What makes a good one-pager to send to an investor?
A one-pager (which I use interchangeably with “executive summary”) is a tool entrepreneurs use as a “teaser,” most commonly when they are fundraising or doing sales. In this post, I’m focused on what makes a good one-pager to use with investors. No matter the industry — foodtech, agtech or otherwise — having a great one-pager is an essential tool for any startup founder.
Before I dig in further, the most important thing to remember is that this executive summary should NOT be all-inclusive. You can’t possibly tell someone everything they want to know about your business in one page. Think of it as a hook. The goal of the one-pager is to get the meeting, not to answer every question an investor may have. You need to be interesting enough to catch an investor’s attention but not so thorough that they can make an investment decision based on a one-page document.
As an investor, I now see hundreds of one-pagers a year. For this post I thought it would be fun to pull out a one-pager I put together when I was fundraising for my last company in 2014 and critique it from an investor perspective. Aside from changing a few pictures of my team and taking my cell # off of it, this is exactly what I sent around about 6 years ago, and there is definitely some good, bad and ugly.
Section by Section One Pager Tear Down:
One — Liner (Under the Logo)
- An investor needs to understand what you do quickly! Your one-liner sets the direction for all the details that come after it. You need to provide this clarity. If they don’t understand what you do in 5 seconds, you have lost them. Even if you never use your one pager, getting this down is worth the effort.
- This is a solid, quick overview of what Boom Boom Prints did. It takes a lot of work to clearly state what you do in one sentence. Especially for a two-sided marketplace. It took multiple iterations to get here.
- For an early stage startup, team is often what an investor will key in on first. As an investor, I think it is the most important part of a pitch.
- I believed our team was incredibly strong so I used a lot of space on it. It was our most important “hook.” I thought investors would take a meeting just because of our team. This largely proved true.
- Personally, I like a one-pager that doesn’t call out roles (CEO, CTO, etc.). To me, it represented that we were all one unit, not just a role. This is probably minutia that doesn’t really matter a ton.
- We used photos, as I think it makes the company more personal. It is more difficult to say “no” to a person than a piece of paper.
- We did a solid job describing the product. I remember working on this section for hours to get it down to a few short sentences. If you read this, you should understand what we did.
- Our big miss here, and throughout the one-pager, is not clearly defining the pain point for both sides of the marketplace. I allude to it but I don’t hit investors in the face with it. Clearly defining the pain point is a crucial step for any startup and an executive summary.
- This is table stakes information, you need to have it.
- I did a good job of estimating the number of people in the market.
- I did a poor job of defining the actual market size though. I would recommend including both a TAM & SAM.
- This section is left out of numerous one-pagers that I see. Don’t forget to tell people how you make money!
- In an early iteration of this sheet we didn’t clearly define our business model even though we knew from conversations that many investors would be immediately turned off if we held inventory. We tried to address this by stating “printing & fulfillment 100% outsourced.” In hindsight we should have bluntly stated “We hold 0 inventory!”
- I would not include this section today. You don’t need it in a one-pager. It doesn’t add anything to the hook. It is just ancillary information that could raise additional questions in an investor’s mind.
- I would strictly stick to how much you are raising “The Ask.” DO NOT include terms of the round outside of the amount you are raising.
- Don’t name your round! Why call it a seed or A round? What does that accomplish? Just state how much you are raising and let an investor worry about what to call the round.
- I always chuckle when I see the amount I was raising and what I named the rounds: $40k — pre-seed!, $400k — Seed!, $3m — A. Such small rounds for the names I gave them. Think BIG Brett!!!
- I can take or leave this section. If you are in a hot market but are clearly differentiated from the other players in the space then I would include it. Investors may not want to miss out on a hot market!
Exit (Another BIG Mistake)
- I would NEVER include this section if I were to do it again. I don’t want to be thinking about exits at this point! We were so early.
- I want to portray to an investor that I am thinking about building a HUGE company, not thinking about how to exit.
- I forgot to include traction!
- Simple, quick graphs are great to use to represent traction so use them.
- Glad I included this! You’d be surprised by the number of these I get that don’t include details for following up.
- The design of this felt like Boom Boom Prints. A one-pager is often the first exposure to your brand so it better be good.
- Regardless of your industry, vertical, or space, a one-pager needs to be super easy to read with clear sections and, nothing too distracting. Please do not send an entire page of text in 7 point font.
Based on my own experience as an entrepreneur and investor, here’s my formula for creating a great one-pager for investors (not necessarily in this order, do what’s right for your company):
- Pain Point you’re solving
- Revenue/Business Model — how you make money
- Current Traction — use a graph
- Clear one sentence description
- The Ask — How much you are raising
- Contact Details
- Visually Appealing Design
Use your one pager as a tool to help facilitate introductions. Remember, it is the hook to get a meeting, it should not answer every question just get an investor interested. Once you have it complete, send it to current investors as something they can share with specific introductions you are asking for. Use it as an excuse to follow up with someone you meet at a networking event: “Mind if I send you our 1-pager?” There is no point in putting one together if you don’t leverage it.
For more information on when to use a one-pager and what else should accompany it, check out a short video I put together.
Did I miss anything in this post that you think should be included in a one-pager? Do you have the same reaction as I did to my old one-pager? Let me know!