Last year, my team and I raised our first round of seed financing ever. First-time founders ask me every week how we did it and what lessons we learned. Here are my thoughts organized in one location.\r\nPitch > Deck\r\n\r\n\r\nGoogling \u201cRaising VC for the first time\u201d leads you to believe a deck (powerpoint\/keynote) is the most important feature a young founder should have. While the deck is valuable, I\u2019ve found it\u2019s nowhere near as important as people make it out to be. Your deck should simply be the marketing leave behind once you finish your pitch. It\u2019s a PDF the potential investor uses to sell you to the rest of the partners. You may need it to get the meeting, but your goal should be to have a conversation\u200a\u2014\u200aand you don\u2019t need a deck for that. Every pitch I\u2019ve seen or heard about goes better when the deck takes a backseat. Additionally, a one-sentence pitch is infinitely more valuable when it comes to a landing a meeting. Think of it like this: if products were marketed to you by sending a 10-page presentation, how well would that work? The first step is landing the meeting with a one-sentence pitch. The deck is for later, and only after they decide to give you the time of day.\r\nProduct > Pitch\r\n\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s great if you can hand someone an app or send them a demo link. Again, think about marketing. \u201cCHECK OUT THIS THING\u201d is pretty much all you take in. An image, a video, or better yet a product you can touch, is always more successful than a pitch about why \u201cTHIS THING\u201d is the \u201cBEST THING.\u201d Everyone believes their thing is the best thing. Show people a great product, and they will always want to learn more.\r\nPeople > Product\r\n\r\n\r\nThis was the hardest idea for me to understand. Learning this required our pivot from Momunt to Zero Slant. Our investors were totally OK with the pivot, which made me realize they had clearly invested in our team, not the product we were building. The reality is that at an early stage, very little is known. Investors say they\u2019re looking for the jockey, not the horse, and nothing is more true. You are selling you. Your team. Your resilience.\r\nSpend Less Time Talking About Your Product\r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nI found a pattern with investor meetings: the more personal and the less business it was, the more likely I was to close the deal. Investors see 100,000 founders a year and like #3 stated, people trump product any day. My belief is that the more you\u2019re talking with the investor about your life, their life and what you both believe in, the closer you are to convincing the investor that you\u2019re the right jockey to bet on. With that being said, don\u2019t force it to become personal. These exchanges should happen naturally when the business talk is going well.\r\nYes Comes Quicker Than No\u200a\u2014\u200aWhich Almost Never Comes\r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nI\u2019ve only ever received a clear no from one investor, Brad Feld. It was for a previous company of mine that never successfully raised seed. Brad wrote a kind letter describing why he wasn\u2019t interested. Chances are, you won\u2019t ever get this. Almost zero investors will say no. Instead, they\u2019ll ghost you like a promising flame after your first Tinder date. But if the investor wants you, you\u2019ll get a a quick yes, like a promising flame that doesn\u2019t dare let you get away.\r\nDon\u2019t Believe The Hype\r\n\r\n\r\nThe internet is full of bullshit. We all know this. But, somehow, there\u2019s lots of crap out there about raising money that doesn\u2019t make sense. If it looks like it and smells like it\u2026.well\u2026you know what to do.\r\nOne Great Investor = Close Your Round\r\n\r\n\r\nEveryone I\u2019ve seen close a round closes a lead investor first. This is your goal. Many investors will say, \u201cI\u2019ll invest but I won\u2019t lead.\u201d This is a NO, with the caveat of, \u201cUnless someone smarter than me is in\u2026I\u2019m not an idiot.\u201d Find the smart person whom others will follow. Convince them to invest. The rest of your round will come.\r\nThey Want to Want to Invest in You\r\n\r\n\r\nI talked about this previously\u200a\u2014\u200abut everyone wants you to win. No investor wants to take a meeting with an idiot. You\u2019re already halfway to your goal by getting the meeting. Again, it\u2019s like dating: don\u2019t show up unwashed, but don\u2019t show up sweating from stress. The date is hoping you\u2019re not just another fling. What a waste otherwise!\r\nThey\u2019ve Heard Your Pitch 1,000 Times\r\n\r\n\r\nInvestors have heard more pitches than you. Orders of a magnitude more. You may think your pitch is unique, but it almost certainly is not. This again stresses the value of people over product.\r\nMeet With the Lower Level Partners\r\n\r\n\r\nThe internet and other investors\/founders told me time and again that meeting with lower level members of VC firms was a waste of time. It likely is a waste of time when compared to meeting with actual partners, but it doesn\u2019t preclude you from getting the investment; it just takes more time. Each degree of separation from the man\/woman who signs the check is just another person who has to pitch your product for you. It\u2019s totally possible it can succeed, but think of it like a food chain. We only get 10 percent of the nutrients from eating the herbivores\u2019 meat than they do from eating the plants. And the herbivores only get 10 percent of the nutrients from the plants that photosynthesis generates. Each degree of separation is a huge barrier, but we\u2019re still alive and thriving on that meat.\r\nConsumer Sales Vs. Enterprise\r\n\r\n\r\nI believe it was Danielle Morrill who tweeted about how raising a seed round was like consumer sales whereas raising an A was enterprise. If it wasn\u2019t her, I apologize to the adept analogizer. My friends raising A rounds have decks with specific data and numbers and projections, because they\u2019re selling a product to a big company. The seed round feels more like selling a really expensive TV. It\u2019s really just a TV with one new feature, but it looks good and the brand has a cool logo. And maybe, just maybe, it\u2019s important. The investors know you\u2019re putting on a show, but they don\u2019t care. They love you, your team, and your vision.\r\nOther Founders = Path to Investors\r\n\r\n\r\nWhen you don\u2019t know anyone who has raised funds, it can be confusing to know how to reach out to investors. Go to investor websites, look at the companies they\u2019ve invested in, and find the ones with the fewest Twitter followers. Reach out to these founders directly. Don\u2019t immediately ask for an intro, but do tell them you\u2019re raising money, you know he\/she has successfully raised, and because of this you want feedback on your product. If the product is good, the founder will pass you on to said investor.\r\nKnow Your Audience\r\n\r\n\r\nWhat is the investor you\u2019re meeting interested in? Fancy food? If you\u2019re a product that helps people get a seat at fancy restaurants, that\u2019s an easy pitch for that person. They may not like the idea, but they\u2019ll instantly understand it. Getting an investor to understand the value of your product is a huge part of the battle. Knowing what the investor is interested in helps you understand how difficult that process will be. Again, the founder is more valuable than the product at the seed stage. But pitching someone who plays basketball a shoe that makes you jump higher is much easier than making the same pitch to a golfer.\r\nEach Investor Has a Singular Expertise\r\n\r\n\r\nOne of my biggest screw-ups while searching for financing was assuming investors were smarter than me. I\u2019ve yet to meet a stupid investor, but the average person who is successful enough to invest their own money or even other peoples\u2019 money got to that position by being really, really good at one specific thing. Success requires expertise. Expertise requires many hours. Hours are finite. People can\u2019t be experts at everything. Be confident that you\u2019re the expert on your product, not the investor.\r\nDo Research\u200a\u2014\u200aThey May Have Already Lost Money On You\r\n\r\n\r\nI once pitched a product to someone who had lost $25 million on nearly the same product three years prior. He didn\u2019t know me, but he knew my product. It was a huge hurdle to jump over. Just a reiteration that researching and getting to know the investor prior to the meeting is incredibly important for success.\r\n\r\nYou can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you\u2019ve got any questions on raising your first round, I\u2019m happy to help in any way I can.