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With Taj Eldridge

Telling Your Story: Tips on Pitching Your Personal Narrative

When pitching to investors, don’t overlook the importance of storytelling. The rapport you build with them could be the “in” you need to get your company funded.

We sat down with Taj Eldridge to discuss the tactical strategies you can use to tell your narrative when pitching to investors. He is the co-founder and VP of Include Venture Partners.

What’s Your Story?

When talking with investors, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. While they’re certainly important, remember that the people you’re pitching are human before anything else. Before you start outlining your business, it’s important to build rapport with potential investors. To do this:

  • Know who you’re talking to. Do your homework beforehand and understand the background of your audience– what’s important to them, where they came from, etc. Tools like 4 Degrees can help you to easily get a snapshot of whomever you’re pitching. Getting a good understanding of what they value will allow you to emphasize key points in your pitch that you know will be of significant interest to them.
  • Call on their interests. Once you’ve done your research, use it to your advantage to create a personal connection with the investor. If you share a value, background, or passion, bring it up in your intro to perk their ears up. Be subtle, but make it clear that you’ve come in prepared and knowledgeable.
  • Be true to yourself. While pandering your origin story to the investor’s interests, don’t leave your values behind in the process. Authenticity is key, so if your storytelling doesn’t truly involve what’s important to you, it won’t have the same pull.

Building Your Personal Narrative

Early stage investors (especially pre-Seed and Seed) largely make their bets on the founding team rather than the business model, early MVP, etc. Companies change often in their early days– the founders end up being the key element to the startup’s long term success.

This is why telling your personal story well is so important. To make the best impression with your personal narrative:

  • Hit on what’s important to you, but keep it concise– you’re not here to tell your entire life’s story.
  • Center 3-5 elements of your personal background that position you to be the BEST founder for YOUR company. Think in advance about what an ideal founder would look like for the business you’re trying to build, and weave your personal story to align with this ideal.
  • Focus less on titles and more on what experiences actually contributed to the skills you have now. Give clear examples of times where you’ve had to work with limited resources in relevant roles, build things from scratch, navigate uncertainty, and show resilience. Relevant technical or business experience is important, but showing that you’re willing to plow through a brick wall to get things done can be just as valuable to an investor.

Tips for When You’re in the Room

Walk into the pitch with the intention of making yourself memorable. The best pitchers aren’t selling anything. You’re there to tell them about your valuable background and killer company, and to offer them the opportunity to invest. The key is to balance confidence and conviction with humility; lay out your story and grand vision but be candid about what you don’t know, what you have yet to accomplish, etc. Some tricks to create a more comfortable power dynamic:

  • Ask them to go first. Don’t be afraid to ask the investor for some background about themselves and what they’re looking for. Not only will this help you relate back to them later on, it will also demonstrate your genuine interest, further building rapport.
  • Be natural. Maintain your normal vocal pitch– many people have a tendency to increase their pitch when they’re nervous.
  • Slow it down. It’s easy to speed through your narrative when you have a whole list of points to hit, but remember that calm confidence will make you sound more informed and certain of your own importance.
  • Say less and let them fill in the gaps. Don’t tell your whole story all at once. Take breaks, let the investor ask questions, and often they’ll fill in your story for you. The best pitches are a constant volley back and forth, with the investor buying into your vision with every turn.
  • Keep it consistent. Many investors will ask you the same questions many times across multiple calls to stress test your narrative. Don’t switch up your story on them. They’ll also be looking for consistency in how you present yourself, your level of composure, and your values. Keeping it authentic from the beginning will save you the energy of perfecting your persona every time you interact with them.

Taj Eldridge is the co-founder and VP of Include Ventures, a group with an ESG focus. Previously, he was senior director at Lacey, the Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator. He also launched the fund accelerator at University of California in Riverside. Taj has a PhD in geopolitical economics from Claremont Graduate University, an MBA from Pepperdine, and did his undergraduate degree in international literature and poetry at Texas A&M University.

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