Anatomy of an Executive Summary for Startups

Ideally, an entrepreneur would show an angel investor a demo of a product prototype online or on an iPhone, get it, and write a check. Unfortunately, angel investors still look for an executive summary or slide deck as the standard document that starts the investor + entrepreneur dance. The executive summary is best thought of as a business plan boiled down to one or two pages. Business plans should be avoided in favor of business model canvases, so it’s best to only write the executive summary.

Here’s an example format for an executive summary:

  • Team – the top three of four members of your team with one sentence each
  • Description – what does the business do
  • Product – what is the solution or service
  • Market – how big and how fast is the opportunity growing
  • Customer Benefits – why do companies/people use the product
  • Competition – who else is in the market
  • Company Stage – where are you currently
  • Investment Opportunity – how much are you looking to raise and what are you selling

This seems like a good amount of content, and it is, but each section should be super short and the whole thing should fit on one page. Most people are fine with a two page executive summary, but I prefer one page as the goal is to get the reader exited enough to want a meeting, and the more content you have, the less likely it will get read.

What else? What are your thoughts on executive summaries and what would you recommend?

One thought on “Anatomy of an Executive Summary for Startups

  1. A picture is worth a thousand words. We got funded for SugarCRM without a written business plan document. Rather a slide deck describing the market opportunity and our plan with a working Alpha version of the product did the trick.

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