Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

10 Reasons I Hated Your Pitch

  1. Boring. You’re reading the bullet points to me, half the time with your back turned to me. It’s like watching a speech with the teleprompter showing. Look at me, put a picture onto the screen to add emphasis, and talk to me.
  2. Bull. You’re quoting crazy numbers out of context. You’re assuming I won’t connect dots, or that you’re the only one in the room with background. You’re thinking that just asserting some huge opportunity makes it true.
  3. If we can get half a percent of this market, we’re a $50 million company.” That line went out in the 1970s. Count your numbers from bottom up, not from the top down.
  4. Too rehearsed. Talk to investors like you’re talking about your own business, like you could talk all day and all night if you have to, with the only problem being how to summarize for them. Don’t let it sound like a salesperson’s script. Don’t memorize, talk.
  5. Half truths. In a room with 10 or 20 investors listening, every half truth increases the odds that you’ve stepped on a topic one of them knows very well. And a single half truth, discovered by somebody in the group who knows the whole truth, is taken as the tip of an iceberg. If you’re wrong on that one thing, aren’t you wrong on everything.
  6. Where’s the beef? Don’t tell me about your team or your technology or your huge market until you’ve told me a story about how somebody needs what you’re going to build. One of my fellow bloggers on this site, Martin Zwilling, explained this problem very well recently in Investors fund solutions rather than technology, on
  7. All pitch, no plan. I hate it when the pitch is all there is, rather than a summary of a plan. I want to see that you’ve connected the dots in the background, so that you know the unit economics, the cash flow traps, the lead times, the selling cycles, and the head count, in detail. Not that I don’t expect you to change it or tweak it, when I ask a detailed question or somebody makes a suggestion that might be interesting. But a pitch is supposed to summarize a plan, not substitute for planning.
  8. All that passion and persistence stuff. Please don’t sell me on how committed you are. Businesses work because of the value they offer, the solutions they offer, the disruption of existing markets; I assume you’re all passionate and committed. Don’t tell me that like it is supposed to make a difference.
  9. Dumb profits. Don’t tell me you’re going to make 50 percent profits on sales. Nobody ever really does that. It means only that you’d don’t understand the business.
  10. Big secrets. If you can’t talk about it, don’t. Stop talking, apologize, and leave.



All opinions expressed are those of the author,  and do not necessarily represent those of Gust.

Written by Tim Berry

user Tim Berry

Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software and, the co-founder of Borland International, and the official business planning coach at He has been called the "Obi-wan Kenobe of business planning" and "The Father of Business Planning." He is a serial author of books and software on business planning.

prev next

You might also be interested in

What Belongs in a Startup’s Pitch Deck?

So you’ve developed a game-changing product, formed a business with a killer team, quit your job, and are rolling the product out to market. Your business is the next unicorn, and all is good in the world. Fantastic. Now only one thing is inhibiting your company’s growth: you have no money.

For many founders of high-growth startups, bootstrapping has limits.

Read more >

From Accelerators to Venture Capital: What is best for your startup?

With startup growth up 61% since 2014 and more investment programs emerging, it can be overwhelming for founders to know just where to jump in. As the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, MassChallenge has helped 835 startup companies around the world, who have raised over $1.1 billion in funding and created over 6,500 jobs. We have seen startups at

Read more >

Ask A Founder: Startup Lessons Learned from Work Truck Solutions’ Kathryn Schifferle

Kathryn Schifferle, Founder and CEO of Work Truck Solutions, turned being a woman in work trucks into an oversubscribed $2.1 million round.

We sat down with Kathryn as she shared what her fundraising journey was like, the startup lessons she learned, and her advice to fellow founders, especially women. Here is what she had to say:

HK: Tell

Read more >

Valuation Part I: Peeling the Onion, or How Top Investors Value the Startups They Invest In

Update 2017: To help you understand how your startup will look to investors according to this methodology, we’ve created a fundraising feedback tool that will give you investor-level insight into your startup’s performance. In just about 15 minutes, it will tell you how much money your startup is likely to raise, where you can find that capital, and what to

Read more >

Trying to Raise Money? Thinking About Gust for Startup Fundraising?

How to Make Your Gust Account Stand Out to Investors

Before you read any further, I want you to know that I’ve personally used Gust to raise money for my first tech startup. I know a lot of other entrepreneurs who use or have used Gust to seek funds, but their profiles don’t always get attention from investors. Below are

Read more >


2 thoughts on “10 Reasons I Hated Your Pitch”

  1. Jon Lawrence says:

    Hey Tim, nice brutal points. We’d love some critical feedback on our presentation – if you’re up for it.

  2. Sabregold1999 says:

    Tim: Very nice summary but truly, how many disruptive technologies have you seen lately sans software? What other than INTC’s processor gets better every few years? My home? My car? My fridge? My engine? My furnace? Look at the nonsense going public today. It is all garbage. Does anyone truly do anything disruptive in manufacturing?