Martin Zwilling, CEO of Startup Professionals, is one of my favorite bloggers on wide-ranging topics of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. One of his recent articles “13 Red Flags to Avoid in Your Investor Funding Pitch” contains solid advice for your SBIR/STTR commercialization plan, as well as your investor pitch.

In addition to the overuse of buzzwords, such as “paradigm shift” and “disruptive technology” Martin flags more serious issues including:

  1. Too much emphasis on the technology/product…and too little detail on the skills and experience of the people that will be executing the commercialization plan. If those people are not currently part of your company, at least describe the plan for recruiting the skills you’ll need to get to market.
  2. Exaggerating the size of your target market. Working on the assumption that bigger is always better, plans proudly present $10+ billion worldwide market opportunities. Reviewers however will be quick to question the credibility of an early-stage company with limited resources exploiting such an opportunity.
  3. Bad-mouthing competitive companies and products. True there may be deficiencies in their solutions that your product will overcome but those benefits are best expressed in positive terms. After all, despite their shortcomings customers are still buying their products so they must be doing something right.
  4. Projecting annual revenues that exceed $100 million in Year 5. Marty points out that even Google achieved only $85 million in its fifth year. Gaining market traction takes time and does not often result in that revenue “hockey stick.”

Missing from the list was our personal favorite bit of strategic business magic: “All that the Company must do is simply capture 1% of this billion-dollar market to become a profitable $10 million enterprise.”


Michael Kurek, PhD, is Sr. Principal Consultant with BBCetc.