How to Talk to Money – Tailor Your Elevator Speech to Venture Capitalists

Whether you deliver your pitch in a formal or informal setting, you must focus and be sincere.

If you are an entrepreneur seeking funding for your start up, remember that sometimes a conversation in an elevator can be as effective as a formal presentation. Whether you deliver your pitch in a formal or informal setting, you must focus and be sincere. If you appear nervous or unsure, you may seem devious or incompetent. Look your potential investors directly in the eyes and let them know that you stand 100 percent behind the ideas, products, or services that you are asking them to invest in. If you are pitching a product or service that hasn’t been built yet, present a vivid image of what it will be like for someone using it. Be prepared to understand and address questions a potential investor will most likely have about your venture. To help you prepare for these questions, my friend, business communication expert, Craig Harrison shares these strategies:

How to Talk to Money
Tailor Your Elevator Speech to Investors and Venture Capitalists
by Craig Harrison

With your new venture idea in tow you arrive in a glistening lobby and spy a bank of elevators. The reality: only one of the twelve lifts will elevate you to the rare air where angel investors reside… in the penthouse. Your elevator speech – your sixteen-second sound bite – must push all the right buttons or your ride will end far from the top of the building. Simply put, do you know how to talk to money?

To get your venture funded, your elevator speech to investors, including venture capitalists (VCs), requires more than the standard elevator speech:

  • Short and easily comprehended
  • Compelling and memorable
  • Showcasing your uniqueness
  • Leading to further inquiry

It’s not enough! Investors, and especially VCs, listen with a different set of values, need different questions answered and play for far higher stakes. Indeed their requirements for doing business are very different.

Your elevator speech to VCs should focus on the following:

  • Showcasing your maturity
  • Demonstrating your brilliance
  • Presenting a proven track record (to show you’re bankable)
  • Documenting your technical skills
  • Letting VCs (and sometimes investors) know there’s a role for them

So whether you’ve a built a better mousetrap, found a cure for cancer, or simply designed a product that is faster, cheaper or easier to manufacture, keep these tips in mind for your sixteen-second sound bite:

  • Don’t get too technical
  • Keep your pitch short and sweet
  • Tease (don’t tell)
  • Make it memorable!

Be aware of these additional questions VCs ask, explicitly or implicitly, whenever you pitch. Regarding your venture, investors and VCs wonder:

  • Does it change the world?
  • Does it scale?
  • Does it represent a paradigm shift?
  • Is it protectable?
  • Is the founder CEO material?
  • Can VCs buy in cheaply?
  • Is the management team experienced?
  • Can you handle the money?
  • Is it worth a Billion? (market capitalization)
  • Can it go public and, if so, how soon?

While you needn’t, nor shouldn’t, answer all these questions in your elevator speech, know that they form the background for your dialog with investors. Knowing this, you can push the right buttons to obtain the funding you need, whether from angel investors or your friendly neighborhood banker.


“We’ve conceived a new treatment for a very debilitating disease… Alzheimer’s. Trials have gone well and approval is on the way. We’re UC San Diego alums with degrees in molecular biology and past experience with Genentech.”

“Hi, I’m Trent Markeson, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. We’re ASOUNDING. We’ve wed telephony and technology to provide VOIP for high ROI. Our prototype has turned heads and ears. Even if you got SKYP’d last time there’s still time to join us before we go public.”

Craig Harrison
Craig Harrison

“Our team’s created a new programming language blending the best of Java, Mocha and Perl. It’s incredibly cost-effective: easy to learn, teach and use. I’m Steven Peng, programmer and founder of Austin’s LingoLabs. Tell me about the type of companies your firm partners with.”

Learn to talk to money. Otherwise, money walks!

This article originally appeared in American Venture Magazine.

Craig Harrison founded Expressions of Excellence!™ to provide sales and service solutions through speaking. Visit his website for speaking, training, consulting and coaching resources and solutions for you and your firm. Inquiries: or (510) 547-0664.

Thank you Craig!

“Life is a series of sales situations, and the answer is always ‘no’ if you do not ask.” – Patricia Fripp

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