The Investor Presentation: Making the Perfect Pitch
by Martin Livingston of Breakthrough Communications
It’s 9:00 a.m. on Monday. An analyst and two investment bankers in crisp navy blue suits sit impatiently at your boardroom table. The PowerPoint projector bursts to life and your heart starts racing. It’s show time! You have 20 minutes to convince them that your company is worthy of their time and money.
Relentless competition for capital among private and public companies has made courting investors an integral part of building a successful company. Of all the communication channels available, the investor presentation stands out as one of the most direct and effective ways to get on a money manager’s radar screen.
A presentation is often an investor’s first introduction to a company. To make a favourable impression you must persuade investors in a very short time that your company has the technical expertise, business acumen and potential to develop innovative products for a ready market, or in the case of mining, to uncover and identify a promising deposit and take it to the feasibility stage. While a flawless presentation alone will not open the purse strings, a poor one will certainly limit your chances of securing a second meeting or a cash infusion.
The overall objective of the presentation is to make a sound business case for your company. Outline the value of investment proposition and demonstrate how investors are going to benefit from the company’s progress through a handful of well-placed key messages that resonate with your audience.
Venture capitalists, retail investors, analysts, portfolio managers and fund managers all have different information requirements and varying degrees of knowledge about your industry. A fund manager who specializes in your sector will naturally require a higher-level briefing than a money manager who includes companies in your space as just one component of a larger portfolio. Know what will interest your audience and tailor the pitch accordingly.
Research and qualify prospective investors well before your presentation. Identify their investment style and criteria, portfolio of companies, stage and focus of investment and other parameters.
Before you set up a meeting, draw up a list of “hardball” questions that could arise and develop some credible answers. Above all, rehearse the presentation beforehand, particularly if other members of the management team will be speaking.
The presentation should flow seamlessly, using clear and assertive words that tell a compelling story to capture and maintain investor interest. The key is to simplify the story, limiting each slide to one take-away point, paring down excessive verbiage on slides and adding visuals to illustrate important points. Be sure to maintain a consistent level of disclosure, and tone down any blatant promotion.
Arouse interest immediately by hooking the audience with your “elevator pitch” — a clear, 30-second description of the company and its investment attributes — along with a noteworthy accomplishment or milestone that establishes credibility at the outset. The entire presentation should be structured to support these key messages. Limit your presentation to less than 20 minutes — that’s 20 to 25 slides, maximum — and allow an additional 10 minutes for questions, but be prepared to go longer if required. Limit each slide to one take-away point, pare down the text to essentials, and add visuals to illustrate important points.
Design your presentation so it’s easy to follow. Succinctly explain your business, products and technology or, in the case of resource companies, your exploration and development strategy. Choose key investment strengths and reinforce them throughout the presentation. Describe your target market, business strategy and management expertise concluding with financials and a strong, confident close.
Be sure to provide investors with a hard copy of the presentation so they can take notes. You may also want to hand out an investor package providing more details on the technology, development program or the market opportunity. Investors can refer to this if an applicable question comes up.
The Target Market
Define the market opportunity in realistic terms. Investors want to know that you understand your company’s or product’s true market potential. Describe the market’s size, characteristics, growth potential and trends.
One common mistake company executives make in an investor presentation is displaying the multi-billion-dollar international market they’re targeting without identifying what part of that market they can realistically capture. Be specific about your strategy for penetrating that market.
Technology investors are looking for undiscovered companies with leading science and intellectual property that addresses an unmet need. Explain the technology in very simple terms. Where possible, use analogies to drive the point home. Focus on the novelty of the technology, how it works, proof of concept, how it compares to the gold-standard in the industry and the company’s product development and marketing plan.
Investors want to know that senior executives have a good understanding of the market and their competition. Anticipate the inevitable questions: Who else is pursuing this market? What, in particular, is unique about this technology? Always be prepared to explain diplomatically who your competitors are and your sustainable competitive advantage. Describe your ownership of any patents, proprietary process or technology, exclusive licences or agreements. Discuss core competencies that give you a clear advantage over the competition.
In the case of mineral exploration, investors like to acquire shares in companies during the early stages of discovery, betting that geologists with past successes will continue their winning streak. Early geophysical or geochemical evaluations indicating mineralization on a property may initially pique the interest of the market. But each progressive stage of exploration will also raise new questions that management should be prepared to address concerning the size, continuity and grade of the deposit, risk factors, potential native or environmental conflicts, infrastructure, the economic viability of extraction and the company’s strategy for moving forward.
Whatever stage a company is at, you must be able to clearly articulate its goals and long-term business plan. If, for example, the company is working to expand its portfolio of products, how is management going to finance and manage the growth?
If management is looking to sell or license rights to a product, development rights to a property, or enter into a joint venture, they should be able to confidently convey their strategy for doing so. What is management’s track record of negotiating similar deals under favourable terms? Is the background and expertise of management suited to their stated business strategy?
Investors like management teams that can get results, ideally made up of professionals with a track record of successful discovery, expertise in taking a product or project beyond the feasibility stage, as well as experience forming partnerships and raising capital.
Briefly highlight management’s track record and expertise by pointing out relevant past accomplishments. Don’t just rattle off credentials — be specific. How exactly did they help their former company achieve its goals?
Financials and Milestones
Given that few start-up companies are profitable, conventional valuation guidelines such as price/earnings ratios rarely apply. Instead, valuation may revolve around discovery, intellectual property, or management expertise. Investors pay close attention to the progress of product/project development, partnerships, associated news flow, and, in particular, the amount of cash a company has on hand compared with its quarterly expenditures.
Always end the presentation on a high note by either recapping the company’s investment highlights or showing a timeline detailing business milestones. If you’re looking for financing, specify how much you need in this round and how it will be used, with emphasis on the company’s investment merits.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to follow up with investors after a presentation. Feedback surveys or a follow-up call from an independent third party will likely elicit candid responses from investors on what they thought of the company, its management and the presentation.
At the very least, send the investor a letter or handwritten note, as opposed to an e-mail. The personal touch will leave a more lasting impression, which can help keep the lines of communication open whether the final decision is favourable or not.