A great pitch = a great story

Recently, I was invited to talk at a ”Startup Pitch Bootcamp”:

Pitching your startup ideas effectively is a crucial skill that will help you acquire financing, customers, partners, and top talent. In just three hours, the Startup Pitch Bootcamp will help you improve your pitching skills and recruit potential co-founders. This intensive, collaborative workshop features talks by leading startup Founders designed to help you understand the key ingredients of a successful pitch. Then, you can apply that learning and pitch to both experts and peers to receive constructive feedback in a relaxed setting.

When I tried to collect my thoughts on the subject, I figured pitching had been a big part of my life. In sales, in my sailing team, in fundraising and in startups (my own and those I’d advised).

And now, as an angel investor, on the other side of the table.

So are there a common theme here? What components need to be present to close a big deal with a customer, get buy-in from the crew onboard or the team at work, to get a €20 MEUR sponsorship deal or funding for your latest startup?

A good story.

And understanding the audience.

Here are some really good resources on this:

Andy Raskin

Andys tagline is ”Helping leaders tell strategic stories” and he really nailed it. He’s on Medium, Twitter and his own web here.

His most notable piece is ”The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen” on Zuora. And by the way, Zuora really nailed it both in their pitch as well as carrying the theme over in events and a book.

StoryBrand – Clarify Your Message

StoryBrand is a commercial technique/framework byDonald Miller (Twitter), but not very hard to understand.

The book is really good too, and very useful to figure out your value proposition. As well as the story to tell.

Pitch anything

If you have been pitching for a few years, you build a toolbox of things that work really really well. In his book, Oren Klaff, delivers some real insights on how to deliver a pitch when the stakes are high.

Lot’s of great war stories and a few warnings… Makes pitching even more fun when you can put a name on some of your plays.

Biggest takeaways?

”I’m the prize – I don’t need your money” & ”Don’t be needy”.

Shane Snow

Cool dude with a course on storytelling on LinkedIn.

History of storytelling, and why you should care, in business or in life from Shane Snow on Storytelling by Shane Snow

Nancy Duarte

When I really want to nail a presentation, I tend to come back to Duarte for inspiration and tips. Like her latest posts”Why (And How) to Care About the First 30 Seconds of Your Talk” and ”How to Write a Great Talk: Murder Your Darlings”.


When I met the aspiring entrepreneurs, I outlined some of the mistakes that I often see. Not directly connected to storytelling, but still worth considering pitching to angels or VCs. And yes, I noted a few of those in the discussions after my talk. Especially #1 & #2 🙂

  1. No well defined (or small) customer problem
. The typical scenario is a cool technology trying to find a problem. Or a problem that doesn’t hurt enough for the customer, so they can live with it. Or will not make it a top 3 priority. If you’re #5 on the customers list, you might as well stay home.
  2. No dedicated & passionate team. ”This is a cool product that we’ll do if we get funding – or maybe we can give it to someone else who can execute?” Why should anyone else believe in your idea if you don’t believe in it yourself? Typically this is just on paper, as real customer meetings tend to make entrepreneurs committed.
  3. Assumptions (is the mother of…) instead of a well-defined hypothesis (that can be tested very cheap). Why guess if you can find out? Typically a sign that you didn’t spend enough time with potential customers.
  4. Lack of focus (and plan). The product will solve 
everything for everyone directly, or attacking many different segments (or geographies) at once. Hard to do with no resources? Hard to do with resources as well! I still haven’t met a company that’s too focused.


Pitching is fun.

And telling a great story, even more so.

Standard formats

As checklists to get everything in to please a VC, here are some good templates.

But don’t forget the story!