Get an Investor’s Attention in One Minute

Brian Smiga has been through rounds of funding and support for his startup ventures, like Preclick and 1ClickCharge. He’s also been on the opposite end of the startup world as an investor. He uniquely understands that a busy investor’s time is valuable. But an entrepreneur’s time is equally as important, so he shared his advice on how to get a funder’s attention at the recent NJ Strategic Design and Tech Meetup at Bell Works. Smiga is also Founder of TEDxNavesink, a NJ shore TEDx annual conference that started in 2013. The speakers, experts in everything from tech to psychology, are chosen based on their stories. These talks range from 4-18 minutes; they grab the audience from the start, taking them on a journey of emotions, action and inquiry. The startup’s pitch should do the same.

The first minute is everything.

“If you don’t grab them in the first minute, you’re swimming up tide the rest of the way,” Smiga said. He suggests skipping right to the middle of your business story to get investors hooked, the smaller details can come later. His advice is to forgo introducing yourself right off the bat and get to the heart of your story. Why? “Because you can always tell them who you are after you tell your story. They want to know how big your business or idea is first. Secondly, the investor wants to understand your role in the company.”

 It’s all a story.

“Unless you put your pitch in a story structure, it’s not sticking,” Smiga said. “Use a narrative structure, with a protagonist (your company) against an antagonist (a problem you faced). Tell your story at any length of depth.” Smiga suggests thinking about what inspired you to start your business and what failures, challenges or struggles you faced to help craft the narrative.

Create a story deck.

The story deck includes many things, but it focuses on what you do and who you are.

What to include in a story deck

How you deliver value.

Smiga suggests establishing a position of empathy with the investor. He uses the example of, an online service that simplifies buying and selling used cars. “Everyone loves buying cars, but they hate selling them. Communicating that to an investor shows you really know your customers and their challenges. That’s where your value is.”

How your customer experiences that value.

“If you can’t explain in dollars and cents or satisfaction what your product means to a customer, I’m not buying it. You have to know your customers better than anyone,” Smiga said. But how do you calculate customer satisfaction? Smiga’s advice is to use Net Promoter Score, a free online tool to help predict growth via customer satisfaction scores.

Competitive advantage.

“Ask yourself how you are different,” Smiga said. “A simple visual grid that highlights your offerings against a competitor is a good way to do this.”

How you go to market.

How you make money.

Financial projections.

How you can work together with funders, partners, etc.

Summary. “At the end, summarize why they’ve listened to you for 20 minutes and why you are different,” Smiga said. “Be bold! Maybe you are the ONLY company to do something, or you are the BEST at it. But you have to use a compelling story to communicate that.”

The NJ Strategic Design and Tech Meetup group holds weekly events for creatives at Bell Works in Holmdel, NJ. For more information, visit

SEE MORE: Bell Works