Per a recent thread, I never send decks in advance. Hat tip to @chudson for properly explaining why. Now that I’m beginning to do some VC work, I consciously lower my interest in people who send me decks in advance. If I’m helping write your deck then I need it, but if you see me primarily as an investor instead of an advisor, then it is specifically a bad idea. Find a way to write a paragraph or a one pager that’s interesting Leave the storytelling for when we’re making eye contact.
Because of all that, the in-person experience that a founder provides to the potential investor is critical. You are getting the chance to tell a 40 minute story about an organization that doesn’t exist to a person who you want to turn over noticeable cash to you on a poorly documented promise. Make it a story, make sure it has a great arc, and tell it well. I say 40 minutes because successful decks are 15 slides at most. The investor will be ten minutes late, and you want to get them out of there ten minutes early. If they have an assistant, helping the investor get back on schedule will make it a lot easier to get subsequent meetings booked.
I just sent a very uncomfortable note to a dear old friend on how to re-do his pitch — here’s the constructive (rather than critical) portion of that note, lightly edited.
The point of the first meeting is solely to get the second meeting which is the start of the ‘real’ process. I’m going to address the form of a successful pitch here. I can’t change your business fundamentals. The outline (slide numbers) of a deck that works is:
1. Attention grabber. In Minute 1, bring them into your emotional zone or get them dying to hear more. The former is generally when you are pre-product and the latter when there is user or sales traction.
2. Big market. What sells is proprietary redefinition of a market that a) makes the investor believe you’ve found a reason for customers to change behavior, and b) teaches them something.
3. Customer Pain — what hurts so bad that people will get off their asses and do something different that is worth money?
— if you don’t have them hooked by slide 3, it’s over, consider very politely packing up and leaving or switching to small talk having nothing to do with your fundraising. The former is more intriguing and tells a better story.
4. Solution - benefits description of what you do differently. if you don’t know the difference between benefits and features, then delay pitching until you do.
5. Features - product details and a demo if you want to do one, though i don’t do them. i don’t trust technology enough, plus a demo makes the investors even more likely to mistake themselves for the target market segment
6. Users/Customers/Sales plan
9. Milestones — what you promise to accomplish with the money not the Use of Proceeds
10. New financing and previous raises
11. “Come dream the dream with us” slide. Early stage guys are fantasists. The Lumatic deck was very efficient at closing angels/seed funds while we were still in development. I started with a car fire photo from Tahrir Square in Egypt to get people into my intended emotional zone, and I ended with Dorothy taking her first steps down the yellow brick road. I got the whole thing down to thirteen minutes and was closing great angel investors with it over Skype screenshare.
Please note that there are no financial projections. They don’t get you to the second meeting.