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Legendary Investor David Hornik on Pitch Decks

Crafting a compelling pitch: David Hornik's insights into storytelling, motivation, and the hero’s journey in startup presentations

Otto Pohl

Jun 6, 2023

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Working on a pitch deck? Listen to legendary investor, founder of Lobby Capital, and Otto Awards judge David Hornik about what moves him from indifference to enthusiasm when he hears a pitch. It’s not whether you followed some pitch deck template you found online. It’s the quality of your story.

Focus on Your Story Arc

“The great pitch deck is a hero’s journey. You need to demonstrate how you found the problem, how you proved a business opportunity exists, and you need to hook me by describing what your competitors are missing. Then weave a believable story that if you had some extra capital, you could do this at a bigger scale and build something monumentally more powerful. Even your finances page should tell that story.”

[Want to brush up on the Hero’s Journey? Here’s a good Masterclass article.]

You’re the Protagonist: What’s Your Motivation?

“Your deck is a Hero’s Journey, and you’re the hero. How and why you are conquering the universe is your key product. Why is this your story? Here’s what’s not a good reason: I wanted to be a hero, so I went looking for a dragon to slay. And in this far off land I found one. I don’t care as an investor, and I can tell you don’t care either. And if they say what, you don’t care about the damsel in this town? The dragon is guarding a pretty big pile of coal! Here’s my answer: I know the dragon still breathes fire, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to give up the first time you get singed.”

OK, So Give Us a Good Example?

“I was impressed the moment I met Rene Lacerte, the founder of Bill.com [NYSE: BILL, market cap $10b, David was in on the seed round]. He told me how his parents ran a small payroll business serving small businesses. He started his career at Intuit to learn the industry, and then quit to build a payroll business optimized for small business. Intuit buys it. Then Rene realized that the much bigger and more valuable problem was that all these small businesses are still writing checks. Wouldn’t it be great if small businesses could manage Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable online? Imagine how much time it would free up! So he started Bill.com. That’s a great journey. He gave me his purpose, his reason, and how he was going to make it work. His pitch was infused with drama, depth, and first-hand experience. He knew the problems because he had watched his parents struggle. And this is all in a really boring field! Imagine if you’re building something fun and pitch me on that?”

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Otto Pohl is a communications consultant who helps startups tell their story better. He works with deep tech, health tech, and climate tech leaders looking to create profound impact with customers, partners, and investors. He has taught entrepreneurial storytelling at USC Annenberg and at accelerators across the country.

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© 2024 Core Communications LLC