Tumml RAs May Samali and Jeff Carlson share tips for a successful early-stage startup pitch
First appeared in Medium on July 6, 2015

Investment dollars can be critical for the survival of early-stage startups. And creating the perfect pitch is imperative to securing these investment dollars. But this is not an easy task, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. 

Here at Tumml, we work closely with early-stage entrepreneurs who are tackling urban problems. Based on our experience, we’ve compiled a list of our top five tips to assist early-stage startups as they prepare their pitch decks:     

  1. Show why you care. Most ventures are born out of founders’ personal experiences. The desire to solve a problem you have encountered first-hand is a strong motivation for entrepreneurship. Did your battle with depression move you to build a mental health platform? Did the lack of public transport options in your neighborhood push you to found a carpooling service? These stories are part of your personal narrative. Include them and your passion will shine through in your pitch. Investors want to hear why you care about the problem you are trying you solve. How did you come to discover the problem you are building a solution to?    
  2. Tell a story. The internet is littered with templates and frameworks for pitch decks. Although these are great starting points, your pitch should be more than filling in a predetermined set of slides. Focus on telling a comprehensive story about your desire to solve a problem and the impact you will have. The key to telling a great story is combining thoughtfully-chosen anecdotes and statistics with a simple, clean presentation.    
  3. Build trust in your team. When introducing your team, don’t just present a slide with the photos and titles of your co-founders. Tell us how your co-founders met, how you all fit together, and why you will work well as a team. Investors look for startups whose team members have complimentary skill sets, but similar mindsets. Many startups fail because of conflicts between co-founders, poor team dynamics, or a lack of shared vision. Investing in early-stage startups is as much about investing in the team as it is about investing in an idea. Give investors a reason to believe in you and your people.    
  4. Demonstrate proof of concept. An idea is just an idea unless you can prove to investors there is a market for your product or service. Don’t assume there is a market. Instead, show that there is product-market fit. Run a pilot. Build an MVP. Get out there and do some user testing. Include quantified results in your pitch to prove you have traction.    
  5. Practice, practice, practice. How you present yourself is just as important as the content you share. Spend some time refining your message so you can convey your mission and vision in one sentence. Ask friends, family, and colleagues to serve as a practice audience. Create a list of anticipated questions from investors and prepare concise answers. Practice really does make perfect.