The startup industry should stop using the word “pitch.” It suggests that entrepreneurs should go into an investor meeting with a deck and stand in front of the room and start presenting.
Doing a Demo Day or a startup pitch competition is NOT the same as a pitch meeting with an investor. Yet, too many entrepreneurs think that this is what they are supposed to do when they walk into an office on Sand Hill Road.
An investor meeting is much more akin to a power struggle.
Only 50% of an investor meeting is about storytelling and conveying information about your business. You can find all kinds of information on the web about what makes a good pitch. The other 50% is about controlling the conversation – how you answer questions, how you address topics, what the power dynamics are in the meeting, etc. This is the part about fundraising that no one talks about.
When I was pitching LaunchBit, I followed all the common advice about creating an investor deck (in fact, you should have multiple decks). I would go into investor meetings, go through my deck, and answer whatever questions an investor may have had throughout the conversation. And I felt pretty pleased with myself.
Then one day, I pitched two seed partners at a VC firm. I thought the meeting had gone well, but afterwards, one of the partners pulled me aside and said that although he was championing my deal, he was very disappointed in how the meeting went. He said that it went horribly. He said that the conversation went all over the place, and I had no control over it.
The conversation basically went like this:
Me: [Intro to LaunchBit.] The market size is HUGE and…
VC: What about your team? Do you have experience in email?
Me: [Talk about my team’s experience]…
VC: But what about how you acquire customers?
Me: We acquire customers by doing outbound sales, and we…
VC: But, the market just feels really small.
A good fundraising meeting will feel more like driving a car. You should not zig zag from Place A → Place D → Place C → Place A → Place B in an abrupt way. You should start with topic A, finish it, and then move on to topic B, complete that, and then move on to topic C.
Although you do not need a deck to raise seed money, this is why I like to use a deck in my conversations with seed investors. It is a lot easier for me to remember all the points that I want to cover in a story that makes sense. If investors have questions that are not related to the particular slide you are covering, it’s easy to say, “That’s a great question. I’m actually going to address that a couple of slides from now,” and then go back to completing your thought on whatever slide you’re on.
When you drive the conversation on your terms, it not only paints a more coherent story, but it also implies what your leadership ability is like. It may not be a fair assessment of how you’ll lead a company, but with limited data points, this is what seed investors are paying attention to.
Make sure you are driving this car.