How To Pitch Investors
Like A Seasoned Pro

You’ve launched your minimal product. You have traction, a business plan, a strong pitch deck, and you’re ready to fundraise… but there’s one issue – you don’t have the first clue on how to pitch to investors. Don’t worry, the pitch process can be frustrating to everyone and it can almost seem scary until you’re actually out there doing it.

If you’ve ever attended a Pitch Day or have witnessed numerous pitches, it’s easy to see that some people seem to have the gift of pitching while others just seem uncomfortable, timid and uncertain. There’s a major difference in these two types of entrepreneurs and it’s not ‘natural talent’ – it’s knowing how to pitch effectively and generating the necessary experience by pitching your business over and over again.

At ThinkLions, we’ve worked with hundreds of businesses around the world – helping them create the best investment tools and consulting with them to develop successful pitches. In this post, we will share a few tried-and-tested tips to help you deliver the best possible pitch and raise the necessary funds for your startup.

What To Do Before You Pitch

There are several things you should do before approaching an investor to maximize your potential for success; but if this is your first time pitching, you should start by familiarizing yourself with the process.

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The great thing about living in today’s world is, we have access to things we could never access before the “internet age”. Twenty years ago, you may be walking in to give your first pitch without even knowing what a successful pitch actually looks like. Today, you can simply go on YouTube and type in “pitch competition” or “investor pitch” and watch hundreds of pitches; preparing you for what to expect. Preparation is key, and using tools like YouTube can give you a serious boost and a major advantage when you’re standing in front of a potential investor.

Your first investor pitch shouldn’t the first time you’ve pitched your business. By the time you’re in front of a potential investor, you should have already tested your pitch dozens of times. Write out a few different pitches. Pitch it to yourself in the mirror, pitch it to your family and friends. If you’re tripping over your words and finding that your nerves overtake your delivery in front of your brother or cousin – how do you think you’re going to do when you’re in front of several experienced entrepreneurs and investors? Pitch to anyone that will listen – then ask for their honest feedback. Ask them what parts they understood and what parts they didn’t. Wait a few days and ask them what they remember from your pitch. If they don’t even remember what your business was about – maybe you should go back to the drawing board before pitching in front of an investor.

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Finally, record yourself delivering the pitch. Even if you’ve given your pitch in front of family and friends 100 times, there are still weaknesses that you may not notice until you’re actually watching yourself. For example, a client of ours once told us that while he thought his delivery was perfect, he realized only after recording himself that he used the filler “um” over sixty times during his 7-minute pitch. Realizing the existence of this subconscious habit, he started to practice slowing down his delivery and taking small pauses instead of using filler words – a simple solution that made his pitch increasingly more effective.

I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not the type of person that does well speaking in front of people.” Nobody is comfortable speaking in front of strangers, especially not investors, until they have done it over and over. If you’re not good at public speaking, now is the time to build that skill. Raising funds is going to require you to go outside of your comfort zone – shaking unfamiliar hands and pitching crowds that you aren’t used to communicating with.

How To Deliver An Effective Investor Pitch

How-To-Deliver-An-Effective-Investor-Pitch

Putting together a winning pitch isn’t easy. For many entrepreneurs, it’s easy to talk about your business for hours and hours on end, but condensing it to under 10 minutes is a major challenge! To give a great pitch, you’re required to decide which points are most relevant, and then figure out how to tie that information together to persuade investors to be a part of it. Delivering an effective pitch means stepping outside of the box and speaking confidently, even when you know that the odds are against you. Every month, thousands of investors are pitched by new startups – and every month, thousands of startups are rejected. However, out of those thousands of startups, a few will succeed. A select few will break the mold and deliver a pitch that leads to a deal.

If you want to know how to pitch to investors successfully, you’re in the right place. Below, our experts at ThinkLions have put together five tips to help you maximize your chance of pitching yourself into an investment deal.

1) Know What Makes You Special

Know-What-Makes-You-Special

No matter how unique your business seems, likely, it’s not as unique as you think. You’d be surprised to know how often investors hear, “we are the Uber for (fill in the blank)” or “we have the next solution to disrupt the (fill in the industry) sector”. Ideas are a dime a dozen and you’re not going to turn an investor’s head based upon your idea alone. Find the thing that makes you special – whether it’s the traction you’ve already gained, a new process you’ve perfected, or real lives that your solution has changed. Find your special sauce, and pour it all over your pitch. Investors turn down good startups all the time. Don’t be good, focus on what makes you great.

Take a true assessment of your business. Examine every sentence of your pitch and ask yourself, “has this been said before?” and “has this investor heard this line before?” If the answer is yes, replace it with something that the investor hasn’t heard before. Never leave a gap where an investor has a chance to lose interest – be great from the opening sentence through to the closing. 

2) Tailor Your Pitch To Your Audience 

Your first pitch probably won’t be your last. Likely, you will pitch to many different investors before finally landing a deal. Investors don’t all have the same goals, objectives, perspectives, experiences or backgrounds. It is critical for you to learn about who you are pitching to before pitching to them. Knowing what is important to them will give you the opportunity to tailor your pitch accordingly.

See what you can find out about the investor or the firm – do they typically invest in startups or existing businesses? What range of funds do they generally offer? Is there a specific industry that they usually invest in? Are there any patterns you realize regarding the businesses they have invested in previously? Ideally, you want your pitch to be like a perfectly wrapped gift for every investor you deliver it to. Your pitch should push the buttons that get them excited and should avoid pressing the buttons that deactivate their enthusiasm. Always remember, an investment deal isn’t a one-way benefit. Don’t just focus on why their investment would be great for your business, but allow them to understand why your business is perfect for their specific investment portfolio.

English novelist Charles Reade once said, “If you wish to please people, you must first start by understanding them.” When it comes to pitching an investor, this couldn’t be truer – if you want them to understand the value of what you are delivering, you must first understand what it is that they find valuable.

3) Use Time To Your Advantage

If there is one common regret that entrepreneurs have after failing to secure an investment, it is that they wish they had more time to say everything they wanted to say. In many cases, pitches will have a time limit – and if they don’t, it’s still wise to be brief. Knowing that you only have a certain number of minutes to deliver all of your information can seem extremely restricting. How do you explain the last year of traction and the next three years of forecasts in ten minutes? In some cases, such as a pitch competition, a team may only have a minute or two to deliver their entire pitch.

Where the average startup sees limitations, a winning team will see an opportunity. A time limit can be used to your advantage if you implement the right strategy. In many cases, investors aren’t really sold until the question and answer portion of the pitch when they get to inquire a bit further. Knowing this, it is wise to strategize your pitch to captivate the audience with strong information; but to present the information in a way that will immediately drive specific questions during the Q&A session.

For example, if I just landed Walmart as a large client, I can set up this information as “we recently secured a partnership with one of the largest retailers on the planet.” By framing the information this way, I know without a doubt that someone will ask, “who is the retailer?” during the Q&A session. Once they ask this question, I can delve into information about the partnership without being held to a time limit. First, know your audience; then use what you know to craft not just the perfect pitch, but the perfect pitch experience.

4) Create an Entertaining Pitch

Create an Entertaining Pitch

Just to clarify, this doesn’t mean walking into your pitch dressed as a superhero or doing backflips during your presentation. However, if you’re going to keep someone’s interest for ten minutes, you’ll need to keep them on the edge of their seat.

Consider the way an author or film writer keeps their audience entertained. There’s an introduction where the characters are introduced and the audience is given the chance to relate to the characters. Then, there’s a huge challenge or obstacle that a beloved character is faced with. The climax hits as the character tries to find a solution to their issue. They find a solution and the world is better because of it. Then, there is an ending. In many ways, this is exactly how your pitch should be set up – get them connected to the characters, introduce the problem, build up to the climax, then provide a strong closing.

Investors are pitched by businesses constantly. The majority of pitches they hear, they forget about within an hour. If you want to succeed, your pitch needs to be unforgettable. Whatever method you take to achieve this, make sure that you give a memorable pitch that stays on the investor’s mind even after the pitch has concluded.

5) Develop a Great Pitch Deck

Strengthen your pitch by developing an amazing pitch deck that helps the audience follow your presentation and helps them visualize your message. Your pitch deck must create a harmonious balance with your pitch. It should have enough words to summarize the message, but not so many words that the audience gets caught up in reading the slides instead of listening to your presentation. It should include images and visuals, but not so many graphics that it becomes a distraction to your message. Without using too many words, your pitch deck should be a positive tool that supports your message – while being explanatory enough to stand on its own and deliver the right message even when you are not pitching.

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How To Pitch Investors Successfully

Following these tips will help you put together a pitch that stands out and delivers exactly what investors are looking for. However, if there is one key to success when pitching investors; it is to take each pitch as a learning experience, iterate your delivery, and improve your pitch each and every time. The more often that you stand in front of investors and answer the unexpected questions that may come to you – the stronger, more confident, and more successful you will become in your pitching efforts.

At ThinkLions, we have helped hundreds of startups during the fundraising stages. From business planning and pitch deck consulting to app development and beyond; we are the team you need to help bring your startup ideas to life.Contact us today and schedule a consultation with one of our app startup experts!

What Is The Best
Business Plan Format?

Let’s face it, writing a business plan isn’t as easy as it looks. Sure, you know your business – but putting it in a business plan format that investors can easily digest can be tricky. Developing an investor-ready business plan can be a major undertaking – especially if you’ve never written one – but if you are seeking funding for your business, you will likely need one.  

Sometimes, your business plan will need to do all the speaking for you. In some occasions, potential investors may ask to see your business plan before they agree to listen to your pitch. The unfortunate part is, an investor’s attention span may be extremely limited to businesses they aren’t already familiar with. If your information isn’t structured into the right business plan format, you may lose their attention quickly.

At ThinkLions, we have worked with hundreds of businesses; helping them create winning business plans and raise funding for their app startups. After years of developing our process, we have put together a tried-and-proven simple business plan format that has worked for many of our clients. In this article, we’ll discuss the business planning process, examine what you need to do before writing your business plan, explain how to develop the best business plan model, and introduce our business proposal outline.

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Before You Write Your Business Plan

Writing a business plan isn’t the first step you should take in bringing your idea to life. Every day that you actively advance your business, you will uncover new information that will be important to add to your plan. By nature, basic business plans are full of projections. However, if you haven’t done the necessary work beforehand, you won’t have the data needed to make an honest assessment of your business. Knowing how to format a business plan is part of the formula, but the preparation is key to success. 

Your business plan format is important, but it’s more important to make sure that you have met the milestones required to prove the potential of your idea. Before you write your business plan, put the necessary time and effort into accomplishing the following:

  1. Know Your Market: Having a fantastic idea means very little if it doesn’t solve a real problem for a real market. The majority of your business plan will center around proving that a market and market demand actually exists. Before writing your business plan, identify your initial market of focus. Learn everything there is to know about your customer. Go out and talk to real consumers. Join forums and online communities where your consumers hang out. Find their pain points. Listen to what they say about competitors. Get to know them intimately. The more you know about your audience, the better you will understand their needs and desires.
  2. Validate Your Idea: Once you know who your market is, you should test your idea with them and validate your assumptions. Before you write a business plan and ask an investor to invest in your idea, make sure your idea is worth investing in. Build a minimal viable product (MVP) and launch it to a limited audience. Adapt your product until you’ve truly created something that effectively solves a problem and is in demand by your market.
  3. Gather Data: Google is a great source of information, but if you are going to impress investors, you need real primary data from real customers of your business. As you validate your MVP, monitor important metrics such as cost per acquisition, conversion rate, and etc. This data will be used to show traction, forecast trends, and will act as a foundation for your financial projections.

The ThinkLions Business Plan Format

There’s nothing fancy about the business plan format we use at ThinkLions, but it’s a business plan layout that has worked for us over and over again. Furthermore, we’ll give you a few tips for each section – tips that we’ve gathered over years and years of developing startup business plans. Click below to download our business plan format doc. 

Executive Summary

Although the executive summary should be written last, it appears first in the business plan outline. In the executive summary, you will give a quick overview of the most notable details. This section should touch on all aspects of your business including the problem, solution, competition, marketing strategy, founding team and financial projections – but in a condensed manner. Although the executive summary is a component of the business plan, it should be strong enough to stand alone as its own document.

Here are a few tips to make sure your executive summary is as strong as possible:

  1. Write it last – Think of your executive summary like the back of a novel. The book itself shouldn’t be built off the summary, but the other way around. Write the rest of the business plan first, and then use the executive summary to summarize the most important points. 
  2. Make it persuasive – Your executive summary should display the highlights of your business and build curiosity within the reader. It should make readers want to read the rest of your plan to find out more. Fail to gain their attention with the executive summary and they may not even read the rest of the plan.
  3. Get to the point – The executive summary should be brief – about one to two pages is ideal. Be brief, but powerful. Make sure every word counts. Don’t dive too deep though, you’ll have the rest of the business plan to get into the intimate details.

Company Details

After the executive summary, we officially start our business plans with details about the business itself. This includes a company summary with milestones and history; short-term and long-term objectives; and the mission and vision statement.

Company Summary

Start off this section with a quick description of your company. Provide a great elevator pitch and talk about the milestones that you’ve accomplished to date.

Here are a few tips to make sure you nail this part of the business plan:

  1. Show progress: As mentioned previously, before you write your business plan (and definitely before you start approaching investors); validate your assumptions by launching a minimal viable product. Show your progress to date. Explain how your progress proves that a demand truly exists for your product or service.
  2. Tell the company story: Don’t get too lengthy here, but give readers an idea of how you started your business. Provide context to how the founders realized that a real customer problem existed. This section gives you the opportunity to really connect with readers and to get them excited about your business.
  3. Provide metrics: Even if you have fantastic writing skills, it’s the numbers, stats, and metrics that investors really pay attention to. Show your most outstanding metrics here. If you have 1,000 customers already using your solution, explain it in detail. Or, if you have already started earning revenue, showcase how much revenue you’ve earned so far. Likewise, if you have generated fantastic marketing metrics, tell readers about it and explain why it matters!

Objectives

Before you start talking about the strategy to meet your goals, you need to make those goals known. Think about your financial goals, your user objectives, the goals you have for the development of your product, your team ambitions and more. In some way or another, every section in our business plan format will be used to describe the steps you will take to meet these goals and objectives.

Mission/Vision Statement

Construct a great mission and vision statement and include it here. Think deeply about what your company really is, who you serve, and what you stand for. The best mission statements are short and to the point, but powerful enough that readers can easily comprehend why the company needs to exist.

Products and Services

You’ve already given a summarized version of what your business is, but now you will get into the real detail of your actual product or service. In this section, describe the product’s features and abilities. Consider the features that set your products apart from competitors. If you’re in the ideation stage, your product may not physically exist yet; but this section should be written so well that readers can easily visualize it. If you have a physical product, add images or 3D product blueprints. If you are an app startup, show screenshots of the app or wireframe images.

Industry and Customer Analysis

Every business plan format will include some type of industry and customer analysis. These are the sections where you will include research to prove that a market and demand actually exists for your product or service.

Industry Analysis

Don’t assume that you will be successful just because you have a cool product. Successful businesses are those that solve a problem for a specific market (or multiple markets). Furthermore, even if you can prove a market exists – you still need to prove that the market is actually in demand for the product or service your offer.

Select the market that is best served by your product or service. Research it deeply. Find the data and statistics that support your case and explain why those stats are important. Look at how the market has grown historically, and identify trends that show where it will grow in the future.

Customer Personas

Once you’ve identified the markets you will serve, it’s important to also explain exactly who your customer is. How old are they? What do they do for a living? Are there specific challenges do they face? Which publications do they read? What podcasts do they listen to? Who are the influencers that they follow online? Where do they live? What are their interests? The more you know about who your customer is, the more effectively you will be able to reach and serve them.

Detail your ideal customer as if they were a real person. Give them a name and write this section in a way where a reader can immediately understand who your customer is. After giving life to your customer persona, answer this question – how does your business solve their specific problem?

Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy will explain specifically how you will reach the market and convert them into buyers of your product or service.

Pricing & Positioning

In this section, you will explain your pricing strategy and showcase how your business will bring in revenue. Will you succeed by being cheaper than competitors? Will you provide a ‘luxury’ service or product and charge more than less-luxurious competitors? Consider how your product will be positioned in comparison to competitors and display the prices you have selected for each product or service you offer.

SWOT Analysis

The SWOT Analysis will allow you to describe your business’ strengths and weaknesses; the opportunities that you will capitalize on; and the threats the business will face. Typically, a SWOT Analysis is presented in a matrix with bulleted points, but we advise adding a section under the matrix that explains each point in more detail.

Marketing & Promotional Techniques

Since you’ve already launched a minimal viable product to the market, you should have an idea of what techniques you need to capitalize on to reach your audience. There are many different marketing strategies you can implement from SEO to influencer marketing to ads and beyond, but you should only focus on the most effective strategies that will allow you to quickly acquire new customers with a low CPA.

Furthermore, explain the expenses involved with implementing each strategy and the return on investment that you expect. If you mention Facebook marketing, explain how much you will put towards marketing each month, how much you will spend per click, and what percentage will convert into paying customers.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis should thoroughly detail how your solution compares to your competitors’ solutions. To make it easily digestible, consider adding a table that shows each feature of your business and product; and show how it compares to the features that your competitors offer.

Also, tell about your competitive advantages. What makes you special? Why should consumers choose your solution over the competition? Even if your business is closely similar to the competition, there should be something that makes it unique. Explain your unique selling points and what makes your business stand out amongst others.

Operational Strategy

There is much more to operating a business than just having a good idea. Bad operations can quickly derail a business, while a strong operational strategy can help catapult a startup to success. In our business plan format, we focus on several main areas of operation – Location, Quality Control, Customer Service, Staffing & Training, and Organizational Structure.

Quality Control

No matter if you are offering a physical product, a service, or a software – quality is key. Maintaining quality though can be harder than it seems.

  • When dealing with physical products, it’s important to figure out how your product will be manufactured and how you will ensure that the manufacturers are maintaining a high-quality standard. Explain how quality will be assessed at each stage from manufacturing to final delivery.
  • Those offering services will often need to depend upon their employees and staff to deliver the best level of service to customers. Employees that deliver underwhelming services can cause customers to perceive the entire brand negatively. In this section, describe the processes you will put in place to help employees deliver the best services, and how these services will be assessed for quality.
  • Software products can be extremely fickle. One line of bad code could potentially crash an entire system. In this section of the business plan format, consider how you will deal with bugs and software updates. Describe your relationship with your developers – will they be in-house or third party? If a third party will be used, how will you ensure that they will be available to quickly address bugs found in the product?

Customer Service

Let’s face it, even the strongest brands are faced with dissatisfied customers every now and then. The way in which you deal with these dissatisfied customers will be critical to your success as a business. A single detractor can potentially turn away dozens of potential customers with one bad online review. In fact, consumer reviews are trusted up to 12 times more than a manufacturer’s description. The way in which you serve your customers, and not just the happy ones, will play heavily on how much consumers trust your brand.

In this section, address exactly how you will deal with customer dissatisfaction. Will you have a no-questions-asked return policy or will you only allow returns after 7 days? If a customer is dissatisfied by the service your employees provided, will you send someone else out to fix it? The steps you take to remedy your customer situations may have immediate implications on your financials – for example, a recall could cost a business millions of dollars. However, the impact of a dissatisfied customer (or several) will cost much more in lost business and diminished brand trust.

Staffing & Training

Unfortunately, your personal capacity is limited – there are only so many hours in the day and so much energy you can exert before you become overwhelmed. For any successful B-quadrant business, having the right staff in place at the right time is critical.

For this section, thoroughly assess what your staffing needs will need to be over the next 3-5 years to meet the goals that you outlined in the “Objectives” section. If your objective is to scale 10x over the next year, you will also need to scale your team so that there is enough capacity to meet that goal. If your goal is to expand internationally within 3 years, you may need to hire international staff to manage things on-the-ground in these regions. Each position should be reflected in your business plan, along with their expected date of hire and salaries.

Unfortunately, employees don’t come already trained. Even if they are highly experienced in their specific area, they will likely need some guidance. How will you train them for success? Will you have a specific training program that each employee must attend? If so, this is the section to talk about it!

Organizational Structure

Now that you know what employees you will need to hire, you can create a simple hierarchy structure that shows who will manage each department and which positions will fall within those departments.

Management Team

Great businesses don’t build themselves. Instead, they are built by fantastic teams who have the right skills and backgrounds. An amazing business idea without a great founding team is like a racehorse without a jockey – it may have potential, but it’s the rider that pushes it to success. In this section of the business plan format, show that you have the right team and right advisors to launch, grow, and scale a profitable business.

Management Bios

The most effective teams have several motivated members who each have skill sets that complement one another and contribute to the overall progress of the business. When writing the bio for each member, consider the following:

  • Background: Take a look at the background of each team member. Do they have past experiences that will help move the business forward?
  • Skills: What skills are necessary to successfully implement the steps described in the business plan? Are all of these skills present in your current team?
  • Contribution & Responsibility: What tasks are each individual responsible for? What have they contributed to the business thus far?

Advisor Bios

Great founding teams also have extensive networks with advisors that they can turn to for advice and insight. Businesses often face challenges, but by relying on the experiences of others, teams can often avoid certain obstacles or solve them quickly.

In this section of the business plan format, provide a short bio for the advisors that have committed to working with you. Detail who they are, what achievements they have made, and the highlights of their backgrounds.

Financial Projections

When writing your own business plan, the financial model is likely where you will find the most difficulty. If you are a startup, your financial model will include future projections with a 3-5 year window. If you are writing a plan for an existing business, the model will include financials from the previous several years, along with future projections. In most cases, a proper financial model will include:

  • Profit and Loss Statement: Summarizes projected revenue, costs and expenses.
  • Balance Sheet: Displays the company’s assets, liabilities and equity at a specific point in time, showing a balance between outgoing and income funds.  
  • Cash Flow Statement: Shows how the cash balance is affected by changes in balance sheet accounts. Also shows the impact of investing and financing activities.
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Here’s the major tip for developing the financial model for your business plan – minimize assumptions. While there will be certain things that you will need to assume it’s best when your model uses real numbers.

  • The best financial model uses past financial history to forecast future revenues, expenses, and profits. For startups, this may mean launching a minimal viable product, getting it in the hands of real users, and generating real stats.
  • An average financial model uses secondary data from highly reliable sources, studies, and surveys. However, secondary research only relates to the overall industry – while using real numbers from your business relates directly to how your business performs within the overall industry. Secondary research is good, but statistics may vary from one study to another. Make sure you only use data from high-quality and reputable sources.
  • The least effective financial models are full of assumptions. In these plans, entrepreneurs guess what their expenses will be, what portion of the market they can reach, and how much revenue they can generate; instead of backing it up with real data and research.

Funding Requirement

Finally, reveal your financial ask and explain exactly why you need that amount. Itemize where each dollar will be spent to give readers a clear understanding of your financial requirements. Lastly, state the amount of equity will be given in exchange for the investment – based upon the current value of your startup.

Exit Strategy

Some business plan writers choose to include an exit strategy, while some do not. Some investors will require it so that they can get an idea of when they will receive their investment back along with a major payoff. Others, however, know that the future of a startup is totally uncertain, and therefore, they don’t really pay much attention to this section.

Whether you decide to include the exit strategy in your business plan format is up to you – but if you do, here are a few tips:

  • Research similar businesses that had a successful and profitable exit. Were they acquired? Did they merge with another business? Did they go public? Explain how other similar businesses were able to exit and why you believe your business will be able to exit in a similar fashion.
  • Tie your exit into your financial projections and show a projected valuation. Furthermore, show how an XX% ownership in the company (whatever percentage an investor would receive for matching your financial ask) will multiply in returns at exit based upon that valuation.

Using Our Business Plan Format

Unfortunately, just having a great business plan format isn’t enough – now you have to actually write your plan. When creating your business plan, stick to the facts. Investors have short attention spans when it comes to even a simple business plan, and too much fluff will quickly diminish their interest.

Furthermore, some investors (and banks) may have specific business plan formats that they prefer. Make sure to do your research on their specific requirements before writing and submitting your business plan.

Need help getting your business plan together? Contact us today and schedule a consultation with one of our business plan experts!

Detroit Startups: Launching Your
Tech Startup in the Motor City

A decade or so ago, nobody could really tell where Detroit was heading. A major shifting in the automotive industry left the Motor City in confused state, and the effects of the recession were evident in every part of the city. Foreclosures on homes and commercial properties became an everyday occurance, leaving a path of abandonment that was felt by those in the city – and even those in the surrounding metro area. Times were troubling and the future looked bleak. Many wouldn’t have predicted that the city known for its automotive manufacturing would break one day breakout as Detroit Startup City. When everyone was packing up and leaving the city in droves, no one would have guessed that it would one day be a place where investors flock to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, or that it would one day be a hub of new tech innovations. Detroit startups are driving the city forward, and if you’ve chosen Detroit as the headquarters for your tech startup – you’ve chosen the right place.

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Why You Should Launch In Detroit

For us at ThinkLions, there is nothing that makes us prouder than serving Detroit startups. While our business plan writers and app developers have served clients around the world, there’s always something special about working with awesome entrepreneurs right in our city. Amazing things are taking place in Detroit, startups everywhere are taking notice – and we love being a part of that.

Why are so many startups now migrating to the Motor City? The simple answer is – because Detroit startups are smart and they see the many advantages to launching and operating here. With a seemingly endless number of benefits, there is major value in being a part of the Detroit startup scene. Some of the major advantages to launching your tech startup in Detroit include:

  • Office Space is Cheaper: In most metro areas, office space can be ridiculously expensive; and for a startup, rent can be one of their largest fixed expenses. Detroit startups however, are able to access cheaper office space than most metro areas around the nation. Although rent prices are on the incline in recent years, there is still plenty of vacant office space all throughout Detroit where rent is super affordable for a new startup. Not ready to take on a full office space of your own? Maybe you’d be interested in joining one of the many many co-op and shared workspaces like Bamboo, WeWork, Regus or SpaceLab. There are also several startup and app incubators that you can join to help move your startup forward like SPARK (nearby Ann Arbor) and Techstars Mobility.
  • It’s Where The Investors Are: Ever since Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert began investing millions and millions into the downtown Detroit area several years ago, investors have been flocking to get in on the action. From real estate to startups, investors are now buying into any and everything Detroit-based that can provide a great return. According to a new report by Michigan Venture Capital Association, there are 35 active venture-backed Detroit startups representing 25% of the startup companies currently growing in Michigan. While 2009 brought in a whopping $131 million in total venture capital investment – this was minimal in comparison to the $222 million that was invested into Michigan startups in 2016.
  • The Talent Is Immense: There was never a question of whether talent lives in Detroit; just flip through the Billboards Top 100 anywhere from the 60s through the mid-70s and you’ll see that the city isn’t referred to as the Motown for nothing – real talent lives here. From amazing artists and musicians to incredible marketing firms and app developers; there are thousands of top-notch talent providers that can help you progress your startup.
  • You’ll Love The Scene: One of the best things about being a Detroit startup is working in Detroit. Downtown is buzzing with awesome new restaurants, museums and exhibits, fairs and festivals, and things to do. Any Detroit startup owner in the downtown area will tell you – there is always something awesome to check out, whether it’s the food trucks on Campus Martius or the city’s beautiful architecture.

Why Detroit? Detroit startups get the rare chance to be a part of something new. Sure, you can run to Silicon Valley and be a small fish in a huge pond of sharks; or you can be a part of Detroit startup success and build your business here while the opportunity is super advantageous and the resources are thick for any new startup.

Who’s Leading The Detroit Tech Startup Scene?

There are hundreds of startups now operating in Detroit; many of which are growing rapidly and helping Detroit progress it’s startup tech scene. We’d love to go through and give a spotlight to all of them, but here are 3 of our favorite standout Detroit startups!

Greenlancer

Greenlancer is an awesome Detroit startup that “facilitate[s] the design and fulfillment of permit-ready plan sets for the solar industry.” The startup uses proprietary technology and their network of engineers to help clients design and sell clean energy systems. Providing services like feasibility studies, concept designs and permit packages, Greenlancer uses standardized templates and workflows to create solar design documents. With a network of qualified freelance green energy designers and engineers (or “Greenlancers”), the platform manages all information as it passes from each each expert until the documents are completed.

Greenlancer has raised over $5.5 million in investor funding to date from 5 investors over 2 funding rounds.

BoostUp

Detroit startup - Boost Up

BoostUp’s mission is to “remove the anxiety associated with life’s biggest purchases”. Using automatic deposits and purchase roundups, BoostUp allows users to quickly save up for big purchases like cars or homes. Furthermore, this Detroit startup has several partnerships with major brands like Hyundai and Quicken Loans who dollar match for discounts up to a certain amount.

BoostUp has raised around $1.7 million during 3 investment rounds.

Ambassador

This startup helps businesses transform employees and customers into brand ambassadors. Located in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit (and the Ambassador Bridge), Ambassador allows businesses to incentivize those who refer their friends and associates from social networks. Ambassador has served several high profile customers like PayPal, Spotify and Progresso, among others.

Since inception, Ambassador has raised $5.2 million over four rounds of funding.

Is Detroit Right For Your Startup?

Yes… but maybe I’m biased – I grew up here, I live here and I run a business here. The true answer is, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to be in a super established cut-throat market where thousands upon thousands of startups are pitching a handful of investors, check out Silicon Valley or New York – Detroit doesn’t have that vibe. Detroit is a place where startups are working together towards the goal, all fighting to get Detroit on the map; and to succeed as innovators while doing it. Low rent, a buzzing startup scene… these are only a few of the many benefits of being a Detroit startup, but being a part of the camaraderie of a rapidly growing startup economy, that’s the quality you won’t find anywhere else.

When you get here and start setting up shop – make sure to contact me, I’d love to have a coffee and learn more about your company! And of course, if you’re launching an app startup, give us a call – we’ve helped dozens of app startups raise millions of dollars and launch their innovative app tech through our business consultancy and app development services. If you have an app idea, and especially if you’re a Detroit startup (but even if you aren’t) — we’d love to help you bring it to life. Contact us today and let’s discuss your project.

How To Advertise An App
For Maximum Exposure

Developing an awesome app is hard work, but when it’s finally launched into the market, that’s where the real work begins. Many app developers and app entrepreneurs know how to create an app, but they have no idea how to advertise an app. The truth is, the mobile app market is highly competitive and advertising apps properly can be extremely difficult – especially when you are competing against established players with huge marketing budgets.

It’s easy to envision the end result – millions of users downloading the app and telling their friends about it; but how to do you get there? How do you advertise an app? Even knowing where to start is a challenge, especially when your marketing budget is low or non-existent.

In this post, we want to explore exactly what it takes to advertise apps the right way; getting your idea in front of the consumers who will most benefit from it and persuading them to download it. To get the best advice possible, we turned to several experienced app entrepreneurs, app marketers and marketing experts and asked them – what is the key to marketing and advertising apps?

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How To Advertise An App – The Must Do’s

It’s always nice to try out cool marketing tactics like contests, giveaways and other out-of-the-box ideas – but none of these methods are effective if a few app marketing basics have not been established. More specifically, every app startup needs to: build an associated website, optimize for App Store rankings (ASO), and optimize for Search Engine rankings (SEO).

Andrew Glantz, founder of GiftAMeal, suggested the following – “There are several ‘must-dos’ when marketing apps. You need to ensure that your app is easily discoverable with valuable keywords, have preview app screens that accurately capture the value of your app to potential users, and provide a compelling app description.”

The way your app performs in the App Store is extremely important. Apps that are featured receive considerably more downloads than those that are not; and those that show up first for related keywords receive considerably more downloads than those that are ranked in lower positions. Not only does your app description need to be written with a persuasive and consumer-forward tone – it also needs to cover ASO basics to ensure that it is visible to potential users.

How To Advertise An App - The Must Do's

Stav Tishler, Head of Marketing Communications at Lightricks gave the following advice, “SEO – that’s how people find your apps online. If you’re buried all the way on page 13 of a Google search result, will anyone ever find you? Does anyone even click to the second page of the SERP? I don’t know if I ever have.”

SEO is competitive, and ranking highly for valuable keywords includes many factors, such as: on-page optimizations, links from high authority websites and the website’s relevancy to the keyword. Furthermore, SEO is a long-term strategy – but establishing the app’s website early on gives startups an advantage; allowing them to generate organic and free online traffic. Paid ads on the other hand, can allow a startup to receive traffic to their website immediately. Since advertisers must pay for each click however, the benefits of paid ads end once the advertising budget has run out. When it comes to the must-dos of advertising apps, ASO and SEO give startups the ability to level the playing field with more established competitors.

Figuring out how to advertise your app on search engines with the right keywords can be challenging. Adrien Caiazzo, Marketing Director of Narraly (parent company of Flixup.io) says, “We use solutions like www.thetool.io and www.appannie.com to find the best keywords for our app, and also compare those with our competitors’ keywords. Before we could afford other paid avenues, finding strategic keywords was the best way we could get people to find our app.”

Caiazzo also added the following advice for app advertising must-dos, “Make sure the app is functional, as early adopters are incredibly valuable. And use your networks. Friends, old coworkers and family are more likely to download and rate your app than new users. If your app is very innovative; post it to different websites such as www.launchingnext.com or www.producthunt.com. These offer great visibility, and many of the users are passionate about tech, so they give helpful (albeit direct) advice.”

Mobile App Advertising – Establishing Authority

Publishing high quality content has become a leading way of advertising apps and marketing online businesses. Consumers are aware that competition exists in every industry and often, it is the credibility factor that makes them choose one solution over another. Furthermore, each piece of new content a startup publishes becomes another marketing asset; giving the business an additional avenue to connect with consumers. Content however, is extremely competitive as well. The quality of information you are putting out there is much more important than the quantity.

Mobile App Advertising - Establishing Authority

If you want to know how to advertise an app the right way with content, look at Mint.com for inspiration. Before Mint.com was even launched, the founding team already had a target customer in mind – young professionals. To reach them, they focused on their finance blog, MintLife. By publishing strong content, they were able to build themselves to the largest financial blog online. When Mint.com was launched, they already had a direct link to young professionals – their blog already had the market’s attention.

Eric Chiang, Marketing Lead at GooseChase Adventures says, “The most effective way we’ve been able to market our app in the recent months has been to create content showcasing how users are engaging with our app; instead of focusing on content that simply just shows how the app works. In general, potential investors might be interested in hearing about the technology and innovation behind your product – but your target demographic, the people who you’re actually trying to sell to? They only care about how your app will improve their life.”

Brit Armour, Director of Marketing at Kibii says, “Maintaining a blog will help you establish brand awareness and visibility. Most importantly, it allows you to gain trust and credibility by connecting with your audience on a deeper level. You need to appeal to your audience’s emotions. To be considered a thought leader, you must provide extreme value and provide consumers with the expert information that they seek. Content marketing is something I invest a large amount of time into. You can promote your app and its features as much as you want, but if your audience doesn’t resonate with your brand, they won’t give you a second thought.”

How To Advertise An App Through Communities

Like marketing other types of businesses, mobile application advertising requires a strong engagement with your target market – and there’s no better way to engage than social media.

advertise app through social media - lyft facebook feed

Lyft for instance, which has always competed against the larger rideshare company Uber, uses social media to really engage with their drivers and build user loyalty. Lyft’s CMO, Kira Wampler says, “While rival Uber is an efficient delivery service, Lyft is seeking to differentiate itself by offering a combination of ‘humanity and technology.” Social media offers the perfect opportunity for them to bring in the humanity aspect of interaction with their users. As a result, their social media page is filled with awesome customer photos, comments from drivers and passengers, driving stories and other content that engages fans and followers.

Regarding social media, Tishler answered, “Specifically for our apps, which are all about being creative, we use community-oriented social tools: Facebook and Instagram Live, Facebook groups, subreddits, and any new tool available to create a community. This allows us to provide a place for users or potential users to ask questions, get inspired and engage in a community of like-minded individuals.”

Creating Media Relationships through PR

Creating Media Relationships through PR

The way your startup is introduced by the media will play heavily on how consumers perceive your brand and app. When advertising apps, it’s important that the media is not only talking about you, but that they are mentioning your business in a positive light. Media relations requires finding journalists and media sources that cover products and software in your industry, and reaching out to them with a newsworthy story. Here’s the thing – if a media source is worth it’s weight, they probably receive dozens of pitches from startups each and every day. For your pitch to be effective, you must be offering them a quality story – not just another ‘app feature’ opportunity. Nobody wants to talk about another new app – but a startup that just received a high level of app funding? Well, that’s a story worth writing about.

To take advantage of media relationships early on, you may want to consider hiring a PR agency. Tishler points out, “Find a PR company. It’s expensive, but they tend to work. And if they don’t, you’ll know early on and you can find a new one.”

It can also be extremely beneficial to focus on building relationships with social influencers. These are individuals that are within your industry that influence the market through social media – whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or another platform. A single mention from the right influencer can instantly lead to thousands of downloads of your application and can have positive lingering effects when advertising apps.

Establishing Great Feedback – Reviews

Even if you know exactly how to advertise an app and implement every trick and hack; if users come across your app in the app store and your reviews are bad, they won’t download it – especially if it’s a paid app. User trust is built with 20% of what you say about your business, and 80% of what other consumers say about your app.

Whatever strategy you use for advertising your app, make sure to start establishing your reviews early on. Invite people from your personal network to use your app and ask them to leave a review. Incentivize users to leave reviews, offering them free credits or other rewards. Remind them to rate your app with the occasional popup notification.

Establishing Great Feedback - Reviews

Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics says, “With a surplus of good reviews, the sky’s the limit. The app with the most five-star ratings is going to hit the top of the search page quicker than those that are lesser reviewed. Having a good rating is all about having a functional app, that does what it says it’s going to do and brings excitement to the user. Asking for a review in a witty way could be just what you need. Being persistent is good, but being clever is better.”

Advertising Apps By Thinking Outside The Box

As mentioned, marketing apps can be difficult due to the sheer amount of competition that you will likely face. Sometimes, startups need to think outside of the box to make sure their solution is visible to their audience. Tinder for example, went straight to the “party” schools to market their application. They pitched the app to sororities and signed up sorors on the spot. They leveraged the participation of these sorority women to persuade the campus’ men to sign up.

GiftAMeal also does on-site advertising. Glantz remarked, “We also physically advertise our app at our partner restaurants. We put out table-tents and window decals at participating restaurants to encourage customers to download and user our app.”

How important is it to think outside the box when marketing apps? Caiazzo of Narraly says, “I try to spend a third of my day on out-of-the-box strategy planning. I think the real questions should be: how do entrepreneurs brighten their creative process to find out-of-the-box ideas? For me, that includes meeting and talking to people, reading articles, brainstorming with colleagues or other companies, and studying other businesses that use creative marketing techniques.”

Advertise Your App Like A Marketing Master

Advertise Your App Like A Marketing Master

The key to knowing how to advertise an app like a master is to test your marketing techniques on a small scale before betting it all on one horse. Focus on the ‘must-dos’ first: creating a strong website with on-site optimization and ensuring that your app description is optimized for ranking highly in the app store. Then move to establish yourself on social media, build media relationships and generate positive customer reviews. If the competition is thick, use out-of-the-box methods to reach your consumers directly or to stand out against competing brands.

Marketing apps can be challenging, but fortunately, we know exactly what it takes to create a winning marketing strategy. Contact us today to setup a free consultation with one of our expert startup consultants!

Do you have an out-of-the-box method for advertising apps? Tell us about it in the comments below!

7 Unexpected Apps That Made Millions

There’s one thing that’s common among all successful apps, it’s that they have the ability to secure investment and create wealth for their founders and stakeholders. However, not many app developers and tech startups make it to the top, and unfortunately, not all of them are making millions from apps. There’s a major difference between apps that made a few thousand dollars before fizzling away and apps that made millions. Some apps only offer a momentary solution to a problem, but the apps that really take off are those that provide their consumer with a continuous solution that draws them back over and over again.

In the past, the apps that made millions were mostly those that served an extremely mass audience – serving millions of people with low per customer value; and producing extreme profits as a result. Tinder, for example, is a multi-billion dollar company that serves an extremely wide market (singles of any type), while there are also several niche-focused Tinder clones (like Bristler – the dating app for those in love with facial hair) that are successful in their own right; but will likely never meet the mass scale of Tinder.

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Tech startups like Tinder were made for mass scale adoption, and from it’s initial introduction, it wasn’t much of a surprise that it quickly went viral. However, some apps that made millions did so unexpectedly – maybe they were made for a specific or niche market but caught on with the masses, or maybe started off serving one type of consumer but was able to expand to other customer segments.

It’s hard to believe that Facebook wasn’t originally made to be the social media conglomerate that it is today. In the earliest stages, it was simply just a site that showed the faces of Harvard students and allowed other students to rate them. Was it luck? Not really. More so, it was the ability to recognize an opportunity and capitalize on it that made Facebook take off.

Not every idea will turn into an app worth a million dollars; every startup won’t raise investor funding; and very few will be the next Facebook – but what does it take to build software that makes the most money? To grasp what is necessary for success, it’s a good idea to look at the journeys of apps that made millions (and raised millions), and especially, those who originally didn’t seem as if they were multi-million dollar ideas. In this article, we’re going to examine 7 of our favorites, and give you the insights you need to launch the next million dollar startup!

1. Slack

App that made billions - Slack

Today, Slack is king when it comes to team communication solutions. Founded by Stewart Butterfield, Slack is a cloud-based set of collaboration tools and services that allows teams to streamline their communication and collaborate more effectively. Slack is now used by millions of teams around the world – but it didn’t really start that way.

Initially, Slack was developed as a side project to help the team at Tiny Speck manage their cross-team communications during the development of the game Glitch (now defunct). While their main project no longer exists, the tool they built for their internal team ended up being exactly what other internal teams needed too.

Originally founded in 2009, Slack has raised over $790 million in investor funding over 10 funding rounds. While many other tech startups exist in the collaboration and productivity sector, Slack is most notable due to it’s ease of use, flexibility, ability to integrate with other apps, and its effectiveness across teams both small and large. Slack will soon move from our apps that made millions list to our apps that made billions list – they are projecting revenue of $1 billion within the next year!

Insights: Slack’s minimal viable product was their internal software, which they found to be extremely effective for team collaboration. If you want to create an app that makes millions, you’ll need something that’s more than “cool” – you will need to create something that truly improves the user’s experience. Look at the problems that you face in everyday life – what solutions could exist that would solve or ease those issues?

2. IFTTT

simple apps that made a lot of money - ifttt

IFTTT is a website that puts the internet to work for you. The acronym stands for “If This, Then That”; and seeks to automate tasks by connecting all your internet-based services.

IFTTT launched into the automation sector at the right time. It’s first applications were built by the Company’s founding team in 2010. At this time, the Company’s founder described IFTTT as “digital duct tape if you will, allowing you to connect any two services together.” With the solution, you could take any two services and use them together to create processes that the original creators didn’t specifically intend.

By 2012, IFTTT users had already created over 1 million tasks. During this same year, the Company integrated with Belkin WeMo devices to officially enter the “Internet of Things” space which vastly expanded their capabilities.

Today, IFTTT supports over 360 different services including Facebook, Twitter, Philips Hue, Dropbox, Google, Nest, Fitbit, BMW and Slack. Each year, hundreds of new services are added to the platform. These integrations allow users to automate an infinite number of processes – such as lighting an app-controlled lamp when a Facebook notification is received. To date, the startup has received funding of approximately $62.5 million. By 2014, the Company was already valued at $210 million – with it’s valuation growing considerably each and every year. Although the app has not yet identified a business model, user activity has proven its value to investors – who are lined up to invest into the potential of the app! Even without revenue, this company is definitely one of the most clever software ideas that made people rich. When the community is big enough, even startups with no revenue can become one of the apps that made millions!

Insights: IFTTT was initially built to connect two services together, but today, users are able to connect multiple software and hardware services together to create almost unlimited numbers of tasks. Your startup might not end up being what you first thought it was going to be. The key thing is to find a problem, create a minimal solution, and then let your users tell you what they really want through their usage and behavior.

3. Segment.io

simple apps that made millions - segment.io

Segment.io was initially introduced to the market by three MIT roommates who dropped out of college to participate in Y Combinator’s summer 2011 program. In the beginning, the team was focused on building a competitive solution to Google Analytics or KISSmetrics. However, they found it difficult to get users to adopt their solution as opposed to their much more established competitors.

In their search for the right solution, they built up a library called Analytics.js that combined all the analytic services and APIs together. An open source version of this library was released on GitHub. Co-founder, Peter Reinhardt said, “The open source version started growing by itself, so after a couple of months, we decided to pivot and build what people seemed to actually want: a beautiful, simple analytics API.”

As of today, Segment.io has raised $108.7 million in funding over 6 financing rounds. Although Segment’s revenue is not made public, they have stated that “Today more than 15,000 companies rely on Segment to process 80 billion end-user actions a month.” Without a doubt, Segment is one of the successful million dollar mobile app ideas that are worth talking about! 

Insights: Sometimes, what you think customers want isn’t really what they want. It is important to keep your ear to your market to figure out exactly what they are looking for, and indenify the gaps that other competitors aren’t servicing. When your original idea isn’t working out, figure out why, and pivot!

4. Magic

apps that made people rich - Magic

In today’s world, on demand is all the rage. Whether it’s on-demand restaurant delivery or on-demand ride sharing services; consumers of today want the effortless ability to have the world at their fingertips. Magic was created to fill this void by providing a 24/7 SMS based on-demand personal assistant service; literally allowing users to do anything on demand.

Magic was founded by Aaron Kemmer, Benjamin Godlove, David Merriman, Michael Rubin, Mike Chen, and Nic Novac in 2015. Magic combines artificial intelligence and virtual assistants with real people to create an on-demand service that seems almost limitless. Here are a few query examples that the company shared on their website:

  • “I left my credit card at a bar. Can you pick it up for me and bring it to my hotel?”
  • “Rent me the cheapest economy car at DFW airport for Sept 11-12, starting 7pm.”
  • “My anniversary is tomorrow, and I want a photographer to take pictures.”

Today, Magic has established a working app business model; charging around $35 per hour for their on-demand services. Their user base has opened up to serve corporate clients also – acting as a personal assistant for busy executives. Magic secured an initial seed funding amount of $125,000 and has since raised over $12.6 million.

Insights: Many startups are able to grow their revenues considerably by taking one solution and opening it up to other markets. Identify what target market you will serve, and also consider secondary markets that could benefit from your solution.

5. SafetyCulture

ideas that made people rich - iauditor

SafetyCulture is an app startup that aims to solve problems related to workplace safety and quality management. While the issue of health and safety or quality management may not sound like an exciting multi-million idea; those who manage these processes are in high demand for effective solutions. SafetyCulture uses a unique collaborative safety model, where workers can create and share new ways of working safe. SafetyCulture’s application, iAuditor, has now been used to conduct over 3 million safety inspections globally. The company also released SafetyCloud, which helps users manage data collected in the field.

SafetyCulture is an Australia-based company that was founded in 2004. In 2013 however, it is assumed that they made a huge jump in innovation and fundability – as they began raising a high level of capital; now equal to over $87.6 million.

Insights: App success doesn’t come overnight. In many cases, the original idea won’t be super successful and success comes after many pivots are made. Serving a niche market doesn’t mean your app can’t make millions, but it does mean that you need to really become the industry expert and learn what it would take to serve them in the most effective way possible.

6. Curefit

most profitable apps - curefit

Curefit is described as an “end-to-end solution that will enable users to take full control of their health to improve the quality of life and reduce long-term healthcare costs. In India, healthcare is estimated to be a $280 billion market by 2020. In response to this, founder Mukesh Bansal created a total solution that wraps preventative healthcare up into one app. By managing their health proactively through a suite of service offerings, users can reduce the risks of long-term chronic illnesses.  

So far, Curefit has raised over $55 million and is in the process of potentially securing another $75 million in their current round. The business currently has a revenue run rate of $15 million and recently acquired a stake in the Bengaluru-based fitness startup, Cult.

Insights: If you’re going to enter a crowded space, your app needs to really stand out. There are enough dating apps, on demand apps, events apps, etc. – what really makes yours any different? Curefit was able to combine several software products into one to create an end-to-end solution, whereas competitors were only offering management of a single health-related process. Your USP should be clarified, and you should only enter the market after you have clearly defined you competitive advantage.  

7. SignalFx

apps that made people rich - signalfx

SignalFx is a monitoring platform for modern infrastructure that was founded in 2013. The company collects metrics across the cloud, provides powerful visualizations and offers advanced monitoring services. Their major advantage is that they are able to deliver a consolidated real-time visualization of infrastructure, services and applications.

SignalFX was developed by two founders with impressive backgrounds. The Company’s CEO, Karthik Rau’s background included positions at Delphix and VMware; while CTO, Phillip Lio, spent 4 years working at Facebook as a software architect. Liu told TechCrunch, “I worked on the infrastructure team at Facebook. I built a lot of configuration monitoring tools.”

A common theme amongst apps that made millions, is that they’ve also raised millions to progress their software. To date, the company has raised a total of $103.5 million and is continuing to invest aggressively into their research and development.

Insights: There’s nothing that ensures a successful startup journey than solid experience. The founder’s backgrounds gave them a major advantage in operating their business and raising capital. If you want to know what it takes to run an app startup, go work (or intern) for one! At minimum, partner with an app incubator, as this will give you access to mentors who know exactly what it takes – helping you avoid obstacles that can be costly in both time and money.

Do You Have A Million Dollar App Idea?

A million dollar app idea means very little without excellent execution. One common thread about successful apps is that they launched into the market, learned exactly what their consumers were demanding and pivoted their businesses wherever necessary.

Lean startup methodology is the key to building apps that make millions. The first step to building a successful app is to launch your minimal viable product and begin validating your assumptions – or identifying where pivots are necessary. If you’d like to learn more about how to make millions from apps and how to position your startup for success, contact us today for a free consultation!

What are your favorite apps that made millions? What million dollar mobile app ideas do you wish you came up with first? Tell us about it in the comments below!

8 of the Best Pitch Decks
That We’ve Ever Seen

Great businesses are built on making great deals; and creating the best pitch decks with a branded pitch deck design is an integral part of presenting your startup to the people and institutions that can make great deals happen.

Startups are fundamentally different than other types of businesses. Although they are relatively young in age and smaller than enterprise organizations, they hold the potential for explosive growth. Take a new pizza shop as an example – no matter how successful they are and how great their product is, it is not a startup because it is not designed for quick and rapid scale. As Paul Graham of Y-combinator emphasizes, a key to a startup is its ability to grow.

Fundable startups sit in between the idea stage and the explosive growth – they have proven that there is a high potential for growth, but have not yet realized that growth. Usually, the thing preventing these startups from scaling widely is a lack of resources; they need all the help they can get to convince an investor audience that their growth potential is a real and likely possibility. While a strong presenter is necessary, nothing helps support an investor pitch like an awesome startup deck.

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Combined with a impressive presentation, a pitch deck is essential for successful fundraising. A great idea (or budding startup) with a sloppy presentation or pitch that leaves key questions unanswered has little to no chance of persuading investors to part with their dollars. An average idea with a great pitch deck will have greater potential. The sweet spot of a pitch however, is when you have an awesome and proven idea, a confident pitch and a memorable startup pitch deck that sells.

When it comes to pitching, competition is thick. Startups use all the ammunition they have – number of users, monthly growth, revenue, feature concepts, prototypes, MVPs, usage feedback, and anything else that will help prove their case. The best pitch decks provide an organized presentation that allows the founders to perfect the right arguments, in the right order, with the right visual tools to create the maximum effect.

A pitch deck isnt something thats just tossed together in a rush. The best slide decks are a mix of science, persuasion and art – using each slide as another stroke of paint on the canvas. It can be tough to create a winning pitch deck without some inspiration, so here are 10 of the best pitch decks that weve seen over the years and the reasons we love them!

The 8 Best Pitch Decks for Inspiration

1. Castle

Castle is an innovative real estate solution for rental property owners. This startup lives by the slogan, Put Your Properties On Autopilot! and exists to help owners manage their properties without the usual headache of being a landlord. Castle serves a niche market so you may have never heard of them; but still, they have one of the best pitch decks and one that you can definitely learn from!

Heres why we love it:
The pitch deck has a modern and exciting design with visual aesthetics that draw in the audience. Starts off immediately by identifying the problem – Rental property owners want to make money without the work of being a landlord. This immediately gives investors an idea of why a solution needs to exist. Uses simple icons to explain each point, making it easy for the viewer to digest. The best pitch decks know how to give an incredible amount of information without cluttering the slide. Leads viewers into a strong and concise elevator pitch – Automate landlording through software and on demand labor. Provides an easy-to-understand growth plan that showcases historical growth as well as projected future growth.

How much did they raise?
As of date, it is reported that Castle has raised around $3.3 million in investor funding.

2. Adpushup

Adpushup is a unique startup that has streamlined the process of optimizing ad placements. The solution allows publishers to optimize their ads by testing different ad placements, sizes and types. While the design of this sample pitch deck is extremely minimal, the data they were able to display was critical to their funding success.

Heres why we love it:
Traction slide shows rapid growth using impressions as a metric. By focusing on this metric, they are able to show that while revenues may not yet be established, there is already a high demand within the market. Includes a case study that shows the effectiveness of the product. Case studies arent just gold for potential customers, they also help sell your pitch to potential investors! Milestones slide shows how the Company quickly grew from a weekend project to 10 million impressions in only a one-year timespan. The best pitch decks aren’t just design heavy, but clearly state where the business started, where they are currently, and where they are going in the future.

How much did they raise?
It is estimated that Adpushup has raised approximately $632,000 to date.

3. LinkedIn
pitch deck examples - LinkedIn

(Click image to view pitch deck)

LinkedIns Series B pitch deck is an oldie, but it is a must-read for anyone looking to build a strong pitch. Although this deck is quite long and thorough, it is a great example of how a seed funding round pitch deck may differ from a VC pitch deck for a Series B round of financing.

Heres why we love it:
Because they had to explain how the internet works and predict how users would use the internet in the future. Remember, this was 2004! There are many factors that played into this explanation from online search to online payment – and all of these trends needed to be explained to prove why LinkedIn was the right solution for the problem. It clearly detailed their first priority – establishing the network; and furthermore, explained exactly why this was important to their ability to scale rapidly. The best pitch decks identify how the funds will be used to progress the business and push it to the next level. Showed how their actual growth far outscaled projected growth, proving to investors that there is a wide potential for growth.
How much did they raise?
In total, LinkedIn has raised over $154.8 million in investor funding, and was valued at $352.8 million when they went public in 2011. This pitch specifically led to a $10 million from Greylock Partners.

4. Canvas

Canvas is a business solution that allows corporations and organizations to digitize their paper assets. Their goal is to rid the world of paperwork by transitioning business processes into mobile apps. When it comes to the best startup decks, Canvas shows us how to use imagery and simplicity to get the point across.

Heres why we love it:
They start the pitch with simple visuals that show how all of our processes, from listening to music to reading, have become digitized over the years. They provide statistics to show how their application has helped high profile businesses like Pepsi and Healthtronics; giving them instant credibility. They use a clever strategy to compare competitors by showing that they focus on the why while competitors focus on the what.
How much did they raise?
Overall, the GoCanvas startup has raised approximately $24.1 million in investor financing.

5. SickWeather

Sickweather is an app that analyzes data to predict and forecast population health. The app claims to accurately predict illness outbreaks 91% of the time and 2 weeks before the CDC on average. This sample pitch deck shows how important credibility is – especially when your clients are some of the most respected brands in the world.

Heres why we love it:
It includes a pitch video. While this wouldnt be included in a presentation deck, it works fantastic for pitch decks that are sent via e-mail or posted to online platforms for viewing by potential investors. Early on, they provide a list of previous clients. These clients are extremely well known brands, which immediately gives the startup a high level of credibility and authority. Graphs showcase impressive growth in monthly recurring revenue, giving the startup a great argument for rapidly rising projections and forecasts.
How much did they raise?
To date, Sickweather has raised approximately $2.6 million in investor funding.

6. Match Box (Tinder)

Match Box was the original name for the globally recognized dating app, Tinder. Although there were many dating apps in the market, Tinder was able to succeed by adding a gamification aspect – allowing individuals to swipe left or right to express interest or to pass on another user. Match Box’s startup deck shows how to balance creativity and simplicity to win investors over.

Heres why we love it:
Its extremely simple but it uses a real world scenario to explain the problem (fear of rejection) and the solution (Match Box). It gives an under the hood look on what the app will offer. It shows a clear monetization model – and although it has changed significantly since this pitch deck was created, it at least let investors know that the founders had considered how they would create revenue.
How much did they raise?
In September 2016, Tinder received an investment of $1.4 million. Since then, the company has been acquired on three separate occasions.

7. WeWork

WeWork addresses the startup and freelance market by offering Space As A Service. Individuals can rent co-working space instead of renting a whole office; which helps them save on rent, provides them with a community of like-minded individuals, and offers services to help them advance their businesses. This VC pitch deck was created for WeWorks Series D funding phase and is quite long in length; but it shows how as more data is collected by the business, more growth insights can be presented for a stronger case.

Heres why we love it:
They use several slides to describe the why. It would be impossible to explain why coworking space is important without first describing how the employee economy has shifted. The WeWork Effect slide shows exactly how the WeWork business model meets the new demands of the market. Since this is a Series D pitch deck, the Company had to take several slides to explain their current traction. By describing their first mover advantage and showcasing their growth, they were able to successfully present the grand potential of their concept.

How much did they raise?
According to CrunchBase, WeWork has raised approximately $8.1 billion over 12 funding rounds and has had 10 acquisitions.

8. Crew

Crew exists to connect developers and creatives to clients, without the headache of normal freelance sites. Once a job is posted, clients are recommended three makers (usually within one to 24 hours) who can complete their job for them. We love awesome pitch decks, and Crew shows us how to really showcase the features of a product, while maintaining focus on the startup’s growth.

Heres why we love it:
Their growth is staggering and they showcase it with clear graphs that present a 10x increase in total project revenue. The pitch deck subtly describes the apps USP by detailing how the higher priced projects on the app bring in better talent than the low priced projects on other platforms. Furthermore, they show exactly how their app works from a user side – displaying a much cleaner user experience. They explain the data collected from their pilot launch. Having a strong MVP with great traction is key to securing investor funds.
How much did they raise?
Crew has raised approximately $9.9 million in total investor funding and was acquired by Dribbble in 2017.

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Creating The Perfect Pitch Deck

We chose these pitch decks as our favorite and best pitch decks for many different reasons. While some of these businesses are smaller and some are much larger, there are some elements that each of these great startup pitch decks have in common – and if you want to raise seed funding, your pitch deck should share these elements too. Specifically, the best pitch decks:

Specifically, the best pitch decks:
Address the problem up front and show the current state of the market.

Provide a tested and validated solution

Explain how that solution is better than the competition.

Showcase some initial traction and forecast future projections.

Your pitch deck will either give you a huge advantage during your pitch, or will completely turn investors off. Use our best pitch decks examples as your motivation to create something amazing and memorable. As always, if you want to create the best pitch deck, our experienced startup consultants are here to help! Contact us to today and set up a free consultation.

Is there an awesome pitch deck that should have made our Best Pitch Decks list but didnt? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!