The VC Pitch Meeting

There are lots of great posts on the interwebs about how to structure your investor pitch, but not a lot out there on how to run the actual pitch meeting. So, I thought I would share my tips for getting the most out of a VC pitch meeting.

Before

Know who you’re meeting: That means: i.) know the background and sector interests of each partner (if you’re meeting more than one) so you know who to focus on (i.e. the person who is most interested in your sector); and ii.) think about potential synergies with the fund’s portfolio in advance so you can bring that up at the appropriate time.

During

I sit in too many pitches where the entrepreneur pitches his or her heart out for an hour leaving little time for actual discussion. This is a waste of time for all sides. You get nothing out of it. And we don’t get a chance to drill down.

Remember, the sole purpose of a pitch is get investors excited enough to go deeper. It’s not to convey all of your thoughts about the business in one session. And it’s not to explain “how” you do what you do. i.e. excite vs. educate.

If you have an hour meeting, here’s how I recommend breaking it up:

5 minsintro & background: establish credibility with your audience by letting them know who you are, what you’ve done in the past and what led you to founding this company.

Note – don’t waste time asking the fund or individual partners to intro themselves. It’s not that this is beneath them, it’s just not the best use of scarce time. Believe me, if they like your opportunity they will be falling over themselves to explain their backgrounds and ability to add value. So, that can come later. First job – get them excited!

5 – 40 mins: Presentation: Cover your pitch in 10 – 15 slides. No more than 40 minutes (including up front intros). See end of this post for some great links on how to craft your pitch courtesy of my friend Austin Hill.

45 – 60 mins: Discussion, feedback, next steps:  Hopefully the VCs have been engaged throughout (if not, that’s a bad sign), but now is the time to get the discussion going. Ask them what they think, like, don’t like.

Overtime: This is the magic. Our pitch meetings are often 60 minutes (sometimes 30 for an intro). You know we are excited if we keep going past the allotted time.

Make sure you leave the meeting knowing how the investors feel about the opportunity and with some clear next steps. Often the next steps are as simple as ‘we will get back to you within a day with next step’. This allows the partners to chat together. But at least there’s a plan.

After

If you have follow up action items on your end, follow up within 24 hours. Time matters and investors love teams that move fast.

Pitch Links:

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  • http://twitter.com/jacktiantai @jacktiantai

    This will definitely come handy. As always Mark, great post!

  • http://www.duxter.com Adam Lieb

    I wonder how much of this comes down to confidence and perception. It says nothing about me as an entrepreneur if I can read slides or memorize a presentation. If I am so confident in myself/my business, that I am willing to have a free flowing conversation where I have to think on my toes, and respond intelligently to questions out of left field, I must know my stuff and have the ability to be flexible. I agree 100% with your proposed strategy here Mark, I would posit that "the reason" we as entrepreneurs ought to approach meetings in this way, is because that approach says something about us as entrepreneurs. Just my $.02, I'll be curious to hear your thoughts.

    (Tech note…seems to be some issue with twitter linking on posts, I get a 406 Not acceptable error)

    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      The best meetings are light on pitch and heavy on free flowing discussion. But you need the structure of the pitch out of the gate to set the stage. But just sitting listening passively to a pitch is painful and not productive. And gives the pitcher nothing! So, I like to start digging in as quickly as possible.

  • Costa_Caruso
    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      Thanks for sharing Costa. You're here in town, right? If you're raising soon, lets chat

  • http://twitter.com/HealyHoops @HealyHoops

    I'd actually recommend having a 10 to 15 minute pitch instead of the 5 min intro + 40 min pitch. I've found that the pitches that go well have a ton of questions, usually during the pitch but sometime after. So if things are going well you can't get through a 40 minute presentation in the hour slot. And if things are going badly at least you get done fast.

    • http://startupcfo.ca Mark MacLeod

      For sure, shorter is better Healy. I agree.