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The 2-Minute Fundraising Pitch Solution

Let Speed Bring Clarity to Your Pitch Deck

Otto Pohl

Aug 29, 2023

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Building the perfect pitch is hard. Try this 2-minute approach.

I’m a mentor at 500 Global (previously known as 500 Startups), and last week I helped founders get ready for their speed pre-seed and seed round pitch event. They only get 2 minutes to pitch, and that almost absurdly short amount of time brings real focus that can help you as well:

  • Forces you to identify fundamental ideas and eliminate secondary ones

  • No time for nuance or complexity

  • Every word and slide must pack as much clarity and value as possible

  • Leaving open questions is fine. The goal for audience reaction is: ‘I need to meet with this company to learn more.’ (Which is always your goal—no one writes a check after the first pitch, no matter the length)

Working a longer pitch down to 2 minutes reminds me of the improv comedy game called Half Life—you do a 60 second scene, then repeat it in 30 seconds, then 15, and so on. Each time you have to think: what’s the core message or idea? What can I jettison? (BTW great idea for speech prep too.)

Here is the 2-minute structure that reveals the core punch of your pitch:

  • Problem (a Fact statement followed by a But statement)

  • Solution (if you can weave in defensibility, great; Extra credit for a solution that suggests applications beyond the Problem you described)

  • Traction (every bit helps; use what you have)

  • Team (quick brag, whatever you have, I’ll leave it out from the below discussion)

The key is to make the Problem as big and urgent as possible. This is your Jaws—and the scarier your Jaws is, the more impressive your Solution speargun will be.

Here are 3 examples of founder pitches I worked on:

Playroom


Problem

Fact: Both in terms of time spent and revenue generated, the biggest category of games is hypercasual/social (e.g. Among Us). As a category they are much bigger than marquee games like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox.

But:  While they are very popular, they don’t nearly have the staying power of marquee games. Most hypercasual game revenue is generated in the first year, and then the players move to the next game.

Solution: We cut production time of hypercasual games in half and slash engineering costs by automating most non-game-specific programming.

Traction: Our business model guarantees us a percentage of revenue of all games built using our platform. We already have dozens of game developers using our beta version.

Right off the bat, you learn about the biggest category of games—but they’re hard to build and have a short half-life. Interesting challenge; you have my attention. Then boom—this company can automate much of the process, and then retain a cut of all game revenue. They already have a beta version out. If I’m an investor in this category, I’m taking a meeting to learn more.

Discussion: I discussed several aspects with co-founder and CEO Tabish Ahmed. For example: what’s the most impactful way to name & describe the game categories? Hyper-casual? Social game? What do you call the other game category: are they marquee games? Hollywood-style? Big budget? What part of the story can be told through the visuals on that slide, including for example images of Fortnite and Among Us, and are those the best examples to use? As in all aspects of the pitch, the goal is to give the audience the easiest, most impactful, and most widely understood way to transmit information.

Blind Insight


Problem

Fact: Since the dawn of the internet, there has been a tradeoff between using data and keeping it safe. Billions are spent on cybersecurity measures, trillions of dollars are lost to cybercrime, and billions more are never earned because data security fears limit sharing.

But: Despite many attempts, no one has found a satisfactory answer to this conundrum.

Solution: We’ve built an encryption platform that allows you to leave all data encrypted even during use, with little or no performance loss. Imagine the unlock for the healthcare, biotech, and finance industries.

Traction: Technology is built. Millions of ARR is in the sales pipeline.

This is an awesome problem. We’ve all seen experience this tension between security and usability, even if just on a personal level. To anyone who hasn’t considered this problem before, its novelty really catches the attention. And the dollar amounts are staggering.

Discussion: Founder and CEO Jackie Peters and I spent a fair bit of time playing with the idea of using the metaphor of an egg to show data security: the shell is the cybersecurity, the yolk and white the delicious and vulnerable prize. You can make the shell as thick as you want, but it is ultimately brittle, and once you’ve cracked it, you can gorge yourself on the unprotected insides. The company has essentially built an egg that, to the outside world, is entirely made of undigestible shell, but to the key holders is as nutritious as a regular egg. That analogy holds power and suggests appealing visuals, but we jettisoned it to streamline.

There is a fair bit of nuance that we left out—other attempts have been made to solve this security/usability tension, and at this early stage there are still some limitations to the usability of the encrypted data—but we’re just looking for the knockout punch. Nuance is for followups.

Finally, despite the short pitch, we kept a sentence about how the owner of the largest Domino’s franchise wants to use the tech to extract business insight from their ocean of user-level data, but currently can’t due to privacy and competitive concerns. Beyond mentioning the marquee use cases, we felt this example illustrated the vast street-level uses this tech could have.

Merklebase


Problem

Fact: $26T of conventional assets will be tokenized by 2030.

But: Wall Street institutions are very risk averse, so they can’t touch any of that with current systems.

Solution: We’ve built an institution-grade data platform to track all crypto/blockchain/tokenized assets and trades

Traction: Platform built. $4b fund already using it, millions of ARR sales interest in pipeline

Discussion: CEO and co-founder Hod Hirshman and I spent a lot of time working to make the Problem statement resonate quickly and deeply. There are a lot of crypto-focused facts we could mention, like the number of blockchains, the aggregate value of the largest crypto tokens, buzzwords like Web3 etc. Instead we made the problem statement focus on the fact that conventional assets like mortgages will be stored and traded using blockchain-based tokens. And there’s no way Wall Street will let a market of that size escape their grasp.

I hope this idea and examples help. Strip your pitch down to haiku length and see if that lays bare the fundamental power of your pitch—or maybe highlights a previously unresolved problem you’ve had in your pitch so far. Got an idea or problem to share?

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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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