Paula Young-Libby is the CEO of MycoCann, Inc. an ag-tech startup with sights on revolutionizing how cannabis is grown. Join us here every week as Paula gives us an exclusive peek into the entrepreneurial experience. This week Paula shares insight on pitches.
There is nothing so vital to the well-being of a startup than the pitch. It is the single most important skill that a CEO must have in order to raise the funds that will grow your pre-revenue baby into a market-dominating adult. The internet is awash with articles about the building blocks of a good pitch by much more famous and experienced people than I. Search those out, because this is not about how to construct your deck, but about the various skills, you will need in order to pitch successfully. The following are all things I needed to learn in order to apply to the Canopy San Diego accelerator:
Pitching is the lifeblood of sales, and as CEO you are selling your company to investors. In order to sell, you need to be able to craft the story of your company, and how it is a disruptive, transformative solution to a major problem.
Skill #1 is Storytelling.
Take a creative writing or copy writing course. Learn the basics of how to structure a story, how to build tension and suspense, and how to cut out unimportant information and get to the heart of what you are trying to communicate.
Just writing a pitch is not enough. In today’s media-rich environment, you need a deck to go with the pitch. And you need more than one pitch and deck, because what you tell angel investors will be different from what you present to VCs or what you tell bankers when you’re looking for an equipment or real estate loan (you might want to be careful with this, since banks are notoriously intolerant of cannabis businesses, especially plant-touching ones). Some investors want a text-rich set of slides that gives them the bullet points of the business model and some prefer an image heavy approach, with the details being laid out in the verbal audio track to the deck itself.
Skills #2 is Photo editing
I use Serif Photo Plus, since it’s relatively cheap and easy to use. My favorite source for gratis, high quality royalty-free images is Morguefile.com. If you need hand drawings, diagrams, or custom artwork, Fiverr.com is a relatively cheap source, although I have had mixed results with quality and reliability there.
Skill # 3 is Powerpoint
The program is pretty intuitive, but if you need more help here, there are lots of video tutorials on the internet if you don’t want to buy a book like Powerpoint for Dummies. Check your local library for how-to books for your program year.
Skill #4 is Audio Recording and Editing.
You don’t have to be an expert on this but you should know the fundamentals. Beware of background noise and position your microphone so that you don’t get a lot of pop or cord hiss. Drink lots of water to avoid dry mouth, and warm up your mouth and voice before actually sitting down to record. If you can’t afford a good microphone or digital recorder, many cellphones nowadays record with really good quality and you can download voice recording apps for free.
After mastering the text deck, you can move on to an actual video pitch. More and more angel groups and VCs are requiring a short video rather than a live pitch, because this allows the individual investors within their organizations to gain insight into the founders, without disrupting their schedules to be at a specific place and time to attend a live pitch or webinar.
Skill #5 is Acting/Public Speaking
I highly recommend joining Toastmasters to improve your skills here.
Skill # 6 is Video Recording
This is an entire subject on its own, but here are a few quick tips: Use a tripod. Beware of distracting background images/activity. Make sure you provide good lighting (A cheap “china ball” light provides awesome fill lighting). If you are using a handheld video camera or your cellphone to record video, invest in a cheap digital recorder and lavalier mic for your audio, and some video editing software that will allow you to add on the separately recorded audio track. When you create your video, try to take advantage of what the medium can provide. Look for visually interesting ways to get your information across.
Skill #7 is Video Editing
Technology has improved so much that there are a plethora of programs that allow you to put together movies and edit audio tracks. I use Serif Movie Plus, an inexpensive program with similar functionality to more expensive video editing software.
Learn all of these skills, or find someone who can fill in your gaps.
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