6 Ways to Improve Executive Summaries After Reviewing 32

Earlier today I read through 32 executive summaries of startups that are presenting at Venture Atlanta later this month. Most were good, a few were sub-par, and several were excellent. After reading the executive summaries, here are six things entrepreneurs should do to make them better:

  1. Minimize Jargon – Every industry has jargon and terminology that is cumbersome and alienating to outsiders. Figure out how to minimize the jargon and provide a clear message.
  2. Don’t Cram Too Much – Two pages is never enough to cover every important point. Regardless, don’t shrink the font and try to cram so much in that the most important points get lost in the verbiage.
  3. Be Visual – If there’s a visual element to your story — chart, diagram, etc. — incorporate it into the executive summary to break up the monotony of text. Customer logos are a great visual.
  4. Use Strong Words – Investors need to believe that the startup will be wildly successful. Words that are weak like “plans”, “hopes”, and “wants” should be left out.
  5. Reasonable Revenue Forecasts – Too many executive summaries showed sales of $20M+ only a few years after founding. While it’s technically possible, the reality is that revenue forecasts should be more reasonable and less inflated.
  6. Keep it Balanced – Spending one paragraph on the market and four paragraphs on the competition doesn’t make for a balanced executive summary. Find a rhythm and keep it throughout.

Executive summaries are a key part of the startup world and should be crafted with care. Follow these six ideas and make them even stronger.

What else? What are some more ways to make executive summaries better?

One thought on “6 Ways to Improve Executive Summaries After Reviewing 32

  1. Well said, David.

    I was given great advice many years ago: “Always be sure to satisfy the Bobs.” The Bobs were the consultants in Office Space, who asked everyone, “What would you say it is you do here?” Too often, entrepreneurs are so deep in the weeds they forget to clearly articulate what it is they do and the problem they are seeking to solve.

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