Telling your company’s story – what you are doing, how you are doing it, why it is important, and the value it will bring – not only to investors but to citizens of our planet – is essential for cleantech startup founders to “get right.” Here are some of our top recommendations.
By Angela Bourne, Altitude Accelerator Entrepreneur-in-Residence
Two weeks ago, we launched Altitude Accelerator’s four-part “Cleantech Superheroes” blog series in celebration of Earth Day 2022, exploring this year’s theme, “Invest in Our Planet.” ™
Ontario is a powerhouse for clean technology growth. Our goal for this blog series is to showcase the incredible work our startup founders are doing in this space, and to provide actionable recommendations for entrepreneurs looking to launch and scale a cleantech startup.
Our first blog was a call to action, and the second article focused on finding sources of funding. With this third blog, we focus on your story: how well do you communicate your company’s story, from your mission and vision to the problem you are solving, and the unique way your team is solving it?
In this blog post, we will cover three key areas:
- Mission and Vision: what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why it’s important big picture
- Market Opportunity: why people need your product or service, and why it will make money
- Pitch Deck Must-Haves: how to tell your story in 10 slides
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2022 Climate Change Mitigation report, big changes needed to happen before we cause irreversible harm and careen toward an “unlivable” planet. The next several years are going to set us on a make it or break it course.
But recent data shows important signs of hope: green technologies overall are becoming much more affordable, and technology innovation and investment is increasing rapidly. The stakes have never been higher.
This is where Altitude shines. Since 2008, Altitude Accelerator has helped 84 cleantech startups raise over $60M in funding to develop and launch products to help solve the world’s energy problems, spanning a variety of sectors – from solar power to air and water purification to electric vehicles and alternative proteins.
If you have a problem to solve, we are here for you. And we have decades of industry expertise and invaluable partnerships for you to leverage as you scale.
There is perhaps no more important mission than solving a problem that will help ensure the future of our planet.
When you are telling your story – whether it is to investors, or to the media, or your team as you grow, it’s essential to have a clear focus on why you are doing what you do. This is your mission and vision.
Simply put, vision statements are looking towards the future, whereas mission statements are “in the moment.” The mission statement lays out what the company aims to achieve – the problem you are solving – and how your company will achieve it. The vision is what the company aspires to be – for the world – once it has achieved its mission.
For startup founders, this is a perfect opportunity to gather your team together to brainstorm and write mission and vision statements that are meaningful, reflective of the important work you’re doing, and lay the important groundwork for future communications efforts – from your pitch deck to website, media releases, conference talks, and more.
Your mission and vision will be your lighthouse for years to come. Here are some great examples for inspiration.
So, you have a great idea for a cleantech business. You’re super passionate about it – you have a clear mission of what problem you are solving – and bold, meaningful vision.
How do you know if your idea will make money? And how do you tell this story to investors?
First, start with market research:
- Does your idea address a real need?
- Why will buyers want your product / service?
- Gather data on total addressable market (TAM)
- Competition, including revenue sources and pricing
The importance of understanding your competition is paramount. Even if your technology is unique, proprietary, and patented – you still have competitors. Don’t hide from them. Know them inside and out and be able to confidently share this information with investors. Trust us: they will ask, in painstaking detail, so be prepared.
Consider Michael Porter’s classic Five Forces analysis as you are articulating your competitors. Published first in 1979, it has stood the test of time and is a must-read for all founders in any space.
Pitch Deck Must-Haves
Putting it all together is your pitch deck. Having a clear, to-the-point, meaningful story for investors is the gold standard. You may need an appendix with additional slides, especially if your startup has a lot of engineering and technology behind it, and especially if you have patents and an IP portfolio.
Top 10 Slides for Cleantech Startups:
- 1. Title slide – company name, your name, title, contact info.
- 2. Problem you are solving: this is your mission / make sure it’s a real problem and NOT a technology in search of a problem. Be honest with yourself and know the difference.
- 3. Value proposition: value of the pain you are alleviating by solving this problem / addressing a clear market need.
- 4. Tech wizardry: show proprietary engineering magic behind your innovation.
- 5. Business model: show you’ve done the analysis (TAM, pricing) that your idea will make money.
- 6. Go-to-market plan: who is your ideal customer and how you will get them to buy your product / service.
- 7. Competition: show your investors you’ve uncovered every rock. Too much is better than too little.
- 8. Team: why your team is the best team to uniquely solve this problem / accomplish your mission.
- 9. Financials and key metrics: Realistic financial projections backed by data, especially customer traction.
- 10. Your “ask”: status (e.g., seed round); use of funds.
Altitude Accelerator has an investor template we share with our clients which summarizes the best feedback we’ve received from our investor network compiled into one valuable resource. If you are interested in reviewing this document, register with Altitude Accelerator to set up a meeting with a member of our team and visit our website to learn more about our programs for entrepreneurs.
And we will see you next week on May 13, where we will discuss how to secure great cleantech partnerships for your GTM and launch.
About Altitude Accelerator
Altitude Accelerator is a not-for-profit innovation hub and business incubator committed to commercializing impactful technology in Southern Ontario. Altitude’s team of more than 100 expert industry, academic, and government partners and advisors helps startups in cleantech, advanced manufacturing, internet of things (IoT), hardware, software, and life sciences grow faster, stronger, commercialize their products, and get to market. Headquartered in Brampton, Ontario’s Innovation District, Altitude Accelerator was created through a partnership with the University of Toronto Mississauga, the Mississauga Board of Trade, and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, & Trade and proud to partner with Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Ontario Cleantech Industry Association, Canadian Cleantech Alliance, and Cleantech North.