The executive summary is the most critical part of your investor pitch. Some venture capitalists request that an executive summary be no more than one page, but most executive summaries are 2-3 pages and consist of anywhere from 6-10 paragraphs. The best executive summaries are short, concise, and very compelling. That’s for a reason – many venture capitalists will immediately skip to the executive summary when they receive a VC startup pitch. If the executive summary is compelling enough, they will read the entire pitch. However, if you fail to grab the attention of a VC investor in just a single page, you should not expect a full read of your overall presentation.
For that reason, the executive summary is perhaps the one part of the investor pitch that startup founders obsess over the most. If it’s written well enough, they surmise, then it will likely increase their probability of receiving $1 million or more in funding. As a general rule of thumb, the executive summary should “sell” your startup and not merely describe your startup. It should give a “flavor” or “essence” of your business plan.
To do that effectively, it’s best to start an executive summary with a tremendous idea that will be compelling. This might be a big, significant problem that your startup is trying to solve. For example, if you’re a biotech startup and you’ve figured out a way to cure cancer, that is going to be your big, compelling idea. Another way of thinking about this is by focusing on “pain points” that people face every day, and then describing very briefly how you are going to make this pain disappear.
After you’ve described your big, compelling idea, it’s time to express your unique value proposition. At their core, all ideas can be summarized from the perspective of “bigger, better or faster.” It’s your job to translate some element of “bigger, better or faster” to your value proposition. For example, your new cloud-based software offering might make it possible to do a job much easier and faster than it has ever been done before. Think in terms of faster speeds, lower costs, greater reach, improved efficiency or higher productivity.
You’ve now set up the next part of your executive summary – the solution to the problem. You can think of this as the “big reveal.” In a simple sentence or two, you should describe what your solution does, how it works, and why it has a great chance of working if it’s funded. Try to avoid too much jargon here, as your solution needs to be easy enough to understand for even the thickest-skulled VC investor.
At some point, too, you will want to describe (briefly) your founding management team. Don’t just regurgitate what’s on their resume. Instead, focus on aspects of their experience or skills that are intensely relevant for the success of the startup. If you’ve worked on in-depth learning projects at Google, for example, and you are pitching an AI startup, then that’s relevant.
Finally, you’ll want to talk about the size of the overall market opportunity, especially its current size and the opportunity for future growth. The way to catch the attention of a VC investor during the executive summary is by focusing on billion-dollar market opportunities. Try to end the executive summary on a high note with something very memorable that communicates why your startup should receive VC funding. If you’ve done this right, then you’ll have 6-10 killer paragraphs that immediately convey why your startup is so attractive to VC investors.