It’s D-Day! Your deck is ready, the meetings have been set up and you’re all ready to go pitch for your next billion dollar idea. Great! Hey, remember when you were going on the first date with that crush of yours but blanked out at the coffee shop? Wouldn’t want that to happen again would you? Sadly, I can’t help you get back with that crush. But what I CAN tell you is how to woo a VC with a phenomenal pitch!
I have interacted with and heard pitches from hundreds of entrepreneurs. Some have been good, some bad and some ugly. Some others have been phenomenal and a few of those have gone on to raise capital. In this series of articles, I try to present a sample structure and summarize some of the key things I personally – and I think many other VCs – look for in a pitch. I like to think of the pitch to be made of 9 key parts: Introduction, Problem Statement, Product, Business Model, Traction, Competition, Defensibility, Fund Raise and Conclusion.
You know my name, not my story!
Exactly! So tell me!! One of the things I am always very interested to know is why did the founder become an entrepreneur in the first place. I once had an entrepreneur start off his pitch by saying, “Allow me to demo to you the messaging platform that will kill Whatsapp” post which he dived straight into the product. Needless to say, the only thing I remember of his pitch is that one sentence!
It is always good to start with a brief background of yourself and how you came about doing what you are doing. Tell me a bit about your professional history, what all jobs/ventures you dabbled in and what convinced you to do this current venture. And finally, state your role in the current startup i.e. do you look at Tech, Product, Business etc. The introduction helps me with three things:
- It gives me some insight into your motivations as an entrepreneur
I want to gauge the reason behind the start-up and the aspiration for the same. Are you looking to create a $100Mn company or a Unicorn? Is this a lifestyle business or are you in it for the big game? How dedicated are you to your current startup?
- It helps me gauge (to some extent) your potential as a successful entrepreneur
The only data point I will have to judge your potential as a great entrepreneur will be your past experience. Focus on the key things which demonstrate capabilities one would typically look for in a founder eg. Leadership, resourcefulness, grit, passion etc
- I find nuggets to connect with you maybe a common alma mater, an interest/hobby etc
I try to find some connect to every entrepreneur I meet – it helps me associate with him or her better. If you are successful, I will remember you over the other hundreds of entrepreneurs and you are sure to come out with a good professional acquaintance at the very least.
- Talk about key accomplishments in past jobs/ventures eg. Designing a product feature, leading a city launch etc
- Name successful people who you’ve worked withextensively –helps to have a reference
- Throw in a couple of personal facts eg. your alma mater, city of origin or a sport you follow
- Mention why you are apt for your current role in the venture
- Spin yarns about every single thing you’ve ever done – while I will patiently listen with interest, remember you’re wasting valuable time you have for the pitch
- Make blanket statements like “I created the entire back-end at SnapDeal” without adequate facts to back them up
- Mention positions you held in companies without telling what you did in those roles
- Throw names around without genuine basis – remember the VC community is very close knit and I will probably find out sooner or later that you were bluffing
Practice the 5-6 lines each cofounder is going to say during their introduction. It will not take more than 5-10 minutes and will provide a seamless beginning to your pitch. You may not memorize the lines but atleast note down the points you will be highlighting.
[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.]