My current business partner has 9 successful exits. It’s been such a great learning opportunity to see him pitch. Here’s three things I’ve noticed he does that run counter to things I’ve experienced in other startups with less seasoned professionals.
Be a force in the meeting – not in some obnoxious or obvious way. When we were pitching VCs in my first company we were meeting with the king. We were in their court, begging for their favor. My current partner is there as an equal. He’s as much about evaluating them as they are about evaluating us. It’s cordial and friendly, but there’s not that desperation in the air. It’s two business professionals trying to decide if the partnership is a good fit.
Say “no”. I’ve reconsidered how I build my startup financials. We’re only providing a break-even analysis – not a full set of pro-forma projections. We have a small piece about market size, and cost per user, but nothing like I would normally do: a full set of projections with b/e, low, mid, and high data, and a market size analysis based on comparables. We’ve had investors ask for financials in pitches. He says “I’ll provide you with break-even analysis, but we don’t have financial projections. I’ve sat where you are, on that side of the table, and I never believed any of the projections I was pitched. The break-even lets you know what we need to stay alive. Beyond that we’re going to work to get as much of the market as possible.” This has been generally well received.
A graphic but very basic pitch deck. Our pitch deck isn’t fancy with lots of polished graphics. It conveys the product and the business very well, but it’s exceptionally simple. In the past, I’ve followed the 10/20/30 rule, but also thought that the deck represents the first product made by the company that the investor sees. It needs to be polished and professional. Now I get that deck polish is not what makes the deck professional. Clarity makes it professional and simplicity makes it memorable.