Posted by: Dr Churchill | November 9, 2019

Ten commandments for StartUps to make music for the heart, and thus win the big Investor Kahunas & the StartUp prizes of an Entrepreneur’s Life, and also in the World Cup of Entrepreneurship @ KAUST and the competition of GEN & MISK in Riyadh of 2019… Thanks to King Abdullah.

Being at KAUST in the Jeddah region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is like experiencing a mirage in the desert — come alive in real life, because this was the dream of a friend of mine from many years past…

King Abdullah…

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King Abdullah whose legacy of quiet power, gentle demeanor, and massively successful statesmanship saved his nation from being embroiled in the all destroying wars of the daily vengeance of the Middle East and its influencers from abroad.

He charted a great course for reform and modernization of this nation and these people, always emphasizing that he ruled for the PEOPLE and in the name of the people alone, and that was his secret weapon and his success in straying away from the Sultans of War, that are so common amongst the “killer-tyrants” strong men of the Middle East.

Finally, today, we see his efforts blossoming, and all his work coming to fruition, because it always takes a decade or tao for an overnight success like King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to come to life and to appear as a sudden Research University in the Middle East.

Not to minimize his legacy on all other political and economic matters — but it was King Abdullah’s wish to educate his people in order for them to be able to compete on the Global stage of Science and Technological advancement, as equals to the West and the other rising powers, knowing fully well that the strength of a nation rests on it’s people.

So he avoided wars and adventures and he focused on serving his people a double dose of peace benefits and prosperity through education and openness….

These choices  of the late King’s policies have only started to pay dividends recently and are more pronounced as the calendar rolls forward. And if they are not inadvertently stopped — then we are no doubt in the greatest trajectory of success this peninsula has ever lived through.

Mark my words.

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King Abdullah’s wish to avoid war and foreign adventures, is what kept safe the Kingdom, same as his immediate neighbors who were always meddling and probing to find excuses for going to war, and also kept his people safe from the voices of the war-harpies militating around him, coming from allies and so called friends, who actively sought and lusted for the spoils of war… so long as somebody else’s children died.

Yet, King Abdullah, proved his metal, by staying cool in the face of extreme heat, and he just kept his separate peace, along with his concise point of view, as a personal wish for Peace informed by the Push for modern development for his people, for his country , and for the world, as the primary focus of his administration.

And thus he achieved the true Arab Spring of Modernization that todays success, as seen through the current wave of openness of the Saudi society, testifies, as manifest through the various 2030 projects of the current Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman … who follows carefully onto the path built and operated by King Abdullah, regardless of their differing styles of leadership and character.

Yet, since it was King Abdullah who built the platform and the foundation for this societal development, that the current Prince MBS, is now taking full advantage of, utilizing the tethering ropes, and haphazardly pushing forth — I would say that everything that is taking place in the Arab Society of the Kingdom today, was written at King Abdullah’s table, since it conforms fully with his plans for an open and educated society.

Not for a totalitarian regime — but for an open, tolerant, inclusive and accepting of all differences benevolent Society for all Saudis to enjoy and thrive. That was the gospel of King Abdullah and I for one, along with the rest of the world, and the United States — truly hope that the current Prince will not stray far from that vision.

For as the ancient poet and dramatist Aeschylus admonished and as Robert Fitzerald Kennedy spoke of: “Let us dedicate ourselves to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

And that is why KAUST is the pivotal keystone in the edifice of the Kingdom’s infrastructure, because the World and not just Saudi Arabia needs that institution if we are to all move forth in benevolence and splendor clothed in the rich garments of science and advanced technological thought…

As for myself — I am honored to have been one of the Great King’s advisors, and also a student of his style of Statesmanship,, always giving good honest and truthful advise to the Great Man, but also training myself in the Arts of Statesmanship, Leadership, and Good Will under his stern tutelage.

And now, so many years later — I find myself at KAUST, and I feel both honored and humbled to share the goodness of his legacy, and to feast in the Great Man’s memories RIP.

Thus, I have today some valuable advise now to share with his People, all the Startupper who have congregated here at KAUST, hoping that like in the old days — they will heed my Councel and Excel, like the old King did, at all times and not just when it suited him.

Having been a veteran of a couple of Thousands of successful StartUps, a dozen Unicorns and an untold number of IPOs — I can safely vouch for the quality of the StartUps that I saw at KAUST world cup of entrepreneurship this weekend.

So here goes a bit of advise for the best StartUps, and I hope that the people running KAUST university take this to heart as well, because it is the pivotal manual for how to get the StartUps funded beyond the Angel investor level.

And as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is itself a StartUp, with a great future in the hopes of becoming a true House of Wisdom of the Arab world in the years and centuries to come, and not just another wanna be university — I will lay these thoughts here for their benefit and their edification as well…

Because Ing Abdullah’s XL vision requires excellent actions, and magnificent success — if his dream is to become reality, for KAUST to become the beacon of Light and the Hope of the World, as King Abdullah wanted this University to be. And maybe it can serve us as another Library of Alexandria, or another House of Wisdom like the Library of Bagdad and the polyglot School of Babylon, so that whenever the West blows up itself in another show of self immolation as global pestilence, nuclear wars, or pandemics, can be — we shall have a depository of Wisdom to draw from in order to get out of the resulting dark ages.

As for now, I am hoping that all the competing StartUppers for the World Cup of Entrepreneurship are listening — because here go the tools that will allow them to win the Million dollar prize in Riyadh, and more importantly the money of the Tech and Science Investors like myself, on the road to becoming a Unicorn:

“How to get the Investors to fall in Love with You, your StartUp & your pitch deck, on first sight”

Seasoned Kahuna investors, get enough of a conviction about the Leader of a StartUp just from meeting with them and glancing through their pitch deck briefly, so that in a few seconds are at most in a few minutes, they receive the electric gut feeling, that tells them all they need to know about making a decision to go to bed with them or not…

Very similar to the simple human choice for recreational bonding, and coupling, the investor invested relationship is based on chemistry more than anything else.

We all know that Love is magical and all — but the question here is how can you replicate this magic, with just a pitch deck as a tool, and without having to marry the person, or get a mortgage for a sunny house up on the hill, with 2,3 children, a dog and three cats — just so that this great & seasoned investors can get excited about you and your mutual success and affection prospects, within just minutes of reading your pitch deck and your resume, through your in-person “lustful” meeting?

Can you couple with investors and vice versa without getting married to an ice queen, or a neurotic drama mama?

What kind of music are you playing?

Is it classic, mellow jazz, folksy tunes, and loving pop, or is it some kind of head banging metal hard rock, that makes people want to cover their ears?

And are there some secret musical notes for your upcoming nuptials, in there, that are certain to be heard and thus pluck the special strings of the heart of the listener?

Where are the musical high notes and the Spirit lighting arias, that I need to hear in order to open up my heart and my wallet?

Because if you hit the right musical notes for me — again this is just for me, in order to want to schedule a face-to-face meeting with a pitching entrepreneur, then consider yourself blessed.

Because the times that these notes hit and land on the right place in the heart, there are few and far in between, but they are always about the melody the heart hears and not just the mind…

So please go out there and make a pitch deck and a promo, that music for my heart and not just for my head, my mind and my ears.

Short of that — maybe make an effort to hit the piano keys in a harmonious, melodic & balanced way… and not in a discordant loud monkey sort of way. Because if we wanted makers to play the piano as some people do — what wold be the need for Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Keith Jarret and all the greats to even bother to come along?

And maybe, thinking of music, here are some of those key musical notes from my own repertoire, that reflect well upon the listener, and thus gladden the heart of any Big Investor Kahuna out there:

1) Can you realistically establish the problem for me in a way tat I can relate?
And can you make yourself, your Startup and your team’s capacity to solve the problem relatable to me?
And you to be careful here, because this is the first opportunity to grab the Investor’s attention, as it obviously represents your first opportunity to “sell” your startup conceptually to all of us…
So what is your objective here? If your objective is to demonstrate that the problem you are solving is significant enough in terms of importance, urgency, and size, then please be as specific, measurable, and accurate as you can, on the following points: 1) Make the biggest issue your headline. You could even devote an entire slide to it if you have enough conviction behind it. 2) Define what the impact of this pain is for your target market? 3) What is the cost to them when dealing with this problem? 4) Lost revenue? 5) High customer churn rates? 6) Employee dissatisfaction? 7) Not ready for the future? Answer all these carefully considering the data and not assumptions. Be truthful and brutally honest, because this s where you make it or break it.
And as always here are a few giveaways, gold nuggets, personal suggestions and diamond ideas, on how to portray these: Use images wherever possible to direct the eye and accompany them with impactful, short bullets or sentences.
This should be no more than 1 to 3 slides, max.
If the pain you are articulating is based on primary data you have collected, or it is from secondary sources, make sure you reference them all. The former is pretty much always better as it shows that you deeply researched your market and used that data to build your company hypothesis.

2) Can you adequately define the solution?
This is where you suddenly announce that you have the software ‘paracetamol’ to your target market’s headaches. This slide will provide your reader with the strongest prompt for them to continue reading your materials.
The goal here is to keep it Stupid Simple. To show that you have a killer solution to the problem previously mentioned is the key.
However, this is also the slide where the crescendo you have been building has the greatest chance of falling on a flat note. Here are some thoughts on how to maintain the beat: Be really precise about the articulation of your solution: “X is the X software that solves X” Nothing more. Nothing less.
Highlight the top three things your product offers to solve the problem
Use a single product shot, not multiple, to maintain reader attention and keep the copy very snappy.
Use easy to comprehend language. I often used the Mum and Dad Test when practicing my pitches as they are not the most au-fait with startups and were the best crash test dummies (love you, Mum and Dad!).
Keep it to one slide – if you can’t convey your company’s mission in under 10 seconds, you have a problem.

3) Why does this matter?
See above and please make it relatable to the Investors in the audience.
Your objective here and on this slide, is to show why your solution is the best one in the marketplace. This is not necessarily a competitor review, but rather a statement about how much better/different your solution is, than what is currently practiced or available from others, out there in the vast marketplace our World represents.

4) Here’s how it all works:
This slide is all about answering one of the most important (and frequently asked) questions in my repertoire: “Why Now?”. I have spoken a length about this question in previous blogs, but here are some quick ideas:
Objective:
What has changed or happened to enable your company to exist, today?
What has changed in your target market’s business models to facilitate your product?
Has something become cheap that was once expensive?
Why is this hard to accomplish? Why has no one else done (or failed) to do this?
Slide ideas:
Again, keep it snappy, visual and brief
Maybe focus in on three points of differentiation that have the most impact

5) How big is the field?
Answer me correctly on this one, and then take my money right aways. Take my money already, because the true market size is always rather difficult to measure adequately, not only because the market size is uneasy to gauge but because you are unable to access the proprietary information that gives you that exact size. So go ahead and guesstimate, although we both know that in order to define the Total Addressable Market, you must master the market dynamics quite well. And by demonstrating the efforts that you’ve made in this regard — You are telling investors that perhaps you truly understand what size game you are after. Now, if the market is too small — it will not be interesting to early-stage VCs. If it appears to be too large, You will not be taken seriously.
Whilst this is an objective that we often gloss over, as if we somehow magically “know” it is always some humongous, really big & “huuuuge market” — please don’t underestimate the absolutely necessary significance of explaining in detail and quantifying carefully what the addressable market might be precicily. it is an important credibility check for investors and a useful test on how you view the size of the opportunity.
Make it focused and realistic. If you are developing a new search engine tool, do not estimate your growth on the market cap of Google. Base it on the number of users/customers/people using this particular tool in your target market. If the market is still embarrassingly massive, why not just state of the size of your home market and then add the global market as a footnote.

6) Traction?
Whether you are pre-seed or further along in your business lifecycle, the traction slide remains one of the most critical slides of all. This is your chance to tell the story of your hunt for product-market-fit.
If you are pre-seed, mention how many pilots you have run or how developed your pipeline has become.
If you are at the seed stage, talk about current revenue growth since launch and percentage change between these key points in time.Objective:
Demonstrate that your market is willing to use and pay for your product.
Show that interest is growing at a substantial, beyond steady, rate.
The data is 100% accurate
Slide ideas: Don’t try and massage the numbers by including non-recurring/scaleable consulting income. This is valued at lower multiples than subscription revenue.
Don’t include customers in your revenue line who have only just signed an LOI and not paid you any fees. This is not banked revenue
Do include projections and have a thorough spreadsheet that backs them up…

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7) Where is the Competition and what the heck are they doing to stop newcomers like yourselves from coming-in and stealing their breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even burning down their village and kidnapping their wives and children?
Again, this is a well-trodden subject that I will not labor on, however, it is expected piece of content that can be useful for an investor to assess a market, which she or he may not know much about.
And is your objective to be a pirate, a barbarian or a simple bloody looter, or is your effort a civilizing evolutionary process of conquest of the market?
Here is where it matters greatly to help your investors understand your pathways to penetrating and winning whatever opportunity exists n the greenfield of your competitive landscape. Investors know and understand that if they are interested in digging in more, they will need to do this anyway — so please provide the resources and your approach to do this fully knowing that you are not Napoleon Bonaparte — so please do not pretend… Of course, we expect you to have more check-in of these boxes than your competitors, but you need to tell us why. I would recommend focusing on competitors that are easily discoverable by investors and ensure that your knowledge of their current product suite is up-to-date. Also, be careful to not criticize them too much — you never know if the investor you are pitching in front of, has invested in them, or respects them for any reason. Please don’t trash talk anybody.

8) Conclusion and the reason for being here, plying your wares, is what the Business Model is all about. I can’t tell you how many pitch decks I have reviewed where I am excited about what I have read thus far, to only be disappointed with a missing or poorly written business model slide. Forget the J curve. Nobody who has ever played hockey could conceivably ever believe you…
Your highest objective here is to demonstrate how you and your StartUp can make money. So go ahead and tell us about your pricing model. Discuss your product up-sell suite. If you are pre-seed and don’t have any customers, clearly present a simple and sensible pricing strategy. Also, own the fact that you are nearly always under-selling your products and can always increase prices!
Slide ideas: Use this slide as another place to sell your company – what is the ACV (average contract value) for your product and how this has trended (hopefully it has gone upwards) since you launched.
If you are proud of your CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) then tell us why – what nifty and thrifty ways have you developed to sell to your target market? Are you a growth hacker? If so, tell us how and what you did?
Ensure that your pricing model is simple, easy to understand, and appropriate. Don’t overcomplicate it and make sure it follows through to your 18-month financial model

9) Why You?
Why not? (this one can be answered with a question…)
Objective:
This is all about telling us why you and your team are the most logical and credible people to build this company
Briefly mention your backgrounds, but don’t give us War and Peace, just the highlights.
Use clear photos that are professional, not your Instagram profile picture.
Slide ideas: I sometimes question the need for long lists of advisors. Only list them if they actively working with your company and are highly relevant.

9) What are you here for?
The most commonly missed opportunity in decks that I review is that the entrepreneurs do not make the right “ask” of the investor. How much money are you raising?
Your objective here is to clearly tell, how much money you are raising and at what valuation. All else can wait…
In one line, please tell us how much money you need and why.
Demonstrate what this amount of capital will deliver for your business? More revenue? More product development?
Add a few bullets about the use of capital:
How many people will you hire and what will they be doing?
How long will the money last you?
What is your deadline for hitting the goals (hint: 18-24 months)?

10) Finally it is time for the awfully dreaded appendices:
Just to be crystal clear, the appendix is not a place for sub-par slides to retire. This is a place for additional details that may be pertinent to your argument to stand proud and excite a curious investor.
Your objectives here are to include some more detail about your pipeline and which targets are in it.
Or, perhaps the objective is to present your calculations about your CAC or about your pricing model…
Perhaps, you can also provide a little more detail on your product sophistication or the back-end.

And that’s it.

Really…

That’s All Folks.

Wrap it up because it is officially a wrap.

The End.

Yours,
Dr Churchill

PS:

Always an afterthought… yet most vital perhaps.

Pitching is an art, not a science – so although there is no right or wrong answer, to your madness or to your method, please make sure that you “totally own” your pitch deck & that you “grogg” your slides, practice them often in front of the mirror, so that you can recite them by-heart, and enjoy delivering the content.

Because ultimately and at the end of the day — conveying a genuine passion for the problem that you are solving in this World, and demonstrating Meaning and Purpose in your Life and your dedication for this StartUp business, is more important than anything else for all the rest of us.

So…

My friend, please go out there boldly and play your music and be certain that the right audience for you, will surely appear….

PPS:

The EWC, [Entrepreneurship World Cup] @ KAUST, is a boon for all concerned because these StartUps are far reaching, and for myself an enjoyable spectacle, because having been an advisor to King Abdullah, the founder of KAUST, [King Abdullah University of Science and Technology] where this Entrepreneurship StartUp World Cup 2019 takes place — I must admit that the results of this Vision we imagined together so many years back, has now come to full fruition with benefits streaming out of here for all humanity…

After all StartUps rock, and it is these soon to be Unicorns that will bring the World closer to a Dreamland where all of us can see to thrive as Citizens of the Magnificent Future of Humanity, where ether savageness of Man has been extinguished and where Insallah, we can all coexist peacefully, and peaceably.

Still when I wake up here at KAUST, it feels like I experience a mirage of the desert, in its blossoming reality: A grand research University in the sands of Saudi Arabia. A true House of Wisdom and a place of Light with a beacon to light my path here, and to force the point home, that it is wisdom and only wisdom that can attract the wayward sailors of knowledge, thought and imagination to the leeward shores of the Red Sea…

Indeed, King Abdullah was one of a kind.

God Bless.

And may the Good God, remember his good deeds and keep him in the palm of his hands…

May God Rest his soul and may history keep his legacy flowing as the best ruler in this corner of the earth, over the last few hundred years…

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