Paperwork · Executive summary

Best Executive Summary vs. Investment Summary

Alison Lewis CEO/Creative Director

March 29th, 2013

I've been asked to turn in an executive summary and looking online I see a million examples. 

As  product/fashion designer many of the examples I see don't seem to make sense. Are there examples that really stand out in your mind? Has anyone seen an awesome executive summary for a design based business or product design? 

We've got our one page Investment Summary 80% done. Once finished, could this be a good substitute for an Executive Summary? 

FYI: The information about Executive Summaries looks like this: 
ne: http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/business_incubator_esum_sample_byvpa.html

And I see help like this:  http://businessplanfairy.com/custom-business-plans/investor-grade-business-plan-package

Eric Galen Partner at Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP | Venture Catalyst at Membrain Ventures

March 29th, 2013

Hi Alison: I've raised money for several companies (both as an advisor and as the entrepreneur), and I represent many startup companies, so I've been lucky enough to see quite a few executive summaries and pitch decks over the past decade. Some are great, some stink, and most are in between. The first question is what the purpose of the executive summary is for you, and who is the audience? In my experience, I typically used the exec sum to get a pitch meeting, as an initial read for the prospective investor. The exec sum won't itself secure you investment, but if it's bad, it can prevent a pitch meeting from happening. With respect to the audience, ask yourself what they are looking for, what big-ticket issues or items will they want to see or have addressed right off the bat. These should be in the exec sum. Explain the opportunity, the business model, the raise, use of funds, the team, any relevant technology or secret sauce, traction to date (if applicable), etc. No one expects the exec sum to offer every piece of information - it's the movie trailer, and you want the investor to commit to seeing the whole movie (the pitch). With respect to an "investment summary" vs an "executive summary," I think this is more a function of title over substance. Whatever you call it, it needs to have certain elements in it to entice a potential investor, and those elements can change depending on the type of business, stage, investor type, etc. There is no "one size fits all" exec sum, but there are some common areas to address (as noted above). In my experience, my most successful pitches used a 1-page exec sum that enticed the investor to take the meeting, followed up by a short and effective pitch with a 10-slide PPT deck and a term sheet with the "ask." I usually had a financial model with projections ready if the investor asked, but few actually wanted to nerd-out for 30 minutes to review financials during the meeting (any many investors have analysts to perform this task anyway). I have also learned that more often than not, less is more, and hitting the key points quickly and effectively matters. People have very short attention spans, and investors often have to listen to a lot of pitches, so it's important to really hone the pitch to be short and sweet, with a clear ask and good answers to likely questions. I'm not overly impressed with the examples on the sites you provided links to, and I have not had good experience with clients who use online executive summary services. Creating a great executive summary should come after creating the pitch deck and financial model, which in turn should come after serious thought about all of the things that make up these materials. The executive summary should be a "summary" of those deeper materials. I don't think you can delegate a great executive summary or pitch deck, but you can work directly with people that know how to create them and who will actually collaborate with you to help define your pitch. If you would like a sample executive summary that I've used to raise money, you can email me privately at efgalen@gmail.com. I hope this helps - good luck! Best regards, Eric

Lydia Loizides Founder and CEO @GGGrit

March 30th, 2013

In my previous life, I ran corporate planning so all I did was write big long plans and short summaries.  Paul is right on the money.  Here are some other resources.  Also, HBR used to have resources too - check there. 

http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/09/how-to-write-an-executive-summary.html
http://businessplanfairy.com/custom-business-plans/investor-grade-business-plan-package
http://www.dukestartupchallenge.org/resources/sample-executive-summaries

Paul Travis Multifaceted Online Executor: Product Marketing to Program Mgmt. to Business Development

March 29th, 2013

Alison, great question.

Eric, great input!

While it is true there is no "one size fits all" format, I appreciate anyone who can tell an entire story of a business on one page.  So I found, years ago, a format referred to as the "baseball card" because of how it encapsulates everything on one rectangle.  Capital requirements, target customer, their pain and oompeting solutions, management, product/service description and pricing model.  I don't have it handy but if it would serve you, I'd be happy to share.  What goes around, comes around :)

Paul Travis Multifaceted Online Executor: Product Marketing to Program Mgmt. to Business Development

April 2nd, 2013

Ok I seem to be playing hide-n-seek with my external drives, but found this one and share broadly.  

BTW we weren't successful in the raise, more because my partner gave up than the document didn't deliver.

PW = opportunity
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4w1UXA4qAKSOVptaXN5b1dOY3c/edit?usp=sharing

Brina Bujkovsky User experience designer with 3 startups in the bag

March 30th, 2013

I think of the exec summary as the written version of my slide deck.  I boil each of the main areas I need to cover for my space into 2-3 short paragraphs.  Market, competition, team, business model, etc.  

Alison Lewis CEO/Creative Director

March 30th, 2013

Yes, great support here.  Very good. I've got a good start, but having a hard time boiling it down to one page. We have our areas covered. The response from most people is that my writing seems too marketing and fluffy (which of course is my usual job). I am sure with some eyes on it we can find a way to seem a bit more slim on words. 

Paul: The "baseball" card sounds really interesting. I'd love to see it for a pre-funded start-up. 

Stephen Bradley

April 2nd, 2013

It depends upon the stage of your company.  If you are raising a Series C round then you probably need a full formal business plan - and in that case, you definitely need an executive summary.  If you are raising a Seed or Series A round, then in my world nobody is even looking at or for business plans. 

For early stage investors, I found a "one-page" introduction is most effective.  If there is interest after that, then you can usually get a meeting where you would deliver a very tight 12-15 page (max) investor presentation.  The "one-pager" was the only thing I would send out... I would not send the deck without being there in person to deliver it.  Worked well for me, and it seems to be a pretty accepted model here in New York.

See example here -- I just raised a $600,000 seed round using this linked (https://dl.dropbox.com/u/10606418/AuthorBee%202-Pager%20v1.8.pdf) "one-pager" that proved very effective.  I used the front for information and the back for graphics/visuals/examples/case studies.  Maybe you can modify for your own purposes if you think appropriate. 

Happy to help.

Rob G

March 31st, 2013

Sharing some examples here will be effective - if you can get a group of random entrepreneurs to understand your whole business (more or less) in a 1-2 page exec summary and to get us to ask the questions you want VCs to raise then your off to a good start. Maybe Eric can start?

Eric Galen Partner at Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP | Venture Catalyst at Membrain Ventures

April 2nd, 2013

Hi Rob - per your comment, I like the idea of beta-testing executive summaries before peers before pitching to potential investors.  I will put together a version of an exec sum I've used in the past to post here.

In terms of questions investors ask, in my experience I have been asked the following regularly:

- Who is the target market/user for your site/product?  
- What is your typical user's pain, and how does your site/product address it?
- What's your marketing plan?  
- What does it cost for you to acquire a customer/user?
- What is the size of the market, and what share of the market can you achieve with the product?
- Who is on your team?  Are they all full-time?  What have they done before in this space?
- How much money are you raising, and what will it be used for?  How much runway will it give you?
- Who are your competitors, and how does your site differ?
- How do you think you can exit (i.e., "How will I make big money here?")  
- Who is on your Board of Directors (or equivalent)?
- Do you have any tech that is unique and/or patentable?  
- What's your 'secret sauce'?  

I'm sure I can think of other investor questions, but these are front-of-mind this morning.  

- Eric


Amy Wang

March 30th, 2013