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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