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7 Tips For Pitching Your Entrepreneurial Idea, Whether To Angels Or Sharks

Baybars Altuntas has been a star of the Turkish version of the television show Dragons’ Den / Sharks Tank, and was the only entrepreneur to be granted a personal audience with former President Obama at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington DC. Image: CEM UCAK CINER GAZETE DERGI

Are you ready to present your business idea to the wealthy investors on the Shark Tank? Just remember that the successful Sharks sitting across from you (or Dragons in the UK, Lions in Finland, or the original Tigers in Japan) were once in your shoes, and have all learned where to look, and how to pitch, to secure funding for their entrepreneurial ideas.

Baybars Altuntas is a shark, or rather a dragon on the Turkish version of the reality TV show. He is also a successful entrepreneur, and Chairman of The World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF). He has contributed a chapter to the book Planet Entrepreneur, with advice on where to find potential investors, and how to pitch to them.

Not that he has always got it right himself. As with so many entrepreneurs, the learning curve can be steep, and he has his fair share of inspiring and funny stories. Back in the days before the Internet, for example, he tried to put together a list of franchise companies wanting to do business in Turkey. Pre-Google , remember, you would have to turn to books for such information. So he used a book he found in an old bookshop and discovered later, when furious readers reacted, that it had been written in 1922 and all the franchises had long gone out of business!

But in the digital age, he reminds would-be entrepreneurs that there are no borders any more. So whether you find yourself in front of five sharks and a TV audience of millions, or with five minutes and an angel investor audience of one, a big part of their decision is going to be based on the quality of your presentation, and the people involved. Here is the advice from an entrepreneurial dragon who has listened to plenty of pitches.

  1. Prepare yourself, not just your idea. Angel investors invest first in the entrepreneur not in the business plan. It’s important that the investor and entrepreneur can get along. They will want to see that you are fast, thoughtful and efficient, and can sustain the project through its conception and growth.
  2. Capture the essentials. Angels care more about the presentation than the business plan. Can you, in less than five minutes, explain the project, the return on investment and the growth strategy?
  3. Have a plan from day one. Angels are very interested in your exit strategy. Many investors tire after about seven years with a company and look around for new opportunities. So what is your exit strategy? Are you going to sell all your shares to a new entrepreneur? Go public with the company? Sell to venture capitalists? Franchise?
  4. Do your investor research. You should find out as much as you can about your angel investor. Who has he or she invested in before? Have they been successful? How well do they know your industry? How much time can they devote to you and your idea?
  5. Take care of due diligence upfront. It takes most investors 3 months to do due diligence on your idea. Make sure that it is not a waste of their time.
  6. Negotiate a term sheet offer. Lack of experience can make this a very painful part of the whole project. You can go to the websites of the Angel Capital Association (ACA) or European Business Angels Network (EBAN) to learn more on this step.
  7. Learn the vocabulary—it’s all there on the Internet.

 Altunas suggests preparing four different presentations for the potential investor:

  • Business plan of no more than 50 pages
  • Business plan condensed into PowerPoint presentation of no more than 20 slides
  • This Powerpoint should be condensed down to a 2-page brief
  • A 5 minute elevator pitch

In Planet Entrepreneur, he then gives a list of 8 things that will turn OFF your investor, and points out that only 25% or propositions make it past the first phase. But on a hopeful note, he concludes by saying “It doesn’t matter if you are from the Americas, Europe, Asia, or Africa; the world is waiting for your good ideas.”

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