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Learn it from a VC: pitching tips by Frank Maene

The best funding a startup can have is paying customers. The next best option would be investment funding. Agree?

One way to connect with investors is attending a pitch event. Such events are organized in order to match startups with the right investors, think of The Factory’s Investment Launchpad Meetups, for example.  It’s our core mission to help startups grow their business for success!

Last time, we invited Frank Maene, founder of Volta Ventures, to join us. Maene is a well-known VC investor in the Belgian ecosystem and expert in pitching. Just for you, he agreed to share his personal tips on how to optimize your pitch towards investors, and how to raise funding as a startup.

Frank Maene

Frank Maene, regular keynote speaker and founder of Volta Ventures.

Volta Ventures is a Venture Capitalist that belongs to the top seed and early stage investors in Benelux in order to make a substantial impact on the businesses they invest in. Next to that, Frank is also startup competition jury member, helping startups to better craft their pitches for investors. – For me it is a way of getting in front of startups that might be interesting”.

Tip 1: know what you need

There are a lot of things you should consider before searching for startup funds. First, you have to make sure you’ve prepared both your business plan and financial plan. Calculate what costs you are going to make, what revenue you will get and what kind of investment you will need in order to survive the coming one of two years. Secondly, don’t only leverage on your existing network. Expand your network with people who have experience in the fields relevant to growing your business. So yes, making connections with powerful people is part of the job.

✔ to-do: convince investors with solid calculations.

The open innovation events The Factory organizes are a perfect opportunity ! Our community of corporates and startups will benefit your network.

Tip 2: know your opportunities in the market

A big challenge for startups is defining the right market-fit and finding the best business opportunities. First, identify your potential customers and listen to their needs. They offer the most valuable insights. Make an analysis: what’s exactly going on in your market? Are there unmet needs? Are there any threats you can detect so you can cover them and add value? At last, analyze complementary products and services. And don’t forget that also in other industries you can find interesting opportunities!

This exercise is key to clearly defining the storyline of your investors pitch. In your pitch, you need to attract the investor’s attention by stating an existing problem in the market and then, presenting your business as the best solution for it.

✔ to-do: get the investor’s attention with a market-analysis.

Frank was straight to the point about what to expect. We really liked how straight forward he was. He was like ‘This is what investors want, forget everything else!


Tip 3: know your competition

All businesses face competition. Discover how your product or service is different from your competitors’ product or service, in every aspect. What is making you unique? When pitching to potential investors, keep in mind that describing the added value for the customer is more important than describing all your product’s features.

 ✔ to-do: pitch your uniqueness, not your cool features.

“Mister Maene had valuable important observations. I’m an experienced pitcher and still learned a lot of new things.”


Tip 4: know your team

Ideas can pivot and grow, products or services can be optimized, funding can be found on different places, your competitors can come out of nowhere… Your startup team, however, brings the company’s DNA together. 

Pitching tips by Frank Maene
Courtesy of Silicon Valley

Having complementary people in your team with a diversity of skills and knowledge is the basis of your business. Did you know having the wrong team is the 3rd reason startups fail?  Remember: 1 + 1 = 3!

In your pitch, it’s important to present the current team that is working on your business. Use pictures, because visuals of people always attract.

✔ to-do: put pictures of your team members in your pitch deck.

Can you relate to the 5 challenges to hire as a startup and how to overcome them?

Tip 5: know your investor 

First of all, choose the investor that is meeting your expectations. Keep an eye on if they can help as a sounding board, by providing introductions to partners and prospects and assist incorporate structuring, fund raising, … etc. Secondly, get to know the investors you’ll pitch to. Or at least, give that impression. Before approaching investors that are active in your market, do your research. Let the internet be your oyster. Let the investor feel like you know him/her, his/her sector focus.  


✔ to-do: edit your pitch according to the investor.

It all starts with being fully prepared: 6 tips a Startup founder should know when negotiating with investors

“Frank told us to start with your best shot. You need to come with something that amazes the investors. That’s why we changed our deck after his workshop.”


The Factory as Enabler

The Factory can offer you a facilitating role in this journey. Frank explains: “Enablers like The Factory grow startups by coaching them, giving them advice and best of all, involving them in a great network of investors and experts. Of course, startups and scale-ups need to have money in the bank too. In order to find the right investors, they need a solid business and financial plan. I’m happy to see that teams like The Factory support startups & scale-ups in this process.”