10 tips for early-stage startup pitch meetings.

Amir Shevat
5 min readMar 15


As an active early stage investor, I hear about 4–8 pitches a day — they usually last 30 mins and I try to add value in the form of feedback on the product and on the pitch itself. I find that my feedback on most of the pitches is usually similar, so I decided to collect and share the best practices of running an amazing pitch meeting.

As always, this is intended for early stage founders, but I hope that late stage founders can find this useful as well.

  1. Time management: So simple, yet so many people get this wrong. About 10% of the pitches I hear are poorly managed from a time perspective. You should allow for a quick intro, quick pitch, long discussion. Be on time, and finish on time. For example, if you are running a 30 min meeting you should:
    * Allow 7 mins for intros — briefly talk about your history in the context of the startup. Briefly answer the question “Why are you the perfect fit for this startup?”
    * Allow 8 min for the deck/pitch/demo — briefly go through the team, pain, solution, persona/product, market, funding.
    * Allow 15 min for an open discussion, and follow-up, and buffer in case the first sections took longer than planned.
    Do not police the timeline, but be aware that you are not the person wasting your own time.
  2. Lead with the team: Many founders focus on the problem, solution, and market, but fail to talk about the team. Put the team slide early and tell the story of why this team is awesome.
    Why is this team the right fit to solve this problem? What in their past work or education history prepared them for it?
    Why will they work great together? Have they worked together in the past? Have they accomplished something together?
    Notable activities and accomplishments that make them awesome? Rock climbing? On the board of a non-profit? Awesome!
  3. Build good chemistry — I know it is hard, but assume that the investor is a human too. So being nice goes a long way. Try to be your wonderful self — confident, not arrogant, self reflecting and honest, use humor that is appropriate, be charismatic and optimistic. This is a delicate art, but think of it as an honest date or a job interview.
    Remember you are interviewing the investor yourself. Treat the investor like a god and they will act the part (in a non-positive way), but treat them as a nice human being and you will hopefully find a good partner to work with who is not a jerk.
    Do not be pushy or rude, be open to criticism and thoughtful questions. Do not forgive investors for being rude, if they are rude now they are going to be worse when you have their money.
    Lastly — please, please do not lie or guess — if you don’t know something say “ I don’t know but I will find out and get back to you”.
  4. Know your numbers and businessI have written before about the numbers investors care about. You do not need to have them all figured out, but you need to have them all thought out and have the ability to talk about your numbers or predictions for your future numbers. Know and express your desired deal terms — remember the person setting the terms initial numbers controls the anchoring of that conversation.
    Know your competition, your potential partners/channels, know your users, and the persona you are selling to. Deeply understand your users habits, pains, needs, and wants. Investors love founders who are customer obsessed.
  5. Be customer/problem obsessed — To continue the last point — do not try to validate your ideas with investors, validate them with customers and bring that validation to investors. The most important person in the pitch meeting, the customer, is unfortunately not attending, so you need to represent them well.
    If you can get customers quotes into the pitch deck that is amazing. If your customers are willing to talk with serious investors that is phenomenal.
  6. Know your investor — Read a little about the investor, see their latest tweets or articles, review their latest investments. When the time comes it is okay to ask for reference about the investor from previous founders. When I am ready to invest I am happy to provide such references.
  7. Pick the right investor to pitch to — If you pitch me anything that is B2C you will probably be very disappointed when I tell you I know nothing about that and will not invest. If you pitch to me anything around devtools you will find a curious partner that will give you a lot of value. Every investor has his or her own expertise. You are taking an investment from an angel investor or a particular partner, the fund is secondary.
    About 40% of the “No”s that I give start with “I do not invest in X, only in DevTools and B2B SaaS”.
  8. Demo if you can — I know many founders who are afraid of demoing their products in the fear that it will not work. If your investor will be phased because your demo doesn’t work then it’s not the right investor for an early stage startup. I love Founders that enjoy demoing their products because it gives me confidence that they will be able to sell the product well. If you don’t have a product, walking through figma marks is a second good option.
  9. Use a standard pitch deck — Early stage investors usually do not expect to see a shiny marketing pitch deck. The content of your pitch deck is much more important than the aesthetics. I would spend 70% of the work on the content and 30% on the look and feel. I have never said no to a founder because of an ugly pitch deck, but I’ve said no to a founder many times because of poor content. There are many standard beautiful-ish templates out there just use them.
  10. Follow up — If you say that you are going to return with certain data, do so. Take action items and follow up on them. Even if you get a No, send the investor updates from time to time. I really appreciate getting updates from companies and learning about how they’re doing.

I am sure there are more tips, but these are the most common ones I give founders every day. If you follow these you will have a better pitch meeting and hopefully find a great investor to partner with.



Amir Shevat

Investor in early stage startups. Previously: Head of Product, Twitter Dev Platform, VP product at Twitch, Slack, Google, Microsoft. Author at O'Reilly.