The 6 Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting to Angel Investors

By Anthony Gellert

Pitching to investors is scary, and your deck isn’t the only thing that will make or break your pitch. Getting an angel investment can be the difference between your company failing and getting the money it needs to become a big success. Presenting to investors is, obviously, the make it or break it moment for you and your company. That’s a lot of pressure. But don’t worry! Here are the 6 do’s and 6 don’ts that will make sure you make the most out of your precious seconds in front of the people that can make your business explode.

6 Do’s

1. Pick your angels carefully

You need money, of course, and the thought of limiting your pitches to certain angels probably seems counter-intuitive. However, you don’t have unlimited time. In addition to fundraising, you are still running a business and you can’t afford to miss a step. After all, part of the value of your new company is its head start on the competition, and you don’t want to lose that head start by wasting your time on angel pitches that won’t get you any money.

choose angel investor nyc article

Your biggest risk with picking the wrong angel targets is a lengthy due diligence process with only a small amount of money at the end of the rainbow. That is why angel clubs offer a better alternative. You pitch once to a large audience. You answer each question once. And, if all goes well, multiple cheques come in. That’s the type of efficiency that you want.

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2. Make sure the product/site works

Embarrassing moments regarding the quality of a product or website has happened more than you might think. The product has even failed directly in front of our audience. Please don’t pitch until the product works. You will make the most out of your pitch if your product is fully functional and can impress us.

angel investor

If your product is internet-based, make sure that your website is running. If it’s a travel site for example, we’re all going to boot up your site and type in “New York City” while we watch your pitch. Make sure the results make sense and support the image that you’re painting in your presentation. Giving a strong impression of you and your company will greatly improve your chances of getting an investment.


3. Start with the pain point

The pain point that your business is solving is the most important thing for us to know, because it shows us that you understand that people want what your business has to offer, and you’re not grasping at straws.

“We have developed a platform to commoditize the aggregate on demand car service capacity of any given city by geolocated ten block regions.”

Bad. We see a lot of pitches and digest a lot of buzz words. Keep it simple! This sentence tells me nothing outside of you memorizing the buzz words that you want associated with your business.

“Don’t you hate when you can’t get a cab right when you really, really need one? Our app solves this problem.”

Good! This tells me exactly what your app is trying to do and what pain point it’s trying to solve, because most people have had exactly that problem. By starting with the pain point that you’re solving, the rest of your pitch will follow one cohesive message, and we will better understand your business.


4. Practice setting up your equipment

I am a member of two of the most active angel groups in New York City, HBS Angels of Greater New York and NY Angels. In both cases, for our entrepreneur meetings, we borrow a conference room from a law firm (big thanks to each of them). The IT support is uncertain since we are not a paying tenant and we are there after hours in some cases.

Plugging In Hdmi Cable To Laptop

Wherever you pitch, make sure you have all the different cords and dongles that you could possibly need to connect your computer to a TV monitor. Your chances of getting an investment once your presentation looks unprofessional to the investors is very low. If we all have to crowd around a laptop to see your presentation, it’s over.


5. Leave a lot of time for questions

Every angel has their own opinion as to the key qualities or key issues that define whether or not you and your business are a good investment. Such, you should expect that the question and answer sessions with the angel groups will go on longer than you may think, while each angel follows their own favorite line of questioning. It will take time and occasionally feel redundant, but leaving enough time and answering each series of questions will broaden your potential horizons and give you the best chance of getting an investment from an angel investor.

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6. Solidify a long term plan

I know that you are focused on a ton of near term issues (like keeping the lights on), but take a little time before your angel pitches to map out your future, beyond just the hockey stick revenue projections. What products or features or upgrades get rolled out, and when? Which hires are proactive (needed before some big fund raise or rollout) and reactive (likely come after some big fund raise or revenue milestone)?

long term plan

We ask because rolling everything out and hiring everyone now is fiscal suicide and growing organically off of only your net income will take forever. Showing a long term plan demonstrates to the angel investors that your business has long term growth potential and that you will spend their money wisely.

6 Don’ts

1. Don’t treat us like a nuisance

Yes, we take up your time, ask follow up questions, ask for information that isn’t already included in your prepared information packet. Yes, it’s time consuming. I know. But others down the line will likely ask for the same information. And a great angel, once they invest in you, can advise you, introduce you to VCs, and help you grow. An angel investor can be the turning point in your business.

angel investor

But you will never get an angel investment in the first place if you treat angels like nuisances! A mix of respect for the investors and passion for your business is the ideal combination, but one without the other and that angel investment will never come.


2. Don’t lead with the org chart

We’ve all heard it. “I invest in the jockey, not the horse.” But that’s bunk. Ron Turcotte couldn’t have ridden my neighbor’s horse, Pocco, to the Triple Crown. Secretariat had major a role. After all, it’s the jockey that lifts the trophy, but the horse that won it. Your business is more important than the people behind it, and we want to know about it first.

angel investor presentation org chart advice nyc

The resume of you and your team is important and should of course be included in your presentation, but it should not be the first slide. Prior stints at Apple or Google or Amazon are certainly impressive. We’re looking for experienced management, since the future is always rocky and uncertain no matter how good the idea. But, your business model matters more, and it should be your opener.


3. No S.A.F.E. notes

I can only speak for the two angel clubs in which I am a member, but S.A.F.E. Notes are a non­starter. So much so, that the moment they are mentioned in a presentation, the whole room starts ranting at the entrepreneur and stops listening to the presentation. Yes, really. I see it all the time.


4. Don’t puff your resume

We’re already taking a leap of faith in you. This is not a Goldman Sachs interview. Pedigree is not our first priority. We care far more about your business, your business model, and your future plans for the business should you get an investment. As I’ve mentioned before, having a good jockey is nice, but it’s the horse that wins the race.

angel investor pitch advice nyc

Exaggerating your credentials is not a way to stand out. It’s lying. Great angel clubs do their homework and they will likely find out. Don’t ruin your chances by cutting corners and being dishonest.


5. Don’t embed a video into your presentation

It never works. Maybe it’s the WiFi in our conference room. Maybe it’s the communal computer we make you use. Maybe it Murphy’s Law. But waiting for a blank slide to load and then watching it crash makes you look low tech, even if the slideshow went off without a hitch a hundred times before.

video powerpoint

The worst part is it’s not your fault, but think twice before embedding video into a presentation. The potential advantages it gives you in terms of illustrating what your company does doesn’t outweigh the disadvantage you put yourself at if your slideshow crashes. After all, we’d much rather hear you say what the video would than the video say it. You’re the person I’m investing in, not the people who are in the video.


6. Don’t give up on an angel group

A rejection by an angel investor or group of investors is not final. It just means that at the current iteration of the company, it’s not an investment fit for us. If you end up finding other angels to invest, great. They saw something we didn’t. Agree to disagree. But if you end up pivoting significantly, you should revisit all the angels that rejected you in the past.

angel investment

Burning bridges is never a good strategy when it comes to investors. Don’t take a rejection by an angel group to be a statement on you as a businessperson. In fact, they could like you a lot but think that an investment in your venture would be unwise at the moment.

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Keep these tips in mind as you look to bring on angel investment for your business, and you could be well on your way.

Contributed By

Anthony Gellert, Harvard College AB ’91, Harvard Business School MBA ’97 – Treasurer of HBS Alumni Angels of Greater New York

Anthony is the President and Founder of Livingston Capital Management, an investment partnership based in New York City. Prior to his founding of Livingston Capital, he covered healthcare services and industrial services at Cobalt Capital Management and before that was an analyst at Kingdon Capital Management. Anthony has participated in 13 angel investments over the past year.

HBS Alumni Angels NY new Chairman: Jason E. Klein

By David Teten and excerpted from his HBSAANY message on June 12, 2014. Original is here.

 I’m happy to announce that Jason E. Klein, CEO of On Grid Ventures LLC, will serve as the new Chairman of Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of Greater NY.  Jason (bio here) is an experienced angel and company builder.  I’m shifting to “Chairman Emeritus”.  I’ll still be very active in supporting our growth, while continuing to serve as a Partner at ff Venture Capital.

In December 2010, Richard Kane, then-President, Harvard Business School Club of New York, asked me if I’d like to found an HBS alumni-affiliated angel group in NY.   Since then, we have grown to be the 2nd largest angel group in NY, with 130 members (vs. about 150 for Golden Seeds in New York, the largest group).  We believe we are the second or third most active angel group in New York, depending on which metric you use.  33 of our members collectively have made 82 investments for $3.5m in 27 companies.  Our average check size per member per company per round is $43K, which is probably the highest of any angel group in the country.  We also have won over 800 investors and friends to our mailing list.

When Harvard Business School’s new Dean, Nitin Nohria, took office, he outlined five priorities to shape his agenda for the School during his tenure: curriculum innovation, intellectual ambition, internationalization, inclusion, and closer ties to the University.  Our accomplishments reflect those 5 priorities; we were inspired in part by the Harvard Business School U.S. Competitiveness Project, which challenged the HBS alumni community to address America’s declining competitiveness.

1) Curriculum innovation

HBSAANY has evolved into an educational organization, holding investor education events in NYFloridaNew JerseyConnecticut, and San Francisco, as well as many webinars.  That said, doing is the best way of learning.  We saw over time that our investor group, just like Angel List and most other angel groups, was good at syndication and not so effective at leading rounds.  As a result, we launched the Fast Track program, which helps VCs and active investors who are HBSAANY members to syndicate rounds with members of our network.  To date, 11 companies have been approved for Fast Track, and 8 have raised capital from our members.  Following a lead investor is valuable education, as it gives the coinvestors access to the deal documents and some of the process used by the lead.

2) Intellectual ambition

In the past four years, I’ve been fortunate to publish two research papers on investing best practices, on origination and portfolio operations, partly leveraging the insights I’ve gained through my work with HBSAANY.

3) Internationalization

HBS Alumni Angels is a global angel group, given our chapters in 15 cities.  And of course many of our members in NY are international by background.  Because of that, we have been judges or speakers at programs in New York geared to investors and startups from Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Eastern Europe, Germany, Holland, Israel, Italy, the Maghreb, and Portugal.  I’ve enjoyed working with our friends at New York City Economic Development CorporationVentureOutNY, and the Worldwide Investor Network .

4) Inclusion

In building the group, we had to figure out our origination strategy.  Most investor groups specialize by geography, stage, and/or industry.  However, our member base is much more diverse on all those measures than any other investor group I’m aware of.  In my research on how private equity and VC funds source investments, one of our conclusions was that VCs get better returns when they invest outside of the traditional geographic hotspots of New York, Boston, and the Bay Area.  This is a generalizable principle: you get higher returns where other investors are not.  Because of that insight, we co-founded the Venture Capital Access Program, a joint venture with the National Association of Investment Companies, focused on helping women and minority entrepreneurs raise capital from HBS Alumni Angels.  In a related move, we organized a series of joint pitch nights with the HBS African-American Alumni AssociationHBS LBGT Alumni Association (September 8), and HBS Latino Alumni Association (October 6).  In the first full year of operation, VCAP attracted 159 applicants.  34 went through VCAP committee screening; 17 went to a HBSAANY pitch night; 6 attended the annual NAIC convention, and 3 received funding (Mirror Digital,Cyber IQ, and Bownce) from HBSAANY and/or other sources.

As far as we know we’re the only investor group in New York to have cast such a wide net in working with diverse communities.

5) Closer ties to the Harvard community

Although we’ve grown dramatically, fewer than 1% of HBS grads in the NY area are now members. So we have a long way to go!  In order to recruit members and source interesting companies, we’ve worked collaboratively on a wide range of events and other initiatives with many HBS special interest groups: HBS Healthcare Alumni AssociationHBS Club of South FloridaHBS Club of ConnecticutHBS Alumni Angels of Northern CaliforniaHBS Women’s Association of Greater New York, HBS eClub; and of course our very close partners and friends the HBS Club of Greater NY.  We’ve also worked with the broader university: Harvard Club of NYCHarvard Club of Princeton (NJ); Harvard in TechHarvard Alumni Association; Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs; Harvard iLab; Harvard Venture Partners; Harvard Social Innovation Collaborative; Harvard Aspiring Minority Business Leaders and EntrepreneursHarvard GSAS Business Club; and the Harvard Graduate Student Council.

I look forward to seeing our group prosper under Jason’s leadership.


HBS Alumni Angels NY new chairman: Jason Klein

HBS Angels of NY Announces a new VC Advisory Board

HBS Alumni Angels

The new Venture Capital Advisory Board for the HBS Alumni Angels of New York is comprised of leading, senior-level, NY-area venture capitalists who are advising HBSAANY on its growth and development.

  • Chip Austin, Co-Founder & General Partner, i-Hatch ventures
  • Jordan Bettman, Principal, Bain Capital Ventures
  • Deborah Farrington, Founder & General Partner, StarVest Partners
  • Matt Gorin, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Contour Venture Partners
  • Rick Heitzmann, Managing Director, FirstMark Capital
  • Jim Robinson, Managing partner, RRE Ventures

Meet the Committee

Chip Austin, Co-Founder & General Partner, i-Hatch ventures
Chip has advised and built companies in Technology and Media for his entire career. In addition to founding, Bertelsmann’s E-commerce division, Chip was a member of the senior executive team leading the buyout and restructuring of Prodigy, and was a co-founder of McKinsey’s Interactive Practice, where he spent seven years advising Fortune 500 companies on their media strategies.

Most recently, Chip was President and CEO of Bertelsmann Online, where he was responsible for building Bertelsmann’s global e-commerce business. Chip was the first employee at BOL, and built parallel services in the UK, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, France (via joint venture with Vivendi/Havas), and the US (via Bertelsmann’s 50% investment in Chip served as Chairman of the Board of BOL France, and was a Board Member and officer of Doubleday Direct, BCA, BOL, Inc., and Bertelsmann’s E-commerce Control Board. BOL has been the recipient of several industry accolades, including CeBIT Innovation of the Year Winner and the highest rated European e-commerce site by a Forrester Research.

For the launch of BOL, Chip secured internal capital of over $400 million, built a world class team totaling over 200 people in six countries, partnered with strategic vendors such as Oracle, Don Peppers, Ogilvy & Mather, Fleishman-Hillard, Net Perceptions, Cambridge Technology Partners, USWeb and Sun, negotiated major strategic and marketing alliances with major Internet portals such as AOL, Compuserve, DoubleClick, EMS and Earthlink, and established back-end operations, including call centers, fulfillment, logistics, financial clearing, and warehousing, in each country of operation.

Chip maintains an advisory and investor relationship with Bertelsmann Ventures, an independent venture capital fund capitalized by Bertelsmann. Chip also served as Acting CEO of European-based, a Bertelsmann Ventures portfolio company., the first commercial Internet-based comparison shopping service, subsequently sold a majority of its shares to Bertelsmann and then merged into (NASDAQ:SHOP).

Prior to Bertelsmann, Chip was a member of the management-led buyout of Prodigy, where he was SVP of Sales and Business Development and General Manager of Prodigy’s first Internet Service. While at Prodigy, Chip built an ISP from scratch, launched Prodigy Internet, which replaced Prodigy’s Classic proprietary service, and was responsible for all customer acquisition and subscription revenue. In addition, Chip was responsible for all major account relationships, including OEM channels such as Packard Bell/NEC, and technology/distribution providers, such as Microsoft, Netscape, and Excite. Prior to sale to SBC, Prodigy’s initial public offering had a market capitalization that had exceeded $3 billion dollars.

Before joining Prodigy, Chip spent seven years at McKinsey in the Media and Interactive practices advising clients out of New York, Los Angeles, Australia and various European offices. While at McKinsey, as a co-founder of the Interactive Practice, Chip shaped the New Media strategies of the world’s largest media companies in the fields of newspapers, magazines, yellow pages/classifieds, cable programming, network TV and film studio production.

Chip is a frequent keynote speaker and panelist on Technology, Media, and Angel Investment-related topics as well as serving on the boards of several public and private companies. Chip has also worked at Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking division and IBM’s Personal Computer division during the launch years of the IBM PC. Chip has a degree in Computer Science and Economics from Duke University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Jordan Bettman, Principal, Bain Capital Ventures
Jordan joined Bain Capital Ventures in 2008. Since that time, Jordan has worked on both early-stage and growth-equity investments in a variety of industries, including data services, marketing services, financial services and technology, and digital media. He has also worked closely with numerous portfolio companies on senior level recruiting, strategic planning, business development, and company exits. Prior to joining Bain Capital Ventures, Jordan was an associate consultant at Bain & Company, focusing on a number of strategic and operational issues for clients across a handful of sectors. He also worked in Bain & Company’s Private Equity Group, performing diligence on multi-billion dollar companies.

Jordan received a BS in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Outside of work, Jordan enjoys outdoor sports, especially skiing and golf. Additionally, Jordan is a member of the Social Investment Council of Echoing Green, a Board Member of the Boston MS Gala, and a part owner of a restaurant. He and his wife, Lauren, now reside on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Deborah Farrington, Founder & General Partner, StarVest Partners
Deborah Farrington is a founder and general partner of StarVest Partners, a New York City-based venture capital firm founded in 1998.

StarVest invests in technology-enabled business services companies with a focus on software-as-a-service, ecommerce and internet marketing. StarVest was an early investor in the software-as-a-service trend: in 2000, it invested as the only venture firm in NetSuite (NYSE: N) whose December 2007 IPO, at the time, was the highest market capitalization for a venture backed company since Google. Other noteworthy investments where Ms. Farrington served on the board include Fieldglass, acquired by Madison Dearborn, and, bought by QuinStreet. Prior to founding StarVest, Ms. Farrington held positions including: President and CEO of Victory Ventures, LLC, a New York-based private equity investment firm where she also served as chairman of Staffing Resources, Inc.

Ms. Farrington currently sits on the Boards of NetSuite, where she is lead director and chairman of the Compensation Committee, Xignite, Host Analytics, and PivotLink on behalf of StarVest. She is also a director and chairman of the Compensation Committee at Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT). She was named to the Forbes Midas 100 List of top venture capitalists in the United States in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

She is a graduate of Smith College and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she is a member of the Dean’s Visiting Committee. She is also a member of the President’s Advisory Council and investment committee of Smith College; a board member of the Harvard Business School Club of New York City; a member of The Committee of 200 and the Economic Club of New York; and a board member of Opportunity International, a leading international microfinance organization.

Matt Gorin, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Contour Venture Partners
Matt Gorin is a co-founder of Contour Venture Partners and has experience in technology operations, start-ups, venture capital and turnaround management. He is passionate about helping to build early stage companies, with a focus on the financial services, internet and applied technology sectors. Contour invests in seed and early stage technology companies in the northeast United States with a focus on the financial services, digital media and the internet sectors.

Matt was previously with Promontory Financial Group, a merchant banking firm focused on the financial services sector. He was part of the launch team at Promontory Interfinancial Network, a financial services technology platform company which has subsequently grown to over one hundred employees. Prior to this, Matt worked for Red Hat in its Strategic Planning & Corporate Development group where he was responsible for starting Red Hat’s Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partnership Program, ultimately establishing extensive business and technology partnerships with many of the top global independent software vendors. Matt also worked at Morgan Stanley in its strategic venture capital fund, concentrating on making investments in early-stage financial services companies. Earlier in his career, Matt was a turnaround consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he helped devise and implement operating strategies for troubled companies in various industries.

Matt is the Founder of StreetWise Partners, a nonprofit focused on providing low-income individuals with a path to a successful career through mentoring, job skills and professional experience. He co-authored a Harvard Business School case study analyzing the origins of free trade and a paper in the World Economic Outlook on the economic and political risks in the Middle East.

Matt received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and B.A. in Economics and American Studies from Brandeis University, where he was co-captain of the tennis team.

Rick Heitzmann, Managing Director, FirstMark Capital
Rick Heitzmann, a founder and managing Director of FirstMark Capital, focuses on investments in the media, adtech, gaming, and mobile sectors. Prior to founding FirstMark Capital, Rick was a Partner with Pequot Ventures. Rick also serves on the Board of Directors of the New York Venture Capital Association.

Current ventures include: dashlane, Live Gamer, Meteor Entertainment, Pinteret, Playnomics, SneakPeeq, Sulia, Tapad, Tubular, WePlay. Historical investments include: Clickable (acquired by Syncapse in 2012), Riot Games (acquired by Tencent Holdings in 2011), FirstAdvantage (acquired by First American in 2009), StubHub (acquired by eBay in 2007), and US Search (acquired by First Advantage in 2003).

Rick received a B.S. from Georgetown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Rick has traveled all seven continents and is a huge Philadelphia sports fan. Friends claim he has seen every movie on Netflix.

Jim Robinson, Managing partner, RRE Ventures
Jim Robinson is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner at RRE Ventures. He has been active within the technology community for nearly 30 years as a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, banker, and futurist. Jim received his B.S. in Business Administration from Antioch College, and his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He is an MBA program lecturer at Columbia Business School and Stanford Business School, and a PhD / Master’s program lecturer at CUNY Baruch and The New School.

Ex-Officio members
David Teten, Chairman, HBSAANY; partner, ffVC
Jason E. Klein, Chair, External Relations, HBSAANY; founder/CEO On Grid Ventures