When you begin seeking financing from outside investors such as a venture capital (VC) fund, you will need to use different communication tools to accomplish various goals. Prepare the following five key documents to engage and communicate with a prospective investor:
- elevator pitch
- executive summary
- pitch deck
- business plan
- white paper
About the tools
The elevator pitch describes your venture concisely and in a compelling way (30 seconds maximum). Know your elevator pitch cold so that you can use it during your networking efforts, which could be a referral, a request for more information, a meeting or literally meeting someone in an elevator. Think about how you can communicate what you’re trying to do efficiently and effectively.
The executive summary summarizes the key sections of the business plan (two to four pages). Most investors will review this document first and then decide if they will continue exploring the opportunity. The executive summary must be compelling and very well written. The goal is to create interest, communicate the market issue, outline your business solution and describe why your team is the right group to be successful.
The pitch deck communicates the key business strategy and investment opportunity in a presentation to the potential investor. It should consist of ten to twelve slides and convey information about your innovation, the market it serves, the management team and how you will bring the idea to the next stage. The presentation should be no more than 20 minutes in length.
The fundraising business plan describes your venture in detail (25 to 35 pages). It includes a specific timeline with milestones and detailed financial reports. The fundraising/financing business plan may differ from the day-to-day operational plan, which is an internal management document and is not used for fundraising.
The white paper provides a detailed technical overview of your product and is used primarily in technology ventures.
Important elements for all the tools
- Send communication materials in .pdf format.
- Get input from all team members. Give one person the responsibility of pulling together all of the documents for consistency and flow.
- Documents should look professional; this includes layout, grammar and spelling.
- Make the document interesting to read—use graphics and tables to convey key messages.
- Once you have a solid draft, ask another founder, advisor or mentor for feedback. The document should make sense to a new set of eyes.
- Speak the language of your audience and translate technical features into benefits. Answer the question “So what?” for every message you’re trying to convey.
- Exceed the expectations of your audience.