a 15 second sound bite. I have no doubt that Senator Clinton and many others have and will continue to do the same. What I do hope for is that our media will give them the airtime they deserve.

The other piece of that episode I want to call out is how Kerry Washington’s character, Olivia Pope figured out a way to bring out the best in Congresswoman Marcus. Marcus was playing it too safe, sticking to what she knew, being nice and likable. Pope knew that not only was that approach not going to cut it, but the Congresswoman had so much more to offer. Perhaps Pope’s method wasn’t ideal (creating a fake attack ad), but the point made is powerful. How often do we as women sabotage ourselves? It’s easy to be a feminist when it’s convenient. It matters when it’s uncomfortable, when it’s on a stage and when people don’t expect it. May we all have an Olivia Pope in our lives to fire us up and combat inequality.

[I also love to see Lisa Kudrow playing a smart, powerful, Presidential role. She delivered a compelling and convincing speech to be emulated and admired].

Personal takeaways: Reading this article about the same segment, A Sexist Reporter Tried to Box Her In But She Took Everything And Threw It Right Back In His Face, on Upworthy, I realized I need to just write. Easier said than done, right? Negative self-talk can make me think I don’t have anything interesting or new to say, but I do. Reading Rafael Casal’s short blurb about this segment, and seeing all the shares over social media, it hit me that it is important to share impactful content. If I was positively affected by something I read, heard or watched, chances are others will be too. So note to self: just write. Begin. Put text on the page. By starting to write, thoughts and ideas tumble out. And what I have to say, matters.

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Why I’m Passionate about Women

Being a feminist is in my DNA. I can’t help but support women. When I see potential, I can’t help but push and encourage people to go for it.

Having been mentored by so many prominent venture capitalists, angel investors and CEO’s, I feel a responsibility to be a successful woman in the tech industry, to not only show all of my mentors that I was worth the investment, but also to set an example for more women and girls to follow. I want to help change the numbers by being a woman in the C-suite and bringing up more women to join me.

I could give you dozens of examples of unfairness, of being passed over for jobs I thought I’d earned, paid less because the boss knew I wouldn’t leave, or simply of all the times I was the only woman in the room, the only woman on the panel and as a manager, the highest ranking woman at the company (sad…). In one particular instance at a former employer, my successor came in making $15,000 more than me. I promised myself that would never happen again and I’ve become a passionate advocate and coach for women friends of mine so they negotiate their salary and are paid what they deserve.

I’ve helped dozens of friends, and friends of friends, go for, and get the bigger position, the bigger salary and develop their voice. Friends give me a hard time because I don’t let them off the hook. I am a part of a women’s group called the IPIA (International Pinkies in the Air) which has helped me learn from seasoned women executives. Since I gain so much from that group, a friend of mine and I created a women’s group for ladies my age because we realized that we all have to overcome obstacles in our careers, so why not help each other through them and avoid some in the future?

My goal for the women I touch is that every woman sees her true individual potential and is left encouraged to set bigger goals.

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Build Effective Teams, Be a Great Team Member & Incorporate Service

Advice from Code Fellow’s Brent Turner.

Thanks to our new CEO Jeff Lanctot, every month my company Mixpo invites a community leader to present to our employees at what we call The Mix. I was very impressed with this month’s speaker Brent Turner, a former colleague of Jeff’s, successful businessman, passionate community advocate and straight shooter from Tennessee. Brent and Jeff discussed topics ranging from how to build great teams, be a great team member, to how to incorporate service into your company and career.

For some quick background, Brent Turner is the Co-Founder & President of Code Fellows, an engineering training program that teaches people to code and guarantees them a job. Previously he worked as executive vice president of call products at Marchex. Prior to that, he spent nearly 10 years in various roles at aQuantive and Razorfish. He is also the Director of Strategy at REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade), an organization with a powerful mission. He is very passionate about his family and service. From what I can tell, he only gets involved in projects that really matter.

Highlights from the interview with Brent:

01:57  Advice on how to build effective teams:
02:46  1. Get the right people in the right roles.
05:13  2. Get very clear on what your company’s plan is – what you are going to do and what you are not going to do.
06:47  3. Talk about the right things at the right intervals.
08:09  4. Figure out the right culture for the team and then everyone needs to accept it and lead it out.
10:30  Four characteristics of how to be a good team member:
10:41  1. Be committed to an outcome versus being helpful.
12:10  2. Constantly be learning and trying to improve, and find a mentor.
13:50 3. Explore versus purely asserting yourself.
15:32  4. Keep your introspection on whether you’re on the right path in your career.
18:26  The market need and strategy behind CodeFellows.org.
23:36  Insights into why Brent got involved in REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade).
28:02  The importance of having a service component for your company and career. Brent recommends self-taxation of your time, your talent and your resources to help people wherever your passions lie.
35:40  How he developed his management style.
37:48  Ways to find a mentor.
40:44  How nonprofits can coexist rather than compete.
44:45  Ways to make an organization more efficient.
50:32  Personal organization techniques.

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