As a startup founder in Silicon Valley and advisor to some of the hottest startups in the last five years, I have had the opportunity to understand founders, fundraising and the startup growth process. (Full disclosure: I was a consultant for Uber and Airbnb and a startup advisor for Salesforce Ventures and Google Ventures.) In 2018, I moderated 12 pitch competitions across the country, funding 10 up-and-coming startups. But it isn’t easy being a founder in highly competitive Silicon Valley, and funding is becoming scarce. Here are my top dos (and don’ts) for grabbing the attention of Silicon Valley investors.
Silicon Valley and the world of startups in general is supposed to be a safe space for unconventional thinking and weird ideas. But spend much time reading about startups and talking to those involved in them and you quickly realize that, like every other segment of the population, VCs, entrepreneurs, and techies have their orthodoxies.
When you’re raising capital, a great startup pitch can make or break your funding efforts. I’ve heard thousands of pitches over the years, given quite a few of my own, and spoken to hundreds of entrepreneurs about their experience with raising capital. What I’ve noticed is a pattern that emerges again and again: the founders who get funded are the ones who use every rejection to improve their pitch.
Just as the best businesses are the product of many failures along the way, the best pitches are born out of many bad pitches that came before. The entrepreneurs who give these pitches take constructive criticism to heart, constantly reworking their slide deck and tweaking their delivery until they have a truly outstanding pitch that investors respond to.
Even if you think you already have a great pitch, there are some really helpful strategies you can use to inspire investors and customers to take action. Drawing on my own experience and feedback from fellow entrepreneurs, here are proven strategies to deliver a pitch that resonates.
The easier you make it for investors to understand your startup structure and operations, the more likely they will be to invest. Once a business gets up and running, it’s time to reassess where the company’s operational priorities are. It’s tempting, at that point, to let “structure” remain on the back burner, when you’re scrambling for growth. But having that singular factor in place early on is much more effective than backlogging it two years later, should you, for instance, need a clear picture of your financial history.
Finding startup investors. Entrepreneurs make a common mistake when it comes to raising money for their startup — they don’t start soon enough. They think they should put their heads down and develop their prototypes or set up their business, and then put some thought into getting funding. But it doesn’t work like that. You can’t spend six months building a prototype, then wake up one morning and decide it’s time to fundraise and watch the money flow in. You have to network in the finance community as you build your business to secure the right funding.
The Israeli VC industry have gone through a major shift over the last few years, as it became younger and much more global. The profile of the new Israeli VC is young, ambitious but humble, well-educated, with global experience and much love for what Israeli tech represents to the outside world.
On this week’s episode of “Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch,” one contestant learns what’s going on behind the scenes is more important than the product she’s pitching.
The pitch deck is a presentation that entrepreneurs put together when seeking a round of financing from investors. On average pitch decks have no more than 19 slides. Ultimately founders need two different sets of pitch decks. One version will be with a lot of text and information which will be shared with people via email. The other version will be the pitch deck that entrepreneurs present to investors in person with more visuals. Having more visuals will contribute to having investors focused on you.
A cold email. Everything you’ve read has probably told you that to get a meeting with a VC you need to get an introduction. This is only partly true. An intro is going to increase your odds tremendously, but what if you can’t get an intro? What if you want to meet with Mrs. X, and you can’t find anyone to introduce you to her?
Finding investment partners comes down to prioritizing and communicating properly.
A number of years ago, while I was in engaged in raising capital for my company, I was on a golf course (where you often find yourself in these situations) with a few potential partners.
Up to this point, I had developed an exhaustive business plan, rehearsed and mastered the pitch and the ask, and felt like I could talk about any aspect of the business and the industry.