How to make a teaser trailer for your startup pitch

Around May 2020, nearly everything moved online, and investment pitches were among the first to do so.

The entire milieu around startup funding shifted overnight. For many companies doing their business online, the move to online wasn’t a shock. However, a majority of VC firms only used an offline approach.

It’s impossible for founders to “read the room” when pitching online, which puts them at a severe disadvantage. Research by UCL School of Management professor Chia-Jung Tsay found that people could reliably predict which entrepreneurs would get funded based solely on founders’ physical cues like body language, facial expressions and stage presence.

In essence, this new pitching model presents a new problem for founders: It’s critical to keep investors’ attention, but it’s also more challenging than ever before. This is where the “teaser trailer” can work in a startup’s favor.

If investors can’t understand the teaser without commentary, it needs more work.

At Flint Capital, we listen to around 1,500 online pitches per year. After hearing 15,000 pitches in 10 years, I have some perspective on how to effectively create and leverage teasers that founders may find valuable when they are pitching online.

Why is a teaser so important?

It primes your contact for the big presentation.

Every good pitch starts before the pitch. It’s always preferable to have a trusted contact, such as another investor or portfolio company founder, who can recommend you to the investors before you meet them.

In my experience, about 85% of closed deals result from a pitch from a recommended founder. This means that a first introduction should involve the founder giving their contact this teaser to whet the investors’ appetites.

You can think of this as an extension of your “elevator pitch.” Since we’re not getting the same in-person meeting opportunities, this is how founders can hook investors’ attention.

It gives you a proactive part in the pitching process

In most cases, investors will ask you for an overview of your idea before the first online pitch call happens. Putting together a teaser trailer ahead of time gives you the chance to shine in your first impression to VCs.

Add things that pique investors’ interest and make them wonder how you can make this idea work. Leave them thinking things like, “This is an unusual number. I wonder how they came to this conclusion?” Be careful not to over-dramatize, though, because this can be off-putting.

It gives you the sales advantage of steadily building interest

Remember the adage of sales: “You have 30 seconds to buy three minutes.”