This Presentation Can Be Worth Millions!

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This article is based on our professional experience and interviews we’ve conducted with senior partners in leading venture capital funds. We summarized our conclusions in the form of 3 dos and don’ts for start-up entrepreneurs. As you’ll note, these guidelines are not about your start-up ideas per-say. Rather, they will address the manner in which you present these ideas to investors.

Put yourself first.

Every entrepreneur we’ve worked with was conflicted regarding the appropriate moment to discuss a personal experience. Let us solve this one for you. Present yourself at the beginning. As in, the very beginning. Right at slide number 1. Many speakers tend to forget that investors invest in people first and ideas second. Good ideas are a dime a dozen, but experienced people who can execute those ideas are hard to find.

Also, the best thing you can do is relate your personal history and experience to the idea you are presenting. If your idea has to do with data cleaning and you’ve worked in this field before, talk about your past experience. Describe the process which led you to identify the challenges, and prompted the insights and ideas you are presenting to them now.

Most importantly, it will show that you are passionate about what you do. Most entrepreneurs have a good story to share however, they get caught-up on the business side of things assuming it is expected of them. It is not! Passion is contagious, and it will inspire your investors to support your venture.

So, don’t start with your idea – start with the problem your idea is designed to solve.

You’ve been developing your idea for months, working out every last kink, so it’s only natural that you’d be eager to show it off. But before you do, take a moment and think back to the day it all started. Back to the time when it was just you, sitting in a room, wondering, “How come no one thought of this before?” Or, “Why does everyone do it this way, when there is a much better way to do this?”. This is your idea’s story, and that’s how you bring your potential investors on board. Take the application Waze, for example. What would be the best way to introduce the product? Sure, you could just say it’s a location-based navigation platform that helps users finds the least-busy roads. You will make a much more compelling introduction however, talking about the fact that most GPS apps present the shortest route, but do not factor in traffic. Similarly, if you are presenting the app Shazam – instead of describing how it functions, talk about the problem it tries to solve. Start with the question: Have you ever heard a song on the radio or at a bar and wished you could find out what it was? Enter Shazam…

Get to know your potential investors.

Even if your product’s potential market is worth billions; even if there are global companies lining up to buy just what you’re selling; even if you’re sitting on a technology that can disrupt an entire industry – don’t forget that investors are people too. People who sit through countless presentations just like yours every year. In fact, they’ve probably heard better ideas than yours. At the end of the day, your investor has a limited amount of money to disperse, and that’s where the human factor comes into play – the same human factor that made Bill Gates invest millions in Kahn Academy after seeing his daughter watch their online classes.

At the most basic level, if your investor has children, you’ll have an easier time selling him a product that involves kids. If your investor likes music or sports or anything that’s in the same realm as your idea, there’s a good chance you’ll stand out. This is all to say that if you know your investors well – really well – you’ll know how to appeal to them. If they’ve shown a fondness for technology-based start-ups in the past, appeal to them through technology. If they have a record of investing in social ventures, try a social angle.

How do you get to know your investors? Google them, look them up on social media, contact people who know then personally – every bit of information can come in handy.

Start-Up Entrepreneurs

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There’s nothing I love more than working with start-up entrepreneurs. When Sarah and I left our former lives behind and founded Leave a Mark, we wanted to help people make a lasting impression. Start-up entrepreneurs have incredible potential to leave their mark, because in most cases their ideas – once realized – can have a significant impact on people’s lives everywhere.

This is why I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the NGT3 venture capital, whose medical technology incubator supports some of the world’s top up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the field: Nora and Amir, who developed a patch that can revolutionize brain surgery; Mor, who developed a medical device that will make head lice a thing of the past; Ariel, who developed a respiration aid for field and hospital work; and many, many more. 

* The writer is not a naïve tree-hugger. He knows those entrepreneurs are out to make billions, an that — to the writer’s humble opinion — is a good thing.

If you’re anything like us and you’re always looking for original, creative, and convincing ways to tell your story, then you have to meet Nancy Duarte.

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Nancy founded Duarte, Inc. 25 years ago to help people communicate their ideas. She was one of the first to realize that big ideas are worth next to nothing if they do not inspire people to band together in helping them come true. Today, as Silicon Valley’s fifth largest female employer, Duarte supervises dozens of talented workers who designed over a quarter of a million presentations to date.

In her new book Illuminate, Duarte details the steps leaders must follow in order to bring about change, and the most effective ways for communicating with subordinates.

To learn more, we recommend this fantastic podcast >>>

To give you a taste, here is an overview of the steps Duarte lists in her book:

Dream – Formulate your vision and enlist your colleagues;

Leap – The point of no return, where you must take a leap of faith. Go big or go home;

Fight & Climb – The constant, daily struggle you face on your way to realizing your vision;

Arrive – Congratulations, you’ve arrived. What next? This is the time to reflect, analyze, and learn from your journey. Were you able to effect change? Did your journey take you where you wanted to go?

Remember, each step along the way has its own unique message and communication method.

Start listening at the 12:00 mark – we highly recommend it!

Introducing the Three Tells™

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Our new method for effective storytelling, launched last March, was developed on the basis of our experience with over one hundred clients from dozens of countries and cultures.

We named it the Three Tells™, to express the idea that great storytelling is a combination of three complementary elements:

Visual Telling, Data Telling, and Speaker Telling.

Speaker Telling is the most crucial element in this model. It is also, the most challenging one for the majority of speakers we work with. We’re not sure why. commitment to old-world business practices? A rearing that teaches we should not  boast about our accomplishments? Our anxiety of exposing ourselves too much, if we do not play it safe and hide behind numbers, data, and charts?

Whether you are out to recruit an investor, gain your boss’s approval, or enlist your colleagues for your cause, remember that they’re ultimately making a commitment to you. The person. Not to the numbers on the page. If you persuade them to follow your lead, they’ll back your idea and your product.

Data Telling is all about the information you want to get across. We all try to stuff as much information as possible into a presentation. The trick is to turn this information into easily identifiable messages and arguments. How can you tell if your presentation is persuasive or merely good enough? Simply follow out 3X3 model, which guides you to limit your presentation to no more than 3 messages, and support each message with 3 arguments.

Visual Telling covers the use of visual aids. We’re talking about more than just slides and whiteboards. Is your start-up company swimming in patents? Half a dozen 6” binders slapped on the conference room’s desk will paint a clear picture. Do you want to defy your audience to throw the rules out window? Take off your jacket, or enter the room wearing a pair of boxing gloves. Are you a technologist with a keen eye for innovation? Get up on stage dressed like Spock from Star Trek. (We’ve tried it. It worked like a charm).

Storytelling Is at the Core of Humanity

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Before we developed reading and writing, we shared information in the form of oral narration. Stories told by people gathered round a fire. This was our ancestors way of spreading knowledge, which allowed us to grow and develop as a society. Because stories were so important for the evolution of human civilization, the best storytellers became tribe leaders.

Regrettably, the pages of history are brimming with male storytellers. Today however, we want to focus on female storytellers. Why? Because as you saw in the video, women are biologically predisposed to becoming great storytellers. Nonetheless, of the 60 historic speeches in the collection Speeches That Changed the World, can you guess who many were given by women?

Only 11%.

Perhaps not by chance. After all, 11% is also the percentage of women in key political positions worldwide.

Now, let us tell you a secret: things used to be much simpler back in the day. Today, in a rapidly technologically changing world, we are hard pressed to deliver complex messages, filled with a variety of information. Couple that with the endless distractions lurking in every corner, and you’ll see why communication in the post-modern age requires superb communication savvy and skill.


From Plato to Steve Jobs

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In our ever-changing business world, does anything ever stay the same?

People often talk about how we live in a dynamic age,

when anything can change from one day to the next,

and we must be flexible and adapt to our changing world.

But we can’t help but ask ourselves,

in such dynamic and uncertain times,

are there still some things that never change?

That question brought us back to the great philosopher Plato,

who is still as relevant as ever.

According to Plato,

our world is inhabited by “Ideas”,

perceived only by the mind,

in contrast to “Phenomena”,

which are objects of the senses.

Ideas are flawless, eternal, and unchanging,

while Phenomena are imperfect and always evolving.

For example, the Idea of a triangle is perfect, eternal, and precise.

But if we sketch a triangle, we replicate an instance of the idea,

which will never be quite as perfect as the Idea of a triangle.

What does all this have to do with our brand or business?

Here goes:

If our business is required to continuously adapt to the needs of a world in motion,

this begs the question:

Is there anything about our business – an Idea, if you like – that remains constant?

You could say that the constant in every business

is something intangible, impossible to define, like its soul or DNA.

Think about Apple or Coca Cola.

Each of these leading brands has its own spirit. It’s hard to define,

but it’s there in all their products, activities, and advertisements.

True, those companies are always changing,

always bringing in new products, ads, and even staff,

but something about them – their spirit – remains constant.

Now, ask yourselves:

What is your business’s unique spirit?

What is your brand’s DNA, the one thing that stays the same,

even when everything else changes?

We believe that every successful brand

has a strong spirit.

If you understand and define your business’s or brand’s unique spirit,

you’ll be sure to leave a mark.

If you had to guess who was the most mentioned person in the world, the one who has the most places named after them, who would it be?

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What if we told you the answer was a person you’ve never heard of?

Let us introduce you to Alexander von Humboldt, geographer, botanist, geologist, and true lover of nature.

Humboldt, born in Germany in 1769, climbed 3.7 miles to reach the top of the Andean Mountains so he can survey the terrain, flora, and fauna and share his findings with the world.

Why are we bringing up Humboldt?

Because he, as we believe anyone should, used 3 simple messages to communicate his ideas to the world:

? In nature, everything is connected. (Sounds trivial, but in 18th century Europe, this was quite a revelation!)

? Humans can harm nature and each other (he was adamantly opposed to slavery).

️? Nature can be discovered not only through science, but also through artistic and sensory experiences.

Humboldt spread his messages to every home, every village, every university. His topographic sketches inspired Goethe’s poetry, Lincoln’s politics, Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Bolívar’s efforts to liberate South America from the Spanish occupation.

Humboldt realized that words can only go so far, and it’s important to give people a creative visual reference.

If that’s not leaving a mark, we don’t know what is!

Dear start-up entrepreneurs

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Have you ever given a presentation to a private investor or a VC fund and thought, “If only I could be a fly on the wall and hear what they really thought about my project”?

After working with dozens of start-up companies, we boiled it all down to 4 tips that every entrepreneur should follow:

  1. Show them that you know the market inside out.

How big is the market, and which opportunities do you see in it? How is the market divided between your competitors, and what are your customers’ needs? How is your solution different than what’s already out there?

  1. Introduce the road map to your next round of funding.

VC funds think in rounds of funding – meaning, they see things in chunks of 18 months. Relate to them by presenting work plans that encompass a similar amount of time. How many users are you hoping to gain during this period, and by which means? What is your burn rate, and will the current round of funding be enough to tide you over to the next? This would be a good time to lay out all of your data.

  1. First impressions are not important – they’re crucial.

From your presentation’s design to the way you respond to questions, it’s critical that you conduct yourselves professionally from start to finish. Make sure your slides are organized, clean, and aesthetically pleasing. When in doubt, don’t

skimp – hire a graphic designer to help you out. be alert and conscious of what’s happening in the room (this is no time to be checking your e-mails). Don’t be defensive, don’t make excuses, and don’t argue with your listeners just because you feel like they don’t ‘get’ your idea. Show them that you appreciate their time above all else.

  1. Talk about yourselves. A lot.

Your project may be a stroke of genius, but at the end of the day, investors invest in people – they want talented teams that can execute ideas successfully. Don’t be shy. Tell them who you are and why you do what you do. Make your story unique and memorable and set it apart from the competition.

On the gap between crazy inventions, breakthrough technologies, and inventors’ inability to communicate their ideas in layman’s terms.

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In a recent LinkedIn post, Dr. Pippa Malmgren – author, speaker, and economic analyst and advisor (to George W. Bush, among others) – wrote about the widening gap between rapid technological progress and the scientific community’s inability to communicate their achievements to the public.

Scientists dedicate their lives to accomplish things that were never thought possible, but for some reason, many of them are reluctant to communicate their achievements to the non-scientific community in layman’s terms.

This creates a vacuum which is often filled by Hollywood studios and hot-shot entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, who exploit this gap to spread dystopian scenarios that do little more than serve their own financial interests.

Pippa reminds us that field researchers who did make an effort to communicate with the broad public were rewarded for their initiative – researchers such as Albert Einstein, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and David Attenborough.

So what’s the right path for science and technology companies? They ought to learn how to tell their story as best they can, and in a way that’s easy to understand.

NASA, for example, has had an in-house storytelling team for decades – and they’re a government agency, not a private or public company.

So if your company’s activities involve some heavy science that’s hard to understand for most people, don’t forget to tell the world your story. A story than anyone can relate to.

View the article here:

On YouTube Stars, Social Networks, and… Existentialism

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Existentialism is a philosophical approach that was developed and popularized a century ago by thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Søren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, and others.

Existentialists believe that human beings are haunted by the terrifying possibility that they might reach the end of their short lives on Earth without having left any real legacy for future generations.

This basic human fear is what pushes us to conquer Mount Everest, land on the moon, win Olympic medals, paint the Mona Lisa, or develop the Theory of Relativity.

For many decades, our ability to leave a lasting impression on the world was extremely limited.

Most of the power was concentrated in the hands of book publishers and Hollywood producers, and even if you wrote a brilliant screenplay, painted an inspiring painting, or authored a thrilling detective novel, your place in the spotlight was far from guaranteed.

What does this have to do with YouTube and social networks?

Circa 2005, YouTube and Facebook took the world by storm. Suddenly, for the first time in history, the glass ceiling was shattered. Having connections in publishing or in TV was no longer a prerequisite for worldwide fame.

With the push of a button, you could reach thousands or even millions of viewers.

Ask any existentialist and they’ll tell you that the enormous success of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and the like relies in great part on the human desire to create, express ourselves, say our piece, and leave our unique fingerprint on the world.

It is often said that we live in a digital age, an age of technology, and that’s true.

But in a sense, all of those  billions of people sharing an endless stream of posts, photos, videos, and tweets are merely following in the footsteps of our ancestors, motivated by the same common desire:

to leave our mark on the world.