How to explain what your company does to investors

Sam McKeith

It’s safe to say that JCurve Solutions chief executive Stephen Canning is no novice when it comes to doing business.

And one skill the boss of the ASX-listed IT services provider puts a premium on is explaining what your business does, simply and persuasively.

It’s a craft, he says, that’s especially important when making your way in business, and particularly important in seeking investor finance.

Canning gave us some of his key insights to help you explain your start-up to an investor.

Why do you exist?

His first big piece of advice was to be “crystal clear” about why you exist as a company before going out to raise capital.

“What we did first was to get really clear on our ‘why’. Why do we exist as a company, what’s our purpose, what problems do we solve,” he said.

Where are you going?

“We also got really clear on our vision in terms of where we’re going, what our goals are and how we’re going to get there.

“Unless you’re absolutely clear on this internally, how can you expect to explain that to external people, whether they be customers or investors.”

Make it brief

Once you’ve honed your message, Canning says keep the pitch to investors brief.

A good way to do this, he says, is to focus on identifying the problem that your business is solving and then “simply explain how you solve that problem”.

“Ideally it’s one sentence,” he says.

“After that, tell your investors what the solution you’re offering will actually mean for customers, does it save money, does it save time, does it bring sales?”

Make it simple

Canning says when talking to investors your pitch should be so simple a 10-year-old could understand it.

At JCurve, Canning says the team refined their message over time with input from various parts of the firm, until they were confident their kids could get it.

“It’s a great technique,” he says.

“That’s the way I always look at it. If it isn’t understandable to a 10-year-old you don’t understand it well enough yourself.”

Curb the fluff

In terms of selling the message to investors, Canning cautions against too many bells and whistles.

“What people want to hear is a story,” he says.

“Anyone can go into a meeting with slide deck but that’s not exciting and it doesn’t excite potential investors.

“Tell a story – there’s a reason you started that company. What is it? Tell the story about how you realised there was a particular need you could fill, and how you got inspired.”

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs.