Ultimate Way to Talk About Your Competitive Landscape In Your Investor Pitch

“Oh we don’t have any competitors.” Um — yes you do — and it’s great!”

“Oh we don’t have any competitors.”

When I hear that from a startup I know it’s going to be a painful pitch session.

On more than one occasion I’ve had to awkwardly show a startup a competitor that they’d never heard of, sending them to do some homework before working on their pitch. (Hey, better me than an investor!)

First, let’s get something straight — competition is a great thing! With no Jerry we’d have no Tom, with no Roadrunner we’d have no Coyote and then there’s the Microsoft/Apple, Samsung/Apple, Google/Apple rivalries that fuel the tech game and keep things fresh and interesting.

So how should you address your competition when pitching to investors?

  1. Know your Landscape Inside and Out — Look under every tree and rock to find your direct and indirect competitors. Direct meaning they are doing something very similar to you and targeting the same audience, indirect meaning they touch on your target audience but solve their problem in a different way. Where do you find your competitors? Google is the obvious first stop (and set alerts for keywords of your startup so you find out if any new competitors emerge), Crunchbase and SimilarWeb can give information on competitors and here’s a great Quora post that gives other insights and tips. My favorite and most exciting find of the past few months is Wonder, an amazing site with analysts that for a low fee can do your competitive landscaping for you.
  2. No Trash Talking — Don’t ever say anything bad about your competitors — you don’t know who might be sitting in the room that’s an Investor/Board Member/Mentor of one of them. It also reflects badly on you that you have to belittle your competition to to make yourself look good. Try something like — “What Competitor A is doing is ABC, we do ABC plus we have a magic dose of XYZ…”
  3. Build on Your Competitors’ Success — If a competitor of yours just was acquired or received major funding, use this to show how hot the market is, hint that you might be next because you have a secret sauce that they don’t and make them feel that they could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime. No Investor likes to feel that they missed out on the next big thing.
  4. Show — Don’t Tell — Martin Zwilling, an Angel Investor stated in a recent article that “Every investor hates those large competitive analysis tables filled with check marks and red dots.” So do I — it makes my eyes bleed. You want to have a visual that explains it at first glance. Here are 2 good options:
  • The “Magic Quadrant” — a graph attributed to Gartner, shows how you measure up to competition based on 2 main metrics. Here’s Airbnb’s original competition slide:

They use Affordability and Online Transaction as the metrics.

  • The “Petal Diagram”— steve blank, Serial Entrepreneur, Lecturer and Author of Startup Owner’s Manual, suggests at a different approach, especially helpful if you have more than 2 metrics to measure your differentiation by:                        

As you see to the left, the ever popular slack is at the center, touching on business communication/chat, collaboration, file sharing, unified communication and task management. It competes with them all but it actually does all the things the petals do in one tool!

Put your startup in the center, think of the main competitor types that you have — you don’t have to have 5 petals — even 3 is enough. Don’t overcrowd — only about 3 of the top companies in each petal. —

5. Keep it Cool — The most important thing — keep your cool, breathe, count to 10 and then answer a difficult question. Remember — they are watching to see how you deal with challenging questions, maybe even more than the answer!

Clients Say

  • I worked with Donna last year. She is, simply put, one of the best at corporate storytelling out there. I recommend her regularly to those looking to raise capital, especially when they have a more challenging story to tell. If you want to take your corporate storytelling to the next level, don't hesitate. Work with her. You won't regret it.

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    Leo TrottierLeo TrottierFounder at CleverPet
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    Eva GagnonEva GagnonNudge
  • Donna is absolutely fantastic! We have been working with Donna within week programs in Silicon Valley for Executive MBA of Moscow school of management SKOLKOVO. She is great in transforming 180 degrees your skills and approach to pitching. The students leave the workshop with pure brilliant feeling what and how they should do. Donna is unique, energetic, engaging and super professional. She knows exactly what you need to succeed. And I strongly recommend her workshops for big and small businesses, corporate people, start-uppers and serial entrepreneurs.

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  • Donna is the pitching Jedi, Yoda of messaging and story telling! She helped turn our deck into an incredible story with a touch of “wow”. She has the rare combination of messaging expertise combined with fund raising experience. She is easy to work with and get things done. We highly recommend her.

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    Joe CastonJoe CastonRainmaker - Revenue and Growth Acceleration. Fractional CRO / VP of Sales, and CMO. Founder at PlayMakersX
  • Donna is an absolute pleasure to work with.
    Her knowledge of pitch decks and storytelling combines for an utmost distillation in information for investors.
    The outline of what she presents is second to none and just from a simple phone call with Donna and some follow up we were able to refine our deck to a point that many investors and other entrepreneurs immediately offered to pass our deck along to their contacts.As someone who raised capital before and has constructed a few pitch decks, I can attest to the fact that she brings a different perspective, edge, & insight to the table that the entrepreneur generally doesn't see.

    I HIGHLY recommend Donna's methodology for pitch/sales decks and believe that whether first-time or experienced entrepreneurs, her services will prove to be invaluable!

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  • My startup was struggling to capture investors. I decided to contact Donna. After a few hours work on my deck the startup presentation became clearer, the selling arguments were evident, the problem/solution was well enhanced. Result: we have now a VC investing in Adshir.com
    Thanks Donna, great job!
    Olivier

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  • For Donna, finding the story in a pitch is like a logic puzzle. The approach is brilliant. She listens to you tell your story, then guides you through the logical connections. Finally she helps you knit them into a natural story. You retain the authenticity, yet your story delivers your message with a wallop. She shows you the concrete metaphors and guides you around the slippery slopes. At the end of the journey, you've found a story that's your own yet tells the tale you want to tell. She's a remarkable professional. That she's a delightful human being just makes it all magical. I can't recommend her more highly as a corporate storyteller.

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  • I had the pleasure of working with Donna a couple of months ago, and I was blown away by her art, dedication, and her ability to communicate. She took the words I had on paper and created a story in my voice. She knew exactly what I was trying to say. She is a great listener and the stories she creates from talking with you really resonate with the audience. She is the first person I will call when I need to build my story. Thank you, Donna, my success would have not been possible without you

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  • Its been a great pleasure working with Donna. Her insight, experience, and advice were instrumental in shaping Flyzen's deck and pitch. Donna shared her perspective on our processes which was eye-opening.
    I highly recommend her to anyone who is looking to improve and shape his/her storytelling abilities, anyone who wants to work on his/her messages, either one-on-one, for a conference or for an investor presentation.

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  • Donna is an expert, guru, professional — all of the above — when it comes to learning the methodology and science behind pitching your business. We've had many high-profile experts host a pitching workshop in our Seed Fund Program (where learning how to perfect your pitch is 99% of the program), and she's been the best by far. Five stars and two thumbs up for you, Donna!  All the best, Keenan

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  • Donna is a Wizard, a magician that can turn any idea into a story, into something that resonates, inspires with a touch of "wow" in the few right places that will catch attention. She brings processes into the way any company needs to build and articulate a message. All done in a fun, creative environment. But there is more... While building the messages, Donna adds so much value in the words she is using, in the questions she is asking that not only she can help build a presentation for any audience, but the outcome and discussion brings so much more, so many new ideas and angles to think about. Very glad I worked with Donna and cannot recommend her enough.

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  • Donna was a big help in defining our sales pitch. She is very professional and she is able to write everything in simple words and she did it in the time she promises. Thank you Donna!

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  • Donna helped me hone my story when I went on TV for Planet of the Apps. She truly transformed the way I thought about my business and explained it to others. I can't recommend her enough

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  • Donna helps crystalize the important messages and get them out succinctly for exec presentations. Exactly what many of us need! And she is so fast and efficient!

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  • Magic Donna. The only one we can trust to perfectly express our vision and ideas in words that anyone can understand.
    Thanks for the great work!

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  • We are a young startup in the IoT and Big Data arena. We worked with Donna as part of building our strategy, storytelling etc. Donna has a very unique ability to sharpen the message, crystalize the exact value proposition and build the right pitch for the company. Donna is super efficient, smart and well experienced.
    Don't miss this opportunity !!!

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  • Even though Donna doesn't have a background in our field, she "got" our messages very fast. She knew how to refine them into clear, powerful texts that improved our presentation immeasurably! This was all done in a very pleasant and efficient way. I would work with her again in a heartbeat.

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    Ran HirschRan HirschCo-Founder of A1C Foods
  • Donna is a magician! In just two hours she was able to convert our deck from a presentation full of facts to an engaging story! We even used it at a pitch competition which we won! She also helped us with our website and a few other projects, I recommend her to all CEOs who want to save themselves tons of time, money and disappointments, and want to learn how to pitch their startup better. Thank you Donna!

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  • I had the pleasure working with Donna for the past several years. She helped my company to create and polish our technological branding and messaging. Our products target big clients in the enterprise cloud solutions space and rely on complex and sophisticated technologies. Donna was able to simplify our technological message and bring it from concept and into writing. Donna was very professional throughout the entire process and I highly recommend working with her.

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  • Donna had helped to shape the investor deck for one of the startups I'm working with. She added great value by transforming the deck from a collection of facts to a coherent storyline. Following a single focused work session with Donna, the deck was presented to the investors of the company. The deck fully achieved its goals and helped to secure the needed budget.

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