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12 things I learned from pitching VCs this past week (scrollinondubs.com)
39 points by scrollinondubs on Dec 13, 2007 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments

good stuff. sam altman told us the most important thing for him was to remember #8 -- they need you as much as you need them. they _want_ to believe that you're the next google; think of how much it would make their lives easier if you were, and think of how hard it would be to spend your life saying no 90+% of the time and telling people their babies are ugly. they want to say yes.

i'd also say spend a lot of time coming up with a story and framing your opportunity in the biggest possible way. this was something i really underestimated -- initially we'd just show a list of features and expect everyone to arrive at the vision we had in our heads, but really it's the other way around -- the features drive a more important story and vision.

a story is also a lot easier for an investor to retell and get other people excited about than a laundry list of "um, it does this, and this, and this..." remember, VCs have to then turn around and sell their own general partnership on the idea, so give them the ammo they need to do this effectively.

also -- practice your pitch until it becomes mechanical. not so much by standing in front of a mirror (though that helps too) but rather by debugging it with individual angels or mentors, so that by the time you pitch the investors you really want you've already seen most of the universe of possible objections and surprises and can handle them effectively.

dhouston- good call on having a big story. The VC's could literally care less about the features of your product, they want to know how it's going to be thing that will be a common-place word in 4 yrs and you have to paint that picture vividly for them.

I would disagree on the pitching in front of a mirror thing. And actually i should add this as #14- I recommend that you _don't_ have a scripted pitch. Have a deck of slides that serves as a framework for the conversation but just talk about it naturally. If you truly believe in it, this should become second nature and they'll smell the candidness whereas a scripted pitch comes off as brittle and less engaging. You want it to be anything but mechanical IMHO.


The pimped out mouse gives you instant cred, scrollin.

On a subject overflowing with "advice", this seems like a particularly helpful post. I especially like the running theme of "putting yourself into their shoes". Great stuff! Thank you.

Much of this article seems like good advice about pitching in general, not only to investors. I like it.

Valuable lessons, thanks for sharing them! You mention in #4 that a quality referral is critical. Do you mind sharing your experiences meeting/using a referral to get face time with VCs?

sure, in generic terms. Our lawyer was instrumental in getting 3 - we splurged a bit and hired a very reputable firm in Palo Alto that is well-connected. We paid more than we would have liked for the legal work a year ago but it's paying dividends now in terms of introductions. The other intros came from just random networking. We live in AZ but I drove my truck up to SF and couch surfed the past month just going to events, shaking hands and meeting people. I had a list of people I know through various user group involvement and presence on listserv's so i contacted them and tried to have a different lunch lined up everyday. I used Meetup, Upcoming and googled "Bay Area User Groups" and tried to lineup a different event every night. I actively used Facebook and my blog to solicit intros and tell people what I was doing, switching my network to Silicon Valley temporarily and finding events via that. I met great contacts at the Startup Weekend that was held in SF. And the whole time I was writing a series of posts on my trip essentially live-blogging it to meet more contacts. You can read those here if you're interested-> http://www.scrollinondubs.com/tags/sfroadtrip

There is no "typical intro" to describe - they happened in the most unpredictable/serendipitous ways, but having the conversation-starter of "so I drove here from Phoenix and have been sleeping on friends couches so i can be in the mix for our startup" was a powerful lead-in to be able to talk with people and get them to listen.

I know PG is a big fan of the idea you should really be in the Bay Area to give your startup the best chance of success. We have our company in AZ right now and moving wasn't an option so this was the next best thing we figured we could do. Definitely very happy with the choice.


> one meeting that ran 30min over- the VC was deferring calls from his wife who was waiting for him in the parking lot

Nice guy:-/

The wifey can complain when she is driving her new Bentley.

Sometimes business has to come before pleasure, I know my lady would wait in the parking lot for 3 days if she knew it was important.

But if I was a VC, I would give everyone X amount of time, but have a plan B to talk all day if things went well.

It would have cost him nothing (and he's the one with the money, in any case) to say "hey, I'm running late, it's important, it'll be a while longer" rather than simply not answering, as the article seems to say.

I took it as he was just making her wait longer than expected.

Either way, I wouldn't be booking anything 5 minutes after the pitch.

Ah, but interrupting business for personal looks bad; and the thing about (possibly most) women is they want you to have something that's more important than them. If you drop everything for them they won't respect you.

So he did the right thing from both perspectives. Which is probably why he's rich and has a (presumably) hot wife.

(I know that sounds politically incorrect, but alas, reality often is. To be fair, it probably works both ways: a man won't respect a woman who drops everything for him, either.)

I have a hot Italian wife, and would never leave her stewing like that.

It's not about dropping everything for the other person - I don't think anyone can expect that. It's about picking up the phone and saying "sorry, got to keep you waiting, it's important". Communicating and managing expectations.

It's a pretty minor quibble, I guess, but it just struck me as something rude.

guys, lemme clarify this- when i said "deferring calls from his wife," he was politely saying "honey, gimme 15 more min" because he was so into it. It really wasn't rude at all and perhaps I should have better explained it or left that out altogether.


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