7 common mistakes first-time founders make when pitching investors

Marshall Hargrave
4 min readSep 7

You only get one chance to make a first impression. For founders pitching their startup to venture investors, that first pitch meeting is a make or break. With so much competition for funding, rookie mistakes can sink your prospects.

Pitching investors is both an art and a science. While perfecting your storyline, data, and slides is crucial, avoiding critical errors is equally important. Here are 7 common mistakes first-time founders make during investor pitches — and how to avoid them:

Mistake 1: Not demonstrating clear problem/solution fit

Before investors will open their wallets, you need to illustrate a compelling problem worth solving. They want to see evidence of pain points that customers urgently need to be addressed.

Too often, novice founders forget to clearly articulate the specific problems their product solves. They’ll jump right into explaining product features before explaining why those features matter.

Combat this by dedicating your pitch introduction to painting the problem. Use data and real-world examples to highlight the need:

  • “Over 40 million small businesses still don’t accept credit cards, losing $100 billion in sales per year.”
  • “3 out of 4 users report abandoning apps due to poor onboarding experiences.”

Vividly demonstrate the pain, then position your startup as the solution. Investors want to see that “aha moment” during the pitch when they recognize the opportunity you’re tackling.

Mistake 2: Weak traction and growth metrics

Investors prioritize growth over everything. If your pitch doesn’t highlight strong early traction and a repeatable model for rapid expansion, you’ll get rejected.

Novices often downplay weak traction in their pitches or dismiss it as temporary. Don’t try to hide subpar metrics — investors can sniff out puffery.

Come armed with hard traction that shows accelerating month-over-month or quarter-over-quarter growth. For example:

  • “We increased monthly active users 24% from Q1 to Q2.”
Marshall Hargrave

Serial entrepreneur. Finance, startups, investing. Catalyst-focused, event-driven. Hip-hop vigilante. On the quest for the best hot chicken.