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Make sure your numbers tell the right story

You’re passionate about your startup, confident in the direction you’re heading and have polished your elevator pitch to a high shine. But before you step into that investors’  meeting – or go out for additional funding – make sure you have a compelling financial story to tell, too. A story that assures this risk-averse group that you’re a good financial bet.

It all comes down to the numbers, reveals ABC’s Shark Tank Star Kevin Leary at a recent event in Orlando. According to Leary, when a business meets with investors they “must know their numbers — which is where most of them fail during the pitch.” A firm grasp on financials is necessary if you want to attract investors and perhaps even if you want to stand out during funding rounds.

Not sure where to start? Our business finance experts have assembled some key components to help you tell the financial story for your startup – information that investors are looking to hear from you.

Target Market and Competitors

In order to fully tell the financial story, you need to set the stage. Market research should be performed to help you identify your target market (i.e. potential clients) and competitors (i.e. others offering a similar service who may attract the same target market as you).

Think this isn’t important or that your investors won’t know the details? Think again. Unlike you, an investor hears these pitches all the time. They can hone in on murky details and, just like a good teacher, tell when you haven’t done your homework. Undervaluing this part of your pitch would be a mistake, especially if you hope to land an angel investor. Angel investors can make decisions themselves, unlike venture capitalists, and the tipping factor of these decisions can be “going with their gut” or feelings.

It’s hard to relay a story when you don’t understand the environment of your business, and as a result your pitch may fall flat when it needs to strike a chord with investors. Incomplete market data can also have a detrimental effect on the perception of your other numbers. In particular, you may struggle to sell your financial projections in an impressive way if you do not offer market comparables.

Sales Cycle and Market Penetration

Potential investors expect to see a report on your sales cycle and market penetration during an investment meeting. This shores up the idea that your startup is a stable or good investment. And to look stable, you’ll want to show that you have a strategy behind your sales cycle – one that works.

“Sales validate your claim that people want what you are selling. Having a notable client that is paying for your product – even as a pilot or in beta – will help attract other customers. It informs investors that market demand exists,” writes

Incorporate projections but do not rely on them. Over-reliance on projected numbers isn’t as realistic as financial projections with some real numbers attached to them. In fact, some believe that a startup may need to be more mature before attaining round one or seed funding.

“The bar is now higher to get early-stage financing. You’ve got to be further along,” says Allan May, chairman and founder of angel investing group Life Science Angels. May is quoted along with many other investors and business experts in a Business Insider article that comments on a shift in early-stage funding trends.


Investors will appreciate seeing the effort behind the numbers. In other words, show your work. This data documentation will allow them to understand your pricing assumptions and variability, elements that a startup owner should take into account when preparing financials.

Understand Funding Deals

Do your homework on what sort of deals are normal in your market prior to the meeting. This will allow you to be conversant with investors as they discuss terms with you. A great resource to understanding seed fundraising is located here. You should understand funding rounds, types of investments, how much funding you need to raise, different terms, and the value of your startup.

Right the First Time

It is no fun to stand in front of your board or potential investors with little knowledge or discipline around your financials. If you don’t have a good handle on what your startup’s numbers are telling you, remember to reach out to a trusted partner like Growthwright. Learn more about Growthwright’s finance and CFO services here.


Michael Cerino is the CEO of Growthwright. Growthwright helps emerging technology companies with necessary business operations so they can focus on company growth without the distractions of critical financial, technical, human resource, sales and marketing tasks