Thursday, February 27, 2014

Preparing Your Pitch to Win...Tips from a Pro

 Guest Post by Bryan Rutberg

Are you ready to give the presentation that wins the competition and closes the investment?

Done right, your presentation and your personal style will build confidence in both your team and your idea – a critical “two-fer.” When you assess your audience ahead of time and tell a good story that gets them nodding along, you win. Here’s how to do it.

Know Your Audience – 

Do your homework. Who are they? What background, bias, or knowledge do they bring to your pitch? What outcome do you want from them, and what emotion and action do you want to drive to get it?

Make the story compelling – 

Use analogies, insert drama in the narrative, talk about the conflict or pain caused by the current condition in the market and how you can solve it. Was the problem BIG? Hold your hands apart or way over your head. Does something have to happen fast? Zip that hand across your chest. Raise and lower your voice like you’re reading a story (I like to practice with “The Three Bears”); raise your eyebrows; puff up or shrink down as the drama builds.

Engage the room – 

Make eye contact. In a big room, look left, right, and center, front and back, holding a gaze for a few moments. On a stage, walk side to side while keeping head and chest directed toward the audience so your voice carries. Keep attention by altering your tone, clapping your hands to emphasize a key point, or asking a question that requires audience participation (“quick show of hands – how many of you have children in college?”).

Use the experts – 

In a small room, facilitate a conversation instead of owning the floor. Ask more questions of your audience to keep them engaged. If you get a good question for which you have no definite answer, share your thoughts, weigh some pros and cons, and then ask the questioner his or her opinion. I find that “how might we do so-and-so?” is a great way to turn your answer into a dialogue.

Make the ask – 

Tell your listeners what you want them to do. Even if they know, they want to see that you are capable of asking for it. Your next ask could be to a customer for a beta, a trial, or an order – exactly what the funders want you to ask for so that their investment pays off!

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a good start.

Bryan Rutberg is a partner at AG Consulting Partners in Seattle, and he leads the Communications Practice. His team helps leaders and their organizations make great connections with their key audiences – customers, partners, employees, and investors, whether in print, online, or in person. His personal work is primarily storyline development and working with public speakers to get great results. Reach Bryan at, or (206) 251-6911. 

 For more, check out these resources:

  • My recent webinar for the Georgetown University Alumni Career Center expanded on these points. If you prefer to stay true to the Northwest, see my talk from last summer for the Executive MBA and Technology Management MBA programs at the University of Washington.
  • A great resource for deck-builders is Speaking PowerPoint, a book and website ( from smart communicator Bruce Gabrielle.
  •  For graphical display of information, get a classic of the genre, Say It with Charts by Gene Zelazny, written in 1985 and updated in 2001. If you like Zelazny’s style, there’s also Say It with Presentations, updated in 2010.
  • I provide 1:1 coaching and small group seminars to work on personal style. I can teach you to use your eyes, hands, voice, and body when you are in front of a room of five or five thousand ( You can see what’s on my mind and get regular pointers when you follow me on Twitter, @agconscomms.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

You're invited to Pitch at SAC V!

Feb 18 - Pitch Perfect!  
Prepping your Message, Talking to Investors
As you develop your business, you will end up talking to many people about your startup. Getting clarity in how you express your efforts will make a huge difference in how your audience responds. Whether it is your family, a customer, an investor or an economic development person, how you tell the story of your company will impact your success.

Tolis Dimopoulos will host a workshop on pitching your company. It will be focused on the conversation with Angel Investors, but has value to anyone who is working to get clarity in their presentations. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM (PST)

Impact Hub Seattle, WA  -- REGISTER HERE (Eventbrite)  $5

Feb 21-- Using Gust to Connect with Angels

Seattle Angel Conference uses the Online Platform- GUST for managing the documents and information for Start-ups.  If you are seeking investment, you should have a profile on Gust.  SAC Lead Josh Maher will walk you through how to set up and optimize your Gust Profile. If you want the inside scoop on best practices, this is when to get it. Register at Eventbrite, and we'll send you the login information for the webinar,

Friday, February 21, 2014 from 11:00 AM to 11:30 AM (PST)

The comfort of your own desk  REGISTER HERE (Eventbrite) to get details  Free!

Feb 25th-Preparing to take an Investment

What items have to be on your Funding checklist?  Can you take investment?

As an early stage startup looking for cash to help accelerate your progress, you might want to raise outs
ide funds from Angel Investors
Joe will help you be ready for when you get to a Yes with an Angel Investor!

Come listen to Joe Wallin talk about getting prepared for taking an Investment.

Joe WallinJoe Wallin is an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine and is the Author of the Startup Law Blog at 
You can reach Joe Wallin on twitter at @joewallin 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM (PST)

Impact Hub Seattle, WA REGISTER HERE (Eventbrite)  $5

at Seattle Angel Conference V
Presenting Company Tickets must be purchased by March 1st for consideration for an Angel Investment of up to $200K 

Save $150!   Attendee Extra Early Bird DISCOUNT TICKETS
be purchased by March 1st!

Register for the SAC V Conference Now!
(paperwork can follow shortly after by creating your GUST profile)

It doesn't cost any more to enter than to attend, but you get so much out of it.

By applying to Seattle Angel Conference you will connect with new angels, practice your presentation skills, get your due diligence ducks in a row, get direct feedback on your business model, and have a chance to gain a  up to $200K investment. The 10 week due diligence process starts on March 4th, where the Angel Investor LLC will start reviewing, ranking, and commenting on companies. As a result the companies get stronger, regardless of how far they get in the process. ( Read the 5 reasons why you should apply to  SAC by Seattle Startup Booktrope )

Why Should You Apply?
  • Every applicant will receive direct feedback on their business model.
  • The semi-finalists will receive coaching.
  • The six finalists will participate in deep due diligence sessions with investor teams
  • The six finalists will present to a conference full of investors and other entrepreneurs
  • The winning company  will be awarded an investment in the form of a convertible note of $200K
Throw your hat in the ring!

Register Today as a presenting company!

To attend the conference, register at eventbrite  before March 1 and you SAVE big!


Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
from 12:30 PM to 6:30 PST

About the Seattle Angel Conference
The Seattle Angel Conference is an investor led event, connecting Entrepreneurs and new Angel Investors.

More about Seattle Angel Conference and how we're working to build a community of Angel Investors, and Funding Ready Entrepreneurs.

Thanks to our sponors:
-- Intellectual Property Law
- Support for Startups and small businesses

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Due Diligence – An Entrepreneur’s Perspective

Katherine Sears is CMO and Co-Founder of Booktrope and is based in Seattle, WA.

Getting Funding Means Surviving, and Thriving During Due Diligence

You have heard the phrase, “Due Diligence” (which I intentionally capitalize here to indicate the formal import of the term), but aside from hoping it will end with a big investment that allows your business to get to the next stage, you may not have put much thought into it. Or the opposite, you have heard all the war stories and are terrified. Well, here is a quick look at what to expect when viewed from the entrepreneur side of the fence. Note that this is my perspective, and your mileage can and will vary – also, I am not a lawyer and you will want one of those if you are going through this – if your lawyer tells you something different, take their advice, not mine!

Dating and Due Diligence
Dating due diligence Seattle Angel Conference

I heard the “pitch” process compared to dating once. I guess that might depend on where you are pitching, and what your dating experience was like, but I like this analogy better than sports, because there are fewer rules, and far more variables. Much like dating. Here is the way I might extend that comparison.
  • 3 Minute Pitch – speed dating
  • 10 Minute Pitch – date
  •  In Office Pitch – Blind date set up by friends


Getting Serious

I would consider going through the Due Diligence process to mean you are actually dating, and trying to decide whether to get serious. If you are lucky it will be love at first sight, and won’t require the dating-standard “three months” to decide. But, I think that depends a lot on the group you are working with, and what round you are raising (a series A from VC’s may be more intense and lengthy than a seed round with a few known angels). In other words, just like dating, the time frame answer really is “it depends”.

Advice for Due Diligence

Here is my overall experience and advice with respect to Due Diligence (not just with the Seattle Angel Conference).
  •  Be prepared to dive deeper than you think you will need to.

  • No matter how much time you think you will spend on this process, you will spend more. The larger the sum of money you are raising, the longer you can expect to spend in Due Diligence.

  • Be as prepared with your financials as you can be. Most early stage companies do not have a CFO, but you should be able to show your books, and explain where the money is and isn’t being spent.

  • Get your revenue projections in shape. Yes, we all put the prettiest version on our pitch deck slides, but this is spreadsheet territory and you now need to explain where that pretty number came from, and be up front about how big a stretch reaching it actually is. 

  • *It* (meaning the answer to 90% of the questions you will be asked) is obvious to you, because you eat sleep and breathe your company. *It* will not be as obvious to the Due Diligence team. Assume they have already forgotten your pitch deck, so even if you thought this was a key reason why you are even going through Due Diligence now, you may need to explain *It* again. 

  •  Know that you may see the same question rephrased a few times. If this happens, you are probably not understanding what information is actually being sought and your investor is trying to get the answer out of you. This will be especially prevalent if you are creating a new market versus tapping into an existing one, as it is harder for outsiders to truly understand it all. Your potential investors are asking questions based on what they know, they do not yet truly know your business – that is the point of this whole exercise after all. (Imagine you are trying to learn a foreign language and you ask a native speaker what a word means, and they use another word you also don’t understand to explain the meaning.) Your job is to try understand what that true concern is, and then explain it. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

  • Yes, you do have competition. There is NEVER a scenario where you have none. You may be doing *It* better/stronger/faster/more effectively – but if there is enough of a market to warrant you succeeding, someone else somewhere is doing something related. Remember that just because you know you are different, the public (and potential investors) do not. Perceived competition is real competition.

  • Similar to the above, you do have risks. Not just vague ones; real tangible risks. It is your job to know what they are, articulate them, and indicate what you are doing to minimize them.

  • Everything must be in writing. A conversation does not count. Once upon a time, all start-ups had 50+ page business plans. The reason for this was to force you to undertake the thought process for answering critical business questions, and then to articulate it. The other thing this got you was a handy place to cut/paste or point people to, when answering 90% of the Due Diligence questions. Now that most of us use PowerPoint and Excel for this practice, it may mean you have to create a bunch more written material as part of this process. 

Now, let’s be clear, Due Diligence is rarely going to be how most of us would like to spend our time. We are entrepreneurs, which means we like the strategy and creative/innovative side of the business world. But, it is truly necessary if you will be taking outside investment. Not only for the investors, but for you! Just as you wouldn’t be likely to marry someone without dating, you wouldn’t want to take someone’s money without this step.

And here is the most important thing I can tell you 

- if during the process you realize it is not a good fit for you to work with this investor (or group), you must be prepared to walk away. Taking money from the wrong investor will only result in a bad long term relationship that you are bound to – and it is far harder to get out of than a romantic relationship. Don’t just see dollar signs. See the investor attached to the money and ask yourself if you want to work with them. If the Due Diligence process does nothing else, it will help you understand how you will, or won’t, work together in the long run.

-Katherine Sears-
About Booktrope:  Winner of Seattle Angel Conference IV ( SAC IV)

Booktrope is a team publishing platform and modern marketing engine for books of all kinds.

Our platform organizes and controls the process of making real, quality books – both ebooks and print. This is not self-publishing. This is real publishing of quality books streamlined using the latest proven online team methodologies.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crowdfunding in WA- Legislative Action Needed

Seattle Angel Conferencers!  (via the ImpactHUB Seattle)

 We have a chance to pass a crowdfunding law in Washington State that would actually work for businesses like many Hub members.  It seems to be stuck in the House leadership.  Please send an email to help push it along and please add a little something personal if crowdfunding might benefit your business. 
Please email your message (template below) to the following 3 people:

Thanks a lot!
John Sechrest-  Seattle Angel Conference

Subject: Please bring HB 2023, The Washington Jobs Act, to the floor for a vote

Dear State House Leader,

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular means for entrepreneurs in all parts of our economy to raise critical early capital.

A restaurant owner might use crowdfunding to purchase needed equipment, or a software developer might use crowdfunding to raise the needed money to hire her first employee.

HB 2023 opens up equity crowdfunding in Washington, much as the JOBS Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2011 opened up equity crowdfunding at the federal level.  It would allow Washington's Department of Financial Institutions to regulate small investments in businesses looking to grow.

HB 2023 passed out of committee unanimously, and I respectfully ask you to schedule it for a vote in the Washington State House of Representatives in the coming week.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

5 reasons to participate in SAC - From Booktrope

Booktrope for the WIN at the Seattle Angel Conference!

-by katherine sears  written Nov 22, 2013 and posted at the Booktrope Blog

Booktrope wins the Seattle Angel ConferenceYesterday was one that the other founders and I at Booktrope had been preparing for since September 1st.
We have been participating in the Seattle Angel Conference process (their fourth event and investment). If you are not familiar with it, it is a local angel investment group that has a unique investment process and opportunity. Local entrepreneur and angel-investor John Sechrest created the group, with an aim towards encouraging more of the local Seattle scene to consider angel investing and teaching them how to do it. But here is the really interesting part, they learn about angel investing, while actually doing it. You can read more about the group here on their website. Well, the process was certainly worth it for us, because we won! This meant an investment for Booktrope of $205,000.

Despite what you might think, there were several reasons we participated, and only one of them was that we wanted the investment! Here’s the scoop.

The investment – of course. Booktrope is indeed a start-up. Getting this investment helps us get further, faster. We are a technology based company (who happens to publish books), and as it turns out, those engineering types like getting a salary versus a percentage of book profits. (Weird, right?)

The process – anytime you go through a process such as this one you get a good and honest look at your business, (as you can imagine given that big check, this required a full due-diligence effort). If you don’t learn from a due diligence effort, you should probably reconsider your role as an entrepreneur. In this case, the process was definitely thorough, some 50 hours on their part and far more on ours. But the angels we worked with made it clear from the start they were on our side, and truly wanted us to succeed. In fact, it was the most pleasant version of this experience I have had as an entrepreneur, despite the hours required!

The community – Seattle is a wonderful community for start-ups. This particular group has a mission we really believe in, which is to take an active approach to growing that community. By helping angels get their start in angel investing, and at the same time making a significant investment in a start-up (or two, as in this case), the process is truly a win-win all around. More investors, means more start-ups given the chance to succeed. That in turn means more investors. Sort of an entrepreneurial cycle of life, if you will.

The people – as part of the process, we came to know the investors quite well, in particular the team taking on our due diligence. Angel investors are usually people who have been entrepreneurs themselves. The wealth of their knowledge is often worth their weight in gold; and as you can imagine, when they invest in your company they want to help you in any way they can to make sure you succeed. This particular group numbered 37 individuals. Can you imagine 37 people you can go to and ask questions should you need their particular area of expertise when you are starting a business? Yep, gold.

The word-of-mouth – as a newer company, getting press is always important. How will people know who we are otherwise? You can see two pieces from today’s press – one in Geekwire here and one in Techflash here. In addition to articles like these we have had great response via Twitter and Facebook and met a lot of fantastic folks passionate about what we are doing at the event itself. This not only helps the corporate marketing effort, but that of all our books and authors.
Tweets from SAC 2
Huge huge thanks to the folks who organized the event and run the Seattle Angel Conference, John Sechrest and Brad Carpenter in particular, for their insane level of effort. And really, we could not have won without the tireless efforts of our due diligence team headed up by Srini Raghavan.

I also want to mention the other companies who made the finals yesterday. It was truly an honor to be in the running with them, and I feel we all genuinely respected one another. In a twist for this group, there was so much interest (and resulting investment) that they decided to award a secondary investment to one of the other finalists. That company was LaserMotive, a Seattle start-up delivering electricity via light (lasers) to critical assets; they won a secondary deal of $55,000.
Here were the other four finalists:
  • Discuss.IO, offering simple market research, connecting companies to panelists
  • Suncrest using advanced hydroponics to grow and market local lettuce year round
  • graZie Mobile, providing bar and restaurant apps that entice and incentive customer engagement
  • Homeschool Technical Apparel, creating the most durable highly breathable outerwear to keep you warm and dry.
To my fellow Seattle entrepreneurs, if you are trying to decide whether to participate in the next event by this group, I would highly recommend it.