Elements of an Executive Summary for Startups

An executive summary is often the first document potential investors see about your company. Think of it as a 1-3 page advertisement for your company to investors. Its purpose is to cause the investor to want to learn more about the opportunity. It should contain no trade secrets or confidential information.

Here’s what I look for in an executive summary.

  1. intro: A one-sentence description of the business. Describe what the business does to make money. This should pop. It’s like a magazine cover that makes me desperately need to pick up the magazine to learn more. It should inform and tantalize at the same time.

  2. the problem: Your customers have a problem to which you are the solution. What is the problem that you solve for your customers? What are they missing or wanting that you provide? Hopefully this is a big problem that a lot of people have, not just a few.

  3. the solution: Describe your business plainly and clearly. Do not leave me in suspense. Just tell me what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.

  4. the others: Who are your competition? What makes you better than your competition? Why will people stop buying from your competition and start buying from you? Why do you win?

  5. the message: How are you going to address your audience? How do you promote, advertize, market, and sell your product or service? How do customers find you?

  6. the people: Who are you and what makes you qualified to do this? You are going to be asking someone to write you a check with the expectation that you will treat their money with love and respect and that you will generate a healthy return on investment. Why should they trust you to do these things?

  7. the story thus far: What have you accomplished? What milestones have you hit? What is the state of things in the company?

  8. the ask: How much money do you need and what are you going to spend it on? What does the company’s performance look like over time as you spend that money? A pro forma spreadsheet is useful here.

That’s it. Good luck!

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