Crafting a strong startup pitch that gets investors’ attention is tough. It’s so tough that even the best founders with great ideas and business models, repeatedly fail before finding success. After all, if it was easy to craft a powerful startup pitch, it wouldn’t take up to two years for many startups to secure their first round of venture capital or angel investor funding.
For founders, concisely and effectively communicating their vision for their startup idea is a great challenge. No matter how well developed your business model is, as a founder, you can’t secure investor funding if you’re not pitching your startup in a way that speaks to the needs and interests of your targeted investors.
We know the impact of certain words. During speech class we were taught that some words can have great effect when spoken the right way and at the right time. Pull this off well and you have an enraptured audience, flub this up and it will make you look bad. When crafting their startup pitch, in an effort to sound relevant and current, founders often use a lot of buzzwords. A buzzword is a word or phrase that has little meaning but becomes popular during a specific time.
Trying to persuade an investor to give your startup the capital you need can be pretty intimidating, and more often than not, founders pick this occasion to use buzzwords they believe will impress potential investors. People tend to use buzzwords because we perceive them as an easy way to convey what we want to say in a relevant manner. When using buzzwords in a startup pitch, we make the assumption that our readers or audience will understand the meaning. Laziness is another reason founders often rely on buzzwords in their startup pitch. It can be challenging to figure out how to concisely convey a concept – so instead of spending time writing, gathering feedback and editing, founders often take the easy route of using a buzzword.
The problem is that buzzwords have become so overused, so passé, or are so ambiguous that they should not be included in your presentation. The bigger problem is that investors are smart – they read and listen to pitches every day. They recognize buzzwords for what they are, and will usually disregard a pitch that relies on buzzwords to convey meaning.
Here are some of those buzzwords you should no longer use in your startup pitch:
- Cutting-edge or leading-edge – We all know these are big words and have big impact, but unless you can prove you really are cutting-edge or leading-edge, you better leave this out of your pitch. What’s a good substitute?
- Disruptive or Disruptive Innovation – The problem with either of these buzzwords is that most founders will use them in their pitch but never go on to explain how or why their startup is is disruptive. Instead of using one of these two buzzwords, learn how to concisely and effectively express how or why your solution is disruptive.
- World-class – This is just a bad buzzword that should never be used. Its significance as a word that signifies top-quality around the world, has long since faded into obscurity. Using it is a clear indicator that you are at a loss for words and don’t know what to say.
- Game-changer– In the true sense of the word, a game-changer only comes along every once in a while; a true innovation that disputes the way things are done, while affecting the way things will be done in the future However, this hasn’t stopped the word from being overused in a startup pitch. Unless your solution truly is a game-changer, then avoid this all-too-common buzzword.
- Growth hacker or growth hacking – Used to refer to a non-traditional growth strategy, this buzzword is now so overused that its former impact and meaning are long gone. Instead of outlining a realistic, metrics-driven growth strategy, some founders simply rely on the term ‘growth-hacking’ to describe their strategy for achieving scale. Instead, a savvy founder will outline a growth strategy that includes specific channels, approaches, timelines and metrics.
- Innovative– Yes, you want to show potential investors that you are different from your competition, but how sure are you that their definition of innovative is the same as yours? Instead of just saying that your solution is ‘innovative,’ emphasis how it differs from or is better than current solutions or approaches.
- Outside the box – Yes, it means thinking independently and this used to have a good connotation, however, today it is just another buzzword that should be avoided. Just like innovative, instead of using this overused buzzword, tell your audience how or why your solution is different from or better than the status quo.
- Rock star – We all know that a rock star is famous, glamorous, and looked up to by many. However, a rock star can also be hard to deal with, a diva, someone with a short attention span, and someone who will not be in the limelight for long. There is no suggested substitute for this one, the best approach is to avoid it like the plague.
- Value-added – Defined as the amount by which the value of an item is increased at each stage of its production, exclusive of initial costs. This term is very easy to confuse with added value for consumers. Instead of just throwing the term ‘value-added’ for the sake of sounding relevant, tell your audience specifically how or why features or functions of your solution add value for the customer, end-user or investors.
- Break through the clutter – This buzzword is often used in the marketing component of a startup pitch. Unfortunately, instead of telling investors how your go-to-market strategy will stand out from the competition, too many founders simply state that their marketing approach will ‘break through the clutter,’ and leave it at that. Potential investors want specifics, not vague promises so tell them exactly what is different about your go-to-market strategy and why it will be effective.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of buzzwords that can kill your startup pitch. If you are trying to learn how to pitch your startup to investors, be sure to avoid using any of these–or other–buzzwords. You should also avoid using jargon. Other points to consider when pitching your startup:
- If you use technical terms, be sure to explain them.
- Don’t use cliches.
- Don’t be verbose but instead, focus on simplicity.
- Remember the four “Cs” – Clear, Concise, Correct and Compelling.
There are lots of reasons that a startup pitch can fail–bad idea, inexperienced founders, faulty business model, lack of product-market fit, poorly-defined customer segment, and many more. Some of these can be fixed while others cannot.
How you communicate your vision for your startup is one component of your startup pitch over which you have full control. Do it well and the venture capitalists and angel investors will be responsive. But do it poorly and you may blow your chance at pitching investors.
When preparing your pitch, take time to choose your words carefully. Crafting the perfect startup pitch or elevator pitch takes time and patience. Getting objective, third-party feedback and rigorous editing are great strategies for learning how to pitch your startup. Interested in learning more about effective communication strategies and pitching your startup? Contact me today and let’s talk!