WeWork Labs Members on the Best Advice They’ve Gotten About Investor Pitches and How They’ve Improved Theirs

Learning from your fellow members is one of the biggest benefits of being in Labs. And when it comes to pitching investors, seeing what’s worked for other members seeking investment can be hugely helpful. We rounded up advice and tips from members who’ve successfully raised money, hugely improved their pitching skills since joining Labs, and more, so you can learn from their experiences. Read on for insights and information you can put to use today.

Don’t take a one-pitch-fits-all approach

“I noticed a pattern that pitches to VCs are usually different that pitches to angels. I went to my Labs Manager Hayes [Metzger] for help because I wanted to pitch to angel groups and to VCs and I didn’t know what to do with my pitch. The advice he gave me was to know who I’m talking to and change the pitch accordingly. And the main difference between pitching to VCs and to angels is the exit strategy. I’m one of those founders who wants to be ambitious and IPO, and VCs like that. They invest with big visions in mind. Angels are okay with smaller exits. What’s more appealing to them is being able to talk about how another company could acquire you. As a founder, you need to adjust to those conversations.” - Helena Ronis, founder of VoxSnap and Labs member at WeWork Labs 400 Concar Drive, San Mateo, CA

Show investors that you’re willing to pivot

“You have to have a really solid idea that you believe in, but you can’t be unwilling to pivot in whatever direction you need to. I want to create the first digital space for couples and help people in relationships make better decisions faster. I have a current product that I think is great and I’m about to test in beta, but I would never follow it to the grave if it’s not working. I’ll find another way to solve the problem. And investors want to see that you’re willing to do that.” - Jordan Scott, founder and CEO of idk tonight and Labs member at WeWork Labs 175 Varick Street, New York.

Keep practicing your pitch and showing your deck to fresh eyes

“It’s very useful to get the type of feedback that comes from someone new is being exposed to your deck. They can tell you which parts are clear and which are not immediately comprehensible. We’re getting new members here all the time and the opportunities I get to try my pitch on new people has been transformative. We started detecting very specific questions that people kept repeating and it helped us figure out what wasn’t working. The pitch that we use now is completely different from where we started.” - Juan Salas, CEO of Celerative and Labs member at WeWork Labs 400 Concar Drive, San Mateo, CA

Never pitch investors with top-down assumptions

“What I did well when I pitched during our most recent round was conveying the scalability of the business and being able to quantify from a bottom-up approach. You don’t want to go in with, the industry is worth $10 billion and if we get one percent, we’ll be a profitable business. That’s the worst possible thing any founder can do. Don’t even look at industry reports that tell you the total value. Instead, do some basic research on LinkedIn and Manta, gauge each potential contract given the company size, and then you’re building the actual opportunity. That shows investors a level of sophistication that they’re looking for. Because if you don’t understand the basic economics of your business, you’re going to lose 100 percent of the time. Figure out your financial model and don’t get in a room with an investor until you can tell the story by the numbers.” - Mike Moceri, CEO of MakerOS and Labs member at WeWork Labs 205 Hudson, New York

Practice, practice, practice

“We prepare for pitches and pitch events as  team. So even if I’m the only person there actually pitching, we spend hours honing it. I’m quite a good communicator but there’s no shortcut. You have to invest time to have the comfort and confidence in what you’re about to say. You have to prepare and tap into the resources available to you, like pitch events in Labs. Take the opportunity to practice with the people around you.” - Oliver Cushing, CEO of RightsDD and Labs member at WeWork 70 Wilson Street, London

Be straightforward with your language and explanations

“A startup needs to be instantly graspable. If you find yourself pushing really hard, it’s not a good start. Stop trying to use the language that you think about be interesting for investors. If you have something that’s simple, don’t try to make it sound complicated. And don’t get jargon-y with it. It’s awfully alienating to people when there are layers of jargon involved. Even if it’s some complicated product, just say what it is or does in simple terms.” - Fiachra Ó Comhraí, founder of Renewal Diary and Labs member at WeWork Labs Charlemont, Dublin

Prepare for tough questions

“I’m a big fan of focusing on negative questions and preparing for questions that no one expects me to have an answer to. I recommend sitting down with one or two friends or partners who really understand your business model and finding three to 10 big pain points and writing down how you’d answer questions about them. After all, the best answers are not improvised.” - Florentina Hysenaj, founder and CEO of My Local Wedding and Labs member at WeWork Labs Hanse Forum, Hamburg

Build your skills and confidence one step at a time

“Don’t try to hit a home run on your first pitch. Find some low stakes environments to practice in. You want places where you can really practice so that when the stakes are high, it’s nothing to you. You already got your mess ups out of the way and you know your trouble spots. Building up helps you fail in the right places so what when the big opportunities come, you’re not failing then. Practicing in the low stakes settings allows you to get comfortable to the point where nothing’s going to phase you. For example, someone’s phone went off in the middle of my latest pitch. Had I not practiced in front of people, that would have massively thrown me off. But I was able to adjust because I’d had so much practice pitching in front of people and dealing with the unexpected.” - Nick Lawson, CEO of Sqwad and Labs member at WeWork Labs Custom House, Portland

Focus on a few key points throughout the pitch

“The best pitching advice that I’ve received is to have three really solid points that you can always go back to, and to use those as the main pillars of your pitch. Our platform is all about explosive user growth so the main points we want to prove are retention and activation, meaning when they come into the app, they have a great experience become fans. I’m not focusing on revenue, I’m not focusing on referral. You need to be really lasered in on a few points so the investors know that you’re not scattered and trying to go after too much.” - Jordan Scott

Get your mindset right

“There’s a perception among younger founders when they’re pitching that investors are otherworldly beings or somehow different from normal people. But they’re people. They have emotions and thought processes and the relationship isn’t one sided. You’re not going to them asking for money— they’re getting something out of it, too. If they’re considering you, it means they see something in you. That difference in mindset is a good confidence booster.” - Mike Moceri

Know that investors aren’t there to crush you

“An advisor once told me that investors want to see me succeed. Even though they ask you tough questions, they only do it to prepare you for the future. They don’t want to crush you or see you fail. They’re sitting there listening to you because they care about what you’re saying. They invited you to pitch because they want to know more. That really calms my nerves. And remember that even if you forget a sentence or two, the investors don’t know what you were supposed to say anyway.” - Florentina Hysenaj

Make sure your mission is crystal clear and genuine

“We’re always iterating on our pitch, but people either get it or they don’t. We have a clear mission and everything stems from that. That makes it quite easy to create a story and communicate around that, and it makes the pitch very powerful. And it’s a genuine mission that tackles a major social problem. A lot of times, startups are trying to stitch in a social purpose to something that’s not really very social. I think the strength of our conviction helps us communicate. So if you have a great mission, don’t shy away from it.” - Oliver Cushing

Take advantage of opportunities to pitch to your fellow members

“Ask other Labs members for help and offer to help them. Give something to the universe and the universe will definitely give something back. The universe might tell you that your pitch is bad, but that’s still giving something back to you. Don’t keep your idea top secret. There are more people out there to help you than to harm you.” - Fiachra Ó Comhraí

“Being in this environment with other startups has given me more refined confidence that has 100 percent translated into my pitching. When you’re in Labs, you’re talking about your business more, explaining your business more, bringing up problems during standups, and you have to be able to succinctly explain your product. When you have those opportunities or Q&As with other members, it sparks your own realizations about what’s clear and what’s not in your pitch. You’re able to go back and refine it because those questions are the best advice you can get.” - Jordan Scott

“You have to be totally fine with getting feedback when you’re practicing in front of people. There’ll be great feedback and feedback that doesn’t fit and you don’t follow, but the key thing is getting in front of your group at Labs. If you’re siloed while you work on your pitch, the first time you learn about problems with your pitch will be when you’re actually pitching. You want to start in an environment where you can safely get feedback and make adjustments from there.” - Nick Lawson

Be genuine and authentic

“Do not walk into a pitch with a completely rehearsed, memorized, robotic pitch. You don’t want to be so rehearsed that if you miss a word, you’re not going to be able to continue. Be yourself and be passionate about the problem you’re solving. I always recommend starting with a personal story or anecdote that immediately gets whoever you’re pitching to on your side. If you can get the audience to emotionally connect with you and what you’re trying to sell in the first 30 seconds of your pitch, then they’ll try to help you fill holes instead of poke holes for the rest of your presentation. Whether they want to help you or point out problems is decided in the first 30 seconds.” - Jordan Scott

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