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You’ve gotta send the CEO

Recently, I was sitting on a panel that was tasked with deciding the recipient of 1 million euro grant to grow their businesses. I was one of five and we all came from an investor business backgrounds. We were provided the respective business plans in advance and each came to the table with our respective questions and concerns. Each company was provided 10 minutes to present the projects followed by a 20 minute Q&A.

One of the companies was represented by the founder/CEO, while the other chose to send the lead project manager of the research team. Neither presentation did. Much to move the needle and offered little beyond the business plan already submitted. Both presentations focused heavily on their respective technologies and were light on the business details of execution.

It was up to us to glean these details through the Q&A.

The CEO was forthright and acknowledged the weaknesses of his financial projections (his plan offered a 10-year projection with a hockey stick recently revenue curve). When pressed, he was confident in the first 24 months but beyond that was anyone’s guess. One of the other evaluators commented, “at least he’s honest….” He did demonstrate a command of the economics of his go to market strategy and provided a convincing argument for his approach. Further, when asked about why he was doing this, he offered a passionate reply that made me want to write him a check myself (OK, I wasn’t really going to write a check for a million euros, but you get my point). Needless to say, he got my vote, as well as, the vote of my fellow evaluators.

The second presentation did not go so well. To be honest, when a company CEO fails to present, the evaluators are already put off.  We were told he was very busy – yeah me too, but I made time to be here. At this point, even the best presentation would be facing an uphill battle to win us over.

As the discussion shifted from technology to execution, the presenter was challenged to justify the business strategy and the underlying financial assumptions.  Clearly, this was beyond her scope as a researcher. She offered that the financial details were produced by another department. The takeaway for the evaluators was that the company had sent the wrong person.

I do not know if in reality that the CEO would have done a better job, maybe it was just a flawed plan. But I do know in the first case, we were able to discuss with the principal our concerns proving him an opportunity to address and assuage them. In the second scenario, the presenter simply raised more concerns than she resolved.

Ultimately, we want to get it directly from the horse’s – and that means the CEO needs to be there. I get that you’re busy and it may not always be feasible to be at every meeting.  But I can tell then your absence is the elephant in the room and will be a challenge to overcome with a PowerPoint, regardless of how good it is.

You’ve gotta send the CEO

How Important is a Pitch Deck?

A few years ago, I joined Toastmasters. I joined because I honestly believe that 1) Public Speaking is one of the most compelling marketing tools in a entrepreneur’s bag of tricks and 2) Almost all of our public speaking could use a little work and outside guidance.  Don’t believe me? Set up you cam to capture your most profound thoughts and after 5 minutes play it back. I hate to say “I told you,” – oh, who am I kidding? – See, I  told you!

Your pitch is your one big chance to get that ever elusive “angel” to become interested in you next Uber like business that’s a guaranteed Unicorn. Are you really going to go it alone?

I was commiserating with a long time friend of mine, Troy Norcross, about sitting through yet another batch of bad pitches.  “You know we can help those startups? They should talk to us.” Yup, he’s got a startup and it specifically helps perfect your pitch – Startup Business Review. He also work with you to get in front of the right investors.

How important is a pitch deck?

It’s a great question – and a terrible question all at once. I think that one of the biggest issues that people face when pitching is that there isn’t just a single pitch deck that they need. There’s the pitch deck that you send when you can’t present the business yourself, the 20 minute stand up pitch deck, the 5 minute pitch deck, the pitch deck you use to pitch your business and the pitch deck you use to pitch your product.

How important is your pitch deck? How important is it for you to convince people to think and act differently?

What should you lead with?

Empathy and Curiosity. In the first slide you have to communicate to your audience that you have a shared view of the world – and that you might have something new to share with them.

Some pitch decks lead with explaining the problem. Some lead with describing the size of the opportunity. Some lead with their amazing team. The most important thing is that you lead with a message that your audience is going to immediately relate to and then want to learn more about.

What are the key messages that you need to convey?

This all depends on who you are pitching – but if we’re assuming that you’re pitch deck is for investors the most important message you can convey is that you are “investable”. The pitch deck needs to leave business angel the feeling that you genuinely understand your market, your customers pain, your solution and your teams ability to deliver.

Can you explain what “Go to Market” entails?

“Go To Market” – In earlier times Go To Market meant putting your products (eggs, spices, garments, etc.) into a cart and walking to the market. The market was where all the people would come and walk in and out and through the stalls looking at everyone’s goods. You would arrange your products to look as attractive as possible in the hopes of selling as much as you could.

Go To Market in the digital world is much the same, but instead of taking your cart to a centralized market, you have to come up with a strategy that allows you to reach those people who might want to buy your product or service and to get them to come to your website (your stall) and then make sure that your product presents in as attractive way as possible.

Put more simply – a go to market strategy describes how you are going to make sure that as many potential customers as possible come to you.

Another nuance of a good Go To Market strategy is that you want the “right” customers – not just “lots” of customers. You want to reach people who are looking for a solution to a problem that you solve – and who have the money and ability to pay for it.

What about the Revenue Hockey Stick?

Ah – the hockey stick. It’s that part of the graph that shows you growing from meager numbers of customers and revenue – and suddenly shooting to the stratosphere. The hockey stick has become a bad cliché. Most investors just let out a “sigh” when they see a hockey stick forecast.

If you’re going to put a hockey stick in your pitch deck, be ready. investors will grill you on all the assumptions that you have made to create the rapid growth.

Some US-based investors don’t even want to see the hockey stick – they know you have one in the deck. Some UK investors actually rate you as being “naïve” if you have a hockey stick – unless you can back it up.

The best time to put a hockey stick in your deck is when you’ve had the initial traction and you can show real data that you’ve crossed the bend in the hockey stick – when the graph looks more like a boomerang – with the potential  to become a hockey stick – now that’s interesting.

What should you avoid?

Here’s a list of things that I think everyone should avoid:

  • Never create a deck without answering each of these questions:
    • Who is my audience
    • How much time do I have to present / does my audience have to read?
    • After seeing my deck, what do I want my audience to think?
    • After seeing my deck, what do I want my audience to do?
    • At the end of the deck is there a clear, simple and reasonable call to action? (Call me for more info. Invest £500K for 20% today. etc.)
  • Too much text – and text that is so small you can’t read it. If you’re presenting the deck use the Guy Kawasaki idea of no font smaller than 30 point. If you’re not going to present – but only mailing the deck – no font smaller than 20 point.
  • Too many slides: Really you should aim for 10 – 20 slides. You can have a further 10 slides in the back of the deck to answer specific questions – but remember,  the first 10-15 slides need are a stand alone complete presentation.

What do investors really look at?

Pitching is selling – and your vision and your ability to lead a team to deliver that vision is what investors are looking at. You could have the best idea and team in the world – and if the investor doesn’t connect with you – it’s not going to happen.

Do I need an exit strategy?

The Exit Strategy is another one of those “almost a cliché” things. Most business plans say: “And then we’ll be bought out by Google, Facebook,Amazon or someone else.” – What an investor wants to know is not what is “your” exit strategy – but what is “their” exit strategy. When will the business be at a point where they can take their money back and what returns are you hoping to offer? Are you going to go public? Are you going for acquisition? Of is this a business that you want to run for the rest of your life? ( A lifestyle business )

How can you help?

Your pitch is a critical part of the success of your business. I can help you look not just at the pictures and text on your slides – but with the pitch itself. I do this by asking you questions and helping you to see your pitch from the viewpoint of the audience.

Right now, I’m offering a review of your pitch deck against 25 key points. After reviewing the deck, I’ll spend 30 minutes with you 1 on 1 sharing my ideas on where you’ve nailed it – and where you can improve.

After you’ve had a personal pitch review with me – you’ll look at your business differently, your audience differently – and your pitch differently.

Register at www.startupbusinessreview.co.uk for your pitch review today.

How Brexit impacts the European Startup Scene

Recently, I had the chance to catch with an old friend, Troy Norcross and chat about startups, Brexit and fundraising.


How will Brexit impact the European Startup Scene (since London is such a big startup community)?

Brexit was a pretty big shock to the London startup scene. The initial feeling was that it would impact access to both talent and funding. As we are just now beginning the negotiations, there has not been a noticeable effect.So long as London is a financial center and a center for media, FinTech and AdTech startups will remain because of the access to customers. In my view, the big opportunity is for EU cities like Berlin to capitalize on the shift. Overall, I believe the European Startup Scene will benefit because there will be more capital and resources available to promising EU startups once the UK leaves the EU.

What’s the biggest challenge that European Startup Founders face?

A systemic aversion to risk. Investors don’t like risk. Customers don’t like risk. Potential employees don’t like risk. In order to succeed, startup founders must find the right way to either de-risk their business or to demonstrate their ability to mitigate risk. Investors want to see revenue and traction and a working business model. Customers want to see proven platforms and solutions that others have already proven that they work. Teams want to have confidence that the company won’t just go broke and lay everyone off tomorrow. As a founder, your biggest challenge is the fact that everyone is afraid of risk – and by default – startups are risky.

What’s the role of accelerators and incubators today and going forward?

There are over 300 accelerator and incubator programs in London. And they are dying. There are so many programs that it becomes harder and harder to fill a cohort with quality startups. My feeling is that we will see the accelerator and incubator programs of today fade away. There is another related trend that hints towards the future: Large corporates are shutting down their innovation programs. After 3 years of heavy investment in innovation teams and programs and agencies with little or no returns, big companies are shutting these programs down. The new-new thing is in-house incubators. More and more large corporates are engaging with startups in their sector looking for companies who will ultimately disrupt them. If a large corporate can spot an opportunity early enough they can either buy the startup or they can change their organization to survive the disruption. Also, by putting individual team members of corporates alongside startups there exists an opportunity for cultural change on the company side and invaluable mentoring on the side of the startup. The future of incubators and accelerators is that they become programs within large corporates – and free standing accelerators go away.

What is the best team composition for a startup?

The minimum team for a startup is two co-founders: One commercial and one product/service. In the very early days, it is best to outsource as much of the development and design as you can (beyond what the 2 person team can do themselves). If you hire developers, designers and more too early there will come a time when they have nothing to do. The dev team stops while the marketing team engages and then the marketing team stops while the dev team catches up. It’s only when the product market fit has been validated and the cycle of build-test-learn becomes continuous that you should hire full-time extended teams. One other specific role that should be on your team is a “sector specialist”. If your main USP is the use of big data or AI/ML or genetic manipulation – then you really need to have a dedicated individual on the team to back up your ability to deliver.

What’s the number one problem startups have with their pitch decks?

There are so many problems that I see with pitch decks. The number one problem is that the startup doesn’t use a “Language of value” – Too often they talk about features and user experiences and they fail to successfully communicate the value their business brings to the market and how they extract value from users and customers. BTW – the 2nd biggest problem is that startups try to use the same pitch when speaking to customers and when speaking to investors.

What’s the most exciting startup that you’ve seen recently – and why?

Great question. Sceenic (http://sceenic.co/) is the most exciting startup that I’ve seen lately. The thing that makes me excited is that they are solving a real problem for broadcast television – they are capitalizing on social – they are engaging using video – and they are partnering in a way that gives them access to a large audience. Did I mention they have bootstrapped themselves to get to this point and have a pilot with a major UK broadcaster? The founder is a seasoned startup guy (with one startup under his belt) and knows how to make the company work. He has all the makings for a really good growing business and future exit.

Which market sectors are over-represented by startups?

In the UK it’s all about AdTech and FinTech – But I wouldn’t say that they are over-represented. The sectors that are over-represented are FoodDeliveryTech, EdTech and HR Tech. We just don’t need another food delivery platform. And EdTech and HRTech are interesting markets with real problems – and little or no budget. They are unlikely to be able to build US$100M businesses.

How is fundraising in EU different from raising funds in the US?

There are a couple of key ways: 1) The US investment community is all centrally located. This results in a lot of startups congregating where the money is. And the money then competes for the startups. It’s a vicious cycle that drives up valuations and interest. 2) US Companies are happier to invest in companies who can build an audience and focus on monetization later. EU investors want to see cash flow positive in 18 months and break-even in 36 months. This means that you have to focus on revenue from day 1. 3) In the EU a failed startup in your past is a kiss-of-death. In the US it (can be) a badge of honor. It’s all about a cultural difference between EU and US. The US rewards the one who tries – even if they fail. The EU rewards the few who succeed in spite of everything.

How can corporates best support the European Startup Ecosystem?

Corporates can support the ecosystem through their own accelerator programs (as mentioned above) but they can also do a lot to support European Startups by providing open access to the company and to the teams within the company. Corporates who have quarterly events where any startup can come along and pitch to the various departments and get access to decision makers not to sell – but to get real feedback from decision makers – is hugely valuable. The corporate benefits in that they get a far better understanding of what’s going on in the market at the startup level. And startups get first-hand feedback in a non-selling environment. It’s a few hours every quarter and a small lobby full of 10-20 startups. Huge value.

What is a Startup Business Review?

SER Team helps businesses to increase sales and find new investment. Using the Business Ecosystem Plan (BEP) methodology we can help you clearly define your stakeholder value propositions, business models and go to market strategies. The entire process can be achieved in as little as 9 weeks for a fixed price – and comes with 100% money back guarantee. Whether you are talking to customer, teams, or investors – SER Team will help you with crystal clear communication. Start off with a free review of your pitch or investment deck at

Start off with a free review of your pitch or investment deck at www.startupbusinessreview.co.uk

How Brexit impacts the European Startup Scene

Sweating the details and missing the big picture

It was a typical Monday morning.  And like most days, I was running late. I get up early enough but the next hour or so depends on the stars aligning and getting my 4-year-old from Point A to Point B.  Let’s just  say I’d have better luck aligning the stars.

Despite my best parenting intents, I often cave and flip on the Disney Channel so that I have 20-30 minutes to get my act together.  Of course that means some degree of drama trying to move from the TV to brushing her teeth or getting dressed. But, sometimes you just gotta pick your battles.

Actually, things were on pretty much on schedule – the lunch was packed, an outfit was picked out and put on with minimal changes along the way, the dogs were walked and fed. Teeth were brushed, hair was combed, and breakfast was thrown in there somewhere. Coat, check. Gloves, check. Hat, check.  Backpack, check. We were good to go.  I may not be Donna Reed, but I do my best.

As I ushered her out the door, my daughter looked up at me  and giggled, “You forgot my shoes.”  I looked down and sure enough, no shoes.

Sweating the details and missing the big picture

Very often in business we get so caught up in the moment, we lose sight of the big picture.  The clients want something yesterday, the staff is grumbling about being overworked, you can’t remember the last time you had time to breathe, let alone plan and strategize.  Most business work in  reactive mode – putting out fires and responding the loudest demands.  A perpetual game of catch up that you can never win and that inevitably results in lost opportunities.

That’s where we come in.  We help you step back, take a look at the big picture and make decisions that move you towards the goals you had when you set out on this business quest.  Sometimes, all it takes is an objective third-party to help you see the obvious – “You forgot my shoes.”  or whatever your business’ equivalent of that would be.

Often it’s the small actions you take that can set your company apart from the competition. We help you think beyond dollars and cents to what you truly can offer your customers: Why would someone want to buy from you? What is your key differentiation on the competitive landscape? Do you have a defensible position? What can you learn from your competitors?

And the dollars and cents? Well, they matter too. We offer strategies for raising capital and making sure your hard work shows up on the bottom line.

Contact us today to stop reacting and start growing.

International Mentoring for European Entrepreneurs

Are you a startup founder? You already have an MVP and are navigating a rough terrain of customer acquisition, retention and growth? Become an enpact fellow and receive 8 months of mentoring from top experts in your industry! You’ll attend 3 entrepreneurs camps (Tunisia, Germany, Jordan), connect with other startups, all this while growing your business. Start an outstanding personal development journey now! Apply for the mentoring program 2016.

International Mentoring for European Entrepreneurs

The Deal:

  • 50+ hours of intensive and specially tailored mentoring and expert sessions for each fellow.
  • 3 international camps, with tons of expert workshops, individual sessions and startup safaris. Check out our video from 2015.
  • Access a network of over 150 alumni startups in Europe, Middle East and North Africa.
  • Symbolic membership fee for your flights: 1.250 € (German participants) or 2.500 € (other European participants), while getting services worth more than 15.000 €.
  • Scholarships available for participants in need.

Sounds interesting? APPLY NOW for the 2016 intakewww.enpact.org/apply 

Your Benefits:

  • Improve your key business operations with new insights and best practice tools from experts, local and international mentors and other fast moving entrepreneurs.
  • Pitch to an extensive network of partners (corporates, investors, opinion leaders, etc.).
  • Gain exposure via international and regional media outlets.
  • Create meaningful relationships and memories with the enpact community.
  • Experience an outstanding and long lasting personal and entrepreneurial journey.

The Ideal Candidate:

  • Beyond concept validation and prototype phase in your market.
  • Facing new and exciting challenges with team, funding, product development, positioning, pivoting or business development.
  • Exploring new markets or pushing to consolidate within the national market.
  • Willing to exchange stories about failures, lessons learned, tips and tricks with the enpact community.
  • An enthusiastic ambassador throughout and even after the program.

Check out more about us on www.enpact.org and apply under www.enpact.org/apply.

About enpact:

Berlin-based non-profit organization enpact builds and connects promising startups across Europe and MENA (Middle East North Africa) through cross border and cross cultural networking, mentoring and support with growth, development and market expansion.

Your point of contact:

Oleksandra Kovbasko

Community Manager Europe


International Mentoring for European Entrepreneurs

Europe’s #1 Mobile Accelerator


Do you have a kickass team…. and a mobile focused product with great market fit?

– Then Apply and accelerate your business with Startupbootcamp Mobile!

Focusing on mobile devices and related technologies & solutions. Startupbootcamp Mobile in Copenhagen is thrilled to announce that we are open for applications to the 2014 program!

The Mobile program work with startups focusing on mobile devices and related technologies & solutions. The program is located in downtown Copenhagen – 800m2 of office space, close to everything.

Important dates:

April 4 – Applications Open
July 13 – Applications Close
August 8-10 – Selection Days
Aug 17 – Program Begins
Nov 20 – Demo Day

During the upcoming months the Mobile team will travel Europe hosting Pitch Days in several cities. Check out the calendar for more info about the upcoming events.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’ve got any questions!

Startupbootcamp invites you to Europe’s #1 Mobile Accelerator

Voted Best Accelerator in Europe 2014
Startupbootcamp Mobile
Apply | Find out more
Copenhagen, DK | Aug 8 -Nov 20
Europe’s #1 does Mobile. €15k/Team


This year we close applications July 13th, do the final selection August 8-10th and kickoff the hardcore 14-week acceleration journey August 17th. check out the deal and video to find out more.

Did you know:

  • Startupbootcamp has accelerated 139 startups from 40+ countries.
  • 82% are still alive and more than 70% achieve funding after the program.
  • On average our Alumni have raised €440K at a +€2mio pre money valuation.
  • Copenhagen was just voted the City with Best Quality of Life.
  • All SBC stats & contracts are available on our homepage for transparency.

Hope to meet you face-to-face in near future! Lars Buch, Head of Startupbootcamp Mobile

Apply now!

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