How to pitch me

September 24, 2013

perfect_pitchI consider myself really fortunate to work as a VC. It feeds my ego to think I’m smart, but the truth is that my smarts come mainly from exposure in high volumes to truly smart people, i.e. you, the entrepreneurs. My purported wisdom derives mainly from the catbird seat my job affords me to witness growing tech companies over and over again.

In other words, working as a VC is a job I love, but by no means something I’m divinely ordained or entitled to do. A set of serendipitous factors converged to render me lucky enough to have a chance to invest other people’s money in a sector I’m passionate about.

So when I write a piece arrogantly titled “How to pitch me,” I’m doing it not to preach wisdom from on high, but rather in the spirit of two specific goals: i) to help me be a good steward of the capital I’ve been conferred to manage, and ii) to optimize your time as an entrepreneur, from which I feel honored to be benefitting.

The approach:

We receive hundreds of pitches per year. I wish I could review and thoughtfully respond to them all but cannot. Here are some tips to catch my attention and hopefully convince me to schedule a first meeting.

  • Rise above the noise level by contacting me via an endorsed introduction (e.g. such as via our portfolio companies or a trusted person in my network). Or alternatively, be creative. When I was recently contacted by an entrepreneur who frequently commented on my blog posts, I didn’t hesitate a split second to schedule a meeting with him.
  • Pre-qualify the relevance of meeting together by reading my explanation of our investment sweet spot. Explain how it fits if the fit is not obvious.
  • Please don’t ask me to sign an NDA (see my full rationale). Send me something non-confidential that wouldn’t upset you if I solicited the opinion of a trusted business associate.
  • Send a clear and concise executive summary (I’m not hung up on the format of it, however, often I may be reading your email while off the grid, so anything requiring me to re-connect to the internet unfortunately slips through).
  • It almost goes without saying that the following techniques are very ineffective: mass email intros, cold calls or emails requesting a call back, and the uniquely French claim that your venture has Oseo’s Entreprise Innovante label.

The first meeting:

  • Prepare for an efficient discussion limited to one hour. 50 minutes is even better, as it will allow me to be punctual for the meeting following yours.
  • Demonstrate that you’ve identified the problem, and clearly explain your vision of a solution.
  • Tell me specifically what you’d like from me.
  • I’m more intrigued by your ambition than by your benchmarking exercise in exit strategy (e.g. “Google acquired Waze for $1B, so we’re an attractive investment.”).

My commitment to you:

  • I will endeavor to be on time for our meeting. On the rare occasions I’m running late, I will do my best to notify you beforehand and re-organize me schedule to allocate you sufficient time (i.e. a full hour). By the way, in the spirit of this preachy post I wrote, if I fail to show up for our meeting, barring emergency, you should feel entitled to publicly shame me on the social network of your choice.
  • Furthermore, I will give you my full undivided attention during our meeting. That means no distracting behavior on my smartphone with email, etc. during our session together.
  • I will not waste your meeting time by grandstanding you with my accomplishments. In fact, I will try to talk as briefly as possible about myself and our firm, and only insofar as it’s relevant for our interaction (unless of course, you want me to. the point is: the hour is yours to focus on what you deem most important).
  • Almost forgot: I will offer you a decent cup of coffee. If my uncultivated nature lets this basic courtesy slip my mind, feel free to smack me.
  • Finally, I will be straightforward about our investment intentions post-meeting. If we do not intend to invest at this time, I will make this clear as early as possible so that you can move on. I may not always be able to explain our entire rationale (often there are factors beyond just you), but I will not string you along in false hope either.

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posted in venture capital by mark bivens

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