Phrases to avoid when pitching to investors?


What are some phrases startup founders love using that you shouldn't while pitching to investors?

Pitch Founders Investors Startups

asked Mar 8 '14 at 03:27
Earl Shellman
55 points
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3 Answers

I have an idea for
hyper, local, global, geo, social, market place, taxi, dating, shopping, loyalty, app for pets
please sign this NDA
trust me
we don't have any competition
my dad says
If we could only get 1% of the market
we're going to be the next Facebook
so if you come down from 5% to 4.5% ownership, we can close this seed round now
answered Mar 8 '14 at 15:33
Nick Stevens
4,436 points
  • "Please sign this NDA" is probably #1 :) – Chrissie Gray 9 years ago


It's not necessarily the phrases as much as the places where you get stumped. Be prepared for lots and lots of sales questions by investors.

  • How big is the market? How did you calculate it?
  • What are the different types of customers that buy your product or service?
  • What is the average sales cycle for each?
  • How much support do they need?
  • What are your closing rates?
  • How many new opportunities do you open up each month?
  • How many dollars in the pipeline?
  • Where do the opportunities come from (i.e. web, word of mouth, salesperson, etc.) ?
  • How long does it take to get a client live on your product/service?
  • Do you have a list of these prospects?
  • Who are you targeting first and why?
  • How do you bill and when do you recognize the revenue?
This is the part of the investor Q&A that entrepreneurs typically fail on. Also, you should practice your numbers. All to often numbers start getting funky in conversations. Burn rate, current expenses, how much to break even, etc. end up not making sense when entrepreneurs 'wing it'. You're expected to be an expert on your product/service - after all, you probably helped ideation or creation of it. But you should really be an expert on the numbers behind your business and how you're going to turn investor dollars into returns.

When the inevitable "How did you choose your valuation" question comes up, be very careful how you describe your logic. What typically happens (you can see this on Shark Tank too) is that the entrepreneur conceptually munges the idea of actual dollars invested with "blood, sweat and tears" time (which is valued monetarily in the entrepreneur's eyes, but isn't necessarily valued the same way in the investor's eyes). Avoid mixing the two.

If you have a business plan it may even be worth a valuation exercise with your favorite investment banker - something that anchors your logic. Since early valuations are very difficult, and subjective, they usually come in the form of a range. You can then argue for the top end of that range because you have customers, growth, etc. This will steer the conversation towards the assumptions you have in your business plan and not annoy the #$@ out of investors because you're saying the company is worth $5M because you worked for free for three years.
answered Mar 9 '14 at 14:02
337 points
  • Good answer - but not to this question, which specifically focussed on things to avoid. – Nick Stevens 9 years ago
  • Chris, I've edited and added your second answer to this one. You can edit the answer if you'd like to add more information. – Patricia Wright 9 years ago
  • Gotcha -- that was my fault. I've expanded the original post. – Chris 9 years ago
  • I like the expanded info instead of just phrases because it explains the flaws in the mindset of a founder. When I saw just the list of phrases I immediately thought "why?" for at least some. – Webbie 9 years ago


The most common mistakes:

  • "€œOur projections are conservative.€"
  • "There is no competition."
  • "We're a Facebook for xyz market."
  • "€œAll we need to do is grab 1% of the market share to be profitable."
  • "Our plan is to do a Series A x months after this seed round."
answered Mar 25 '14 at 14:32
Leslie Parker
80 points

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