This is the third of many articles in this series – you can read previous article here.
Last week, I was meeting a young startup. Within 10 minutes the entrepreneur proactively jumped into his product. He took us through his entire tech and then moved to the “in-the-works” part of the product. His confidence, combined with his product’s brilliance was amazing. Whether or not we go on to fund him right now, there’s no doubt that his pitch went extremely well.
Bottom line? Nothing talks more about your product than the product itself. Moreover, there is nothing as pleasing as an entrepreneur who proactively shows the entire product – front-end and backend. It speaks volumes about his/her confidence. And a good demo is vital for investment. So, do a demo.
- Use a live version of the product, which is stable: The most important KPI of the demo is that it should work. There’s nothing more frustrating than a founder trying to show a dev version of the product which might potentially have more features but keeps crashing. If you do have significant new features in the works, show the dev version separately.
- Make it real – the devil is in the details: A good practice to follow is to keep narrating in detail what would really happen as you walk through the demo. For example, if you are showing me a taxi hailing app, tell me what all machinery gets activated in your business when the customer initiates the request right from the request being sent to drivers to them turning up at the pick-up point
- Focus on a before and after picture: The best way to show the value add of your product is to contrast what would have happened in absence of the product and how it is changing status quo. At every step in the demo, tell me how inconvenient life is today and how the feature you’re currently showing is making it easier.
- Let me play with the product: Most VCs will want to play around with the product. This is a good sign and should be your cue that he/she is genuinely intrigued by the product and wants to know more. Your job should now be largely to voice-over the key USPs of what he’s experiencing with the product
- Be slow, detailed and clear in communication: Remember, this is the most important part of your pitch. So take your time to explain in detail the features. A little bit of theatrics won’t go awry either. Just a note of caution, don’t belabor over all features – if you think some feature is routine and the VC seems to be getting it, don’t waste time talking about it. Like any other in person conversation, watch out for physical cues as to when the audience is losing interest!
- Turn up at a meeting without provisioning for a demo: There’s one thing if you’re looking for seed funding and haven’t built out the product yet. But if the product is ready, there is absolutely NO reason to turn up without all that is required to demo eg an Android phone! The other day I met an entrepreneur who asked me to use my android phone for an app demo. Turns out I own an iOS device and I asked him to use his phone. Unfortunately, he himself had a windows phone!! Let’s just say the pitch wasn’t the best!
- Dodge questions about the product: Most VCs are going to be a pain during the demo and ask you about all the boundary conditions for your product. Bear with us and tell what you feel is the best answer. Remember, it is OK to say that you haven’t thought about all of them. We understand that. But don’t try and bluff your way or discount any questions – at least not without adequate backing.
- Fail to acknowledge the shortcomings of your product: Every product has shortcomings. The good Product Managers (PMs) accept them and have a plan and timeline to improve the same. The bad PMs dismiss them as being unimportant or keep giving excuses. Only good PMs get funded.
Have a production version of the product ready on a demo device and rehearse the demo before-hand. Mentally note down the key features to show and what to voice over each of them. Don’t push any updates – at least not onto the demo device – immediately before the demo.
I would say around 15 minutes. This also depends on how complex your product is and whether there is just one product or many. But 15 minutes is a good time to budget for.
[Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed herein belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Bessemer Venture Partners or any of its affiliates (“Bessemer”) or any other organization the author may be linked with. Specifically, the material here is written on the author’s own time for his own reasons and Bessemer has not reviewed or approved the information herein. Any discussion of topics related to Bessemer or its investment activities should not be construed as an official comment of Bessemer.]