Thursday, May 19, 2022
UncategorizedHey, Pitches! Investor Ruslan Tymofieiev (Ruslan Timofeev) and Andrew Kryvorchuk about mistakes...

Hey, Pitches! Investor Ruslan Tymofieiev (Ruslan Timofeev) and Andrew Kryvorchuk about mistakes made by startups and what to avoid when pitching investors

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Some people have millions of dollars, while others have ideas, energy, ambition, potential, and many other things. How can they meet and find a common thing to do? Tinder for startups and investors? There is a better idea: to learn how to pitch correctly. And not from coaches, but real investors.

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash
Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

Ukraine has welcomed a new project that was launched to teach startup founders to pitch investors. It is Hey, pitches!, a project initiated by venture fund Adventures Lab together with Genesis Investments. Every month, experts will select the best early-stage startups that require investment and answer any questions from the founders and help them build investors’ pitches correctly.

The Adventures Lab founder Ruslan Tymofieiev (Ruslan Timofeev) and managing partner Andrew Kryvorchuk talk about the idea of the project, the worst mistakes made by founders when preparing for the pitch, and what Ukrainian startups lack at the very beginning.

“Anticonsulting”

A pitch is an oral or visual presentation of a project to potential investors aimed at attracting financing to their project. In early August, experts of Hey, pitches!, who know this term due to their work in an investment fund, met startup founders for the first time. There were more than 60 applications for the meeting. The organizers selected the 5 best and talked to each team for an hour.

According to Kryvorchuk, the very idea of Hey, pitches! was born while communicating with portfolio companies.

‘Half of our working time, we spend communicating with representatives of our portfolio startups. At these meetings, we discuss key issues, questions, and plans. This was the key trigger: since we are doing this within the framework of an investment fund, why not create a project where competent expertise would become the cornerstone,’ notes Andrew Kryvorchuk.

The second factor that prompted them to create Hey, pitches! became the mistakes young founders made due to poor preparation, lack of access to data, avoiding using basic information, etc.

The managing founder of Adventures Lab emphasizes that at the pitch stage, a startup aims at selling itself to an investor. However, Hey Pitches! follows a different goal. They want to help the startup founders correct all their mistakes, miscalculations, and failures before they start looking for investors in the market. Andrew Kryvorchuk calls the approach of Hey, pitches! “Anti-consulting”: if other consultants take money for expertise, they do it for free since finding a great startup is already a prize.

‘We care about the ecosystem we work in. The more developed, stable, and viable it is, the more profits investors will be able to generate. On the one hand, we have created a social project, on the other hand, it is also a pragmatic project: today in Ukraine, there are a lot of cool startups that are still developing in garages and apartments, but soon everyone will talk about them, and they will find European investors. Our goal is to reach these startups right now. To see them, help, prepare, nurture them, and help them get financing,’ emphasizes Kryvorchuk.

Expanding the horizon

Adventures Lab founder Ruslan Tymofieiev notes that the project gives startup founders an opportunity to look at their startup from the outside: to see their main mistakes, project flaws, and options for solving them.

‘Often, a founder is so in love with their startup, so much immersed in it that they rush to move forward with their vision without noticing other development options, cases, mistakes, business rivals, and vulnerabilities. Our task is to expand their horizon, help them look at their project from a different angle. At the same time, we do not provide ready-made solutions to a problem. We talk, ask questions, and the answers lead the founder to the necessary conclusions,’ says Tymofieiev.

Meetings are held offline once a month. During every meeting, the investors and experts talk to 5-6 startups. Applications are submitted by different projects, yet most often these are pre-MVP (Minimum Viable Product) stage projects. The Hey Pitches! initiators say that startups come from all over Ukraine.

‘I particularly liked the guys from Dnipro at the last meeting. They came to Kyiv with a van of equipment with them—they prepared for the presentation of their project extremely thoroughly. There are also teams from small towns. One should not underestimate them: at first, they develop quite subtly, and then they appear somewhere in the West, and everyone talks about them,’ says Ruslan Tymofieiev (Ruslan Timofeev).

Andrew Kryvorchuk and Ruslan Tymofieiev highlighted the main shortcomings of startups and the most common mistakes in a pitch.

Top 5 common startup failures

Lack of a clear business goal. According to Ruslan Tymofieiev, it is often not clear what the ultimate goal of a particular project is. A person creates a startup rather for the sake of a startup instead of for satisfying a need or request. The speaker considers this problem to be the fundamental one.

‘It happens, a person quits a stable job with a regular income, invests money in a team, premises, development, yet still cannot answer what this is all for. That is, he only builds a startup because it is trendy. You can spot such an approach already during the first conversation. You ask the founder why he is doing his project, and he cannot clearly answer you or he answers with some cliches,’ says Ruslan Tymofieiev.

Unclear problematics. A startup, by definition, is designed to meet the needs of customers. It should be based on an innovative approach. If the problematics are far-fetched or insignificant, the project will likely not find a responsive customer.

‘A lot of startups don’t understand that problem and discomfort are two completely different concepts. People are willing to pay to solve a problem but they are absolutely not willing to pay to deal with discomfort. Improving their lives by 10% will not force them to remove one software from their computer or phone and install another. However, if you solve a real problem, people will need it,’ admits Ruslan Tymofieiev (Ruslan Timofeev).

Misunderstanding of the audience. Startups need to understand their customer and their real needs. They should know what is their target audience, where it lives, who influences its decisions, what language their audience speaks. According to Ruslan Tymofieiev, many early-stage projects simply do not conduct any research to understand who they will sell their product to and whether anyone generally needs it or not.

‘In this regard, Belarusians show themselves quite positively, and now there are a lot of them on the Ukrainian market. They even can go too far—they research so deeply that later, it is hard for them “to get out”. But when you, as an investor, communicate with such teams, you realize that people have spent months studying who their audience is and what they are going to sell to it,’ Tymofieiev says.

Overestimating what one can do. One can often see startup founders excessively believe in their own strengths and capabilities. Even if they have only modest financial savings, they are ready to rush and invest the remaining money in their project.

‘Earlier, it was difficult to develop a startup until an MVP stage with around 20,000 – 30,000 dollars, yet it was still possible. Today, you’d better not even start if you don’t have $100,000,’ Tymofieiev says.

Co-founders. This problem has two extremes: lack of co-founders and co-founders with the same expertise. Both options can be a serious threat to the project. When a founder manages a project alone, most of his team members do not reach his level of expertise and, therefore, cannot provide objective criticism. If the expertise of the co-founders is similar, then there is a high risk of avoiding an objective approach.

Top 5 common mistakes during a pitch

Poor presentation preparation. According to Guy Kawasaki, it takes at least 30 days to prepare a high-quality presentation. During this time, one should select and analyze tons of information, create 30 visual presentation slides, then choose 9-10 most bright and memorable of them, and put it all in a 3-minute story. Andrew Kryvorchuk says that young Ukrainian founders often neglect to elaborate a presentation. As a result, teams come up with a great idea but they cannot properly present it to investors.

Too much unnecessary information. Andrew Kryvorchuk believes that the presentation is a teaser that should get the attention of investors in the very first minutes. Alas, sometimes, founders tell the public a mass of unnecessary information in order to show their project is significant and solid. There’s no need for that. A presentation should be short, to the point, and vivid.

A founder reads the information from the slide. A startup founder can sometimes simply duplicate what is written on the screen. This is fundamentally wrong. Andrew Kryvorchuk believes that the presentation and the speech should be different.

‘Everyone knows how to read anyway. Simply reproducing what is already written on the slide can work at school but not during a pitch. Here, the people who are sitting in front of you, decide whether to invest millions in your project or not,’ says the managing partner of Adventures Lab.

A founder does not keep up with the timing. It is important to get potential investors interested in 3 minutes. If the investors have to listen to tons of information for 15 minutes, or even worse – half an hour, they will get confused and lose interest in the project.

A founder does not feel the audience. This mistake roots in the previous one. During the presentation, investors should not fall asleep with their eyes open. If something like this happens, it is important to immediately understand it and be able to turn the product presentation in the right direction.

‘The most amazing thing is that you can find these tips pretty everywhere. But reading them is not enough. One should learn to pitch. This is a skill within the skill of creating a startup. Without investors, without their money and potential, there won’t be anything. If a startup were just writing code, there would be no startups. A true big business is people’s trust. And before building the trust of millions of users, a startup must go through the first step: earn the trust of several millionaires. This is what we teach,’ Ruslan Tymofieiev (Ruslan Timofeev) sums up.

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