“Summarize the company’s business on the back of a business card.”

Sequoia Capital

Summary: An introduction captures an investor’s attention, but a great elevator pitch gets a meeting. The major components of the pitch are traction, product, and team.

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If you’re building an interesting company, people will offer to introduce you to investors—it makes them look good. In Hollywood, content is king; in Silicon Valley, dealflow is king.

So, what should you send investors? Send an elevator pitch and a deck. We’ll cover the elevator pitch in this article.

Get a first meeting with an elevator pitch.

A great elevator pitch is more important than your deck and less important than the “introducer”. If you don’t have an introduction, the elevator pitch is critical to a cold call.

An introduction sells the investor on reading the elevator pitch, which sells the investor on reading the deck, which sells the investor on taking a meeting. Many investors will just skim the deck and take a meeting if the introduction and elevator pitch are good.

An elevator pitch.

Send a brief email that the introducer can forward with a thumbs-up. I crafted this elevator pitch from Marc Andreessen’s job listing for Ning:

Subject: Introducing Ning to Blue Shirt Capital

Hi Nivi,

Thanks for offering to introduce us to Blue Shirt Capital. I've attached a short presentation about our company, Ning.

Briefly, Ning lets you create your own social network for anything. For free. In 2 minutes. It's as easy as starting a blog. Try it at http://ning.com

Ning unlocks the great ideas from people all over the world who want to use this amazing medium in their lives.

We have over 115,000 user-created networks and our page views are growing 10% per week. We previously raised $44M from Legg Mason and others, including myself.

Before Ning, I started Netscape (acquired by AOL for $4.2B) and Opsware (acquired by HP for $1.6B).

I've admired Blue Shirt's investments from afar. We're starting meetings with investors next week and I would love to show Blue Shirt what we're building at Ning.

Best,

Marc Andreessen
xyz@ning.com
415.555.1212

Your email should be no longer than this example (which is already too long).

Dissecting the elevator pitch.

Let’s dissect this pitch:

Subject: Introducing Ning to Blue Shirt Capital [A useful subject line!]

Hi Nivi,

Thanks for offering to introduce us to Blue Shirt Capital. [Reiterating the social proof of the introducer.] I've attached a short presentation about our company, Ning. [Did you notice the attachment?]

Briefly, Ning lets you create your own social network for anything. For free. In 2 minutes. [What is the product? What does it help the customer do? Who is the customer?] It's as easy as starting a blog. [What's the metaphor?] Try it at http://ning.com [Link to the product, screencast, or screenshots.]

We built Ning to unlock the great ideas from people all over the world who want to use this amazing medium in their lives. [What's the big problem or opportunity?]

We have over 115,000 user-created networks and our page views are growing 10% per week. [Traction.] We previously raised $44M from Legg Mason and others, including myself. [Social proof and more traction.]

Before Ning, I started Netscape (acquired by AOL for $4.2B) and Opsware (acquired by HP for $1.6B). [Team.]

I've admired Blue Shirt's investments from afar. [Why are you interested in Blue Shirt?] We're starting meetings with investors next week and I would love to show Blue Shirt what we're building at Ning. [Call to action and subtle scarcity.]

Best,

Marc Andreessen
xyz@ning.com [Contact information—how thoughtful.]
415.555.1212

[OVERALL, TEH EMAIL USEZ GOOD GRAMMAR, PUNCTUASHUN, AN CAPITALIZASHUN, AS WELL AS SHORT PARAGRAFS AN SENTENCEZ.]

See David Cowan‘s excellent Practicing the Art of Pitchcraft for more examples.

Pop quiz.

How does Ali G apply these techniques (or not) as he pitches the Ice Cream Glove to Donald Trump? The best answer gets a wonderful Venture Hacks mug.

The deck.

Read What should I send investors? Part 2: Deck for suggestions on crafting a deck.

Yo! This post is out-of-date. For the latest on elevator pitches, investor presentations, and more, check out our e-book on Pitching.

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Topics Introductions · Pitching

20 comments · Show

  • Dimitry

    God, I love Ali G.

    He introduced the problem and proposed a simple solution. Also showed celebrity involvement with P Diddy.

    Fails to put in good words about Donald Trump and why he should be interested in involving himself with it. In the end, there was no call to action. He should have also thrown in some stats (the Million Billion forecast could have done wonders on Trump)!

    Good skit to start off Friday morning, thanks :)

  • chrisco

    Agreed, like with most communications, short and sweet is usually best. Also agreed, with VCs you need to spell it out for them and really need to use the “dog food” maxim, which states that VCs are like dogs, in that they always want to eat what the other dog is eating. Most books (and blog posts) call this “social proof.” Cheers, chrisco PS: Has Ali G lost his touch?

  • Sumit Chachra

    - Stated the problem
    – Had a solution/prototype ready to show
    – Had numbers (however crazy they were) to back him up, in terms of revenue/market opportunity
    – Last but not the least, was funny (and took all the setbacks and rejections of his idea in his stride… instead of getting all angry!)

  • Richie Hecker

    I love that Ali G thing. It was brilliant and insane. Completely agree on the pitch email. I’d consider breaking it down to how to approach an investor you don’t know vs. someone you were introduced too…

    • Nivi

      Our email discussed product, traction, and team in that order.

      For a cold call:

      If your traction is interesting, I would start with traction then team.

      If your team has a pedigree and your traction is not interesting, I would start with the team and traction in that order.

      And try to keep each one down to a sentence.

      And cut the size of the elevator pitch above in half.

      If your traction isn’t interesting, your team doesn’t have a pedigree, and you’re doing a cold call, your product better be really really really interesting and you better be able to instantly demonstrate the value of what you have built so far. But it is still a stretch.

  • Richie

    My latest pitch, rip it apart everyone :)

    The Future of Online Advertising. Using Artificial Intelligence to create an ad exchange that eliminates arbitrage and click fraud while making advertisers & publishers more money. Me = Serial Entrepreneur. Chairman = former CMO of DoubleClick. CTO = actually invented an online ad format.

  • Brandon

    The bigger question here may be: how did he secure these meetings and get face time with several very large capital venture funds?

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