Kick A$% Presentations
Can A Kick A$% Presentation Get You Venture Capital Funding?
Of course, the answer is “that depends”.
There are plenty of sites that supply helpful slide layouts for pitch decks. Slide 1: introduce your company, slide 2: state the problem, slide 3: describe how your product addresses the problem, and so on. Your marketing resources can help with some messaging language. You can easily find graphic designers to make the deck more visually appealing. You follow the recipe perfectly, you feel you have a great-looking deck with a smooth, logical story flow.
But then you hear, “NO”.
And then you hear NO again, and again, and again.
First, rejection is a part of the fundraising process. Not every investor fits every company. It is often said that venture capitalists invest in 1% of the companies they are introduced to. You want to make sure you are rejected for the right reasons. If the investor does not put much money into your industry, invests in earlier or later stage companies than yours, or has already invested in a competitor, then a rejection is highly likely and understandable. But if you are hearing NO after having a couple of meetings with an investor and believe you fit the investor’s target profile, that is a sign that your pitch (and maybe your business plan) needs help. Note, the investor won’t likely tell you this directly.
What do VCs look for?
VCs look for strong growth and early movers. They look for a company’s ability to remain relevant and claim more of the market in which they operate (i.e., scalability or impact). VCs look for leaders with a clear vision and strong self-awareness in knowing where help is needed to make that vision a reality. VCs look for teams that have the experience and ability to push the business forward. VCs need high returns in a specific period – often 3-5 years. If your company’s model does not fit these criteria, then maybe you should seek alternative funding – crowdfunding, angel investors, impact investors, even debt. If you do fit a VC model, proving that you can and will achieve these returns in this timeframe is paramount. Basically, VCs invest in a company’s future, not its past.
Now back to your presentation. Following suggestions for investor pitch decks is helpful if the focus of your presentation is on the company’s future. Quite often, presentations focus too much on a problem being solved or on the company’s past. The ‘problem’ sets up the market opportunity, while past company performance and team experience shows credibility. However, the main pitch should be the company’s future.
- What WILL you do?
- What products WILL you sell?
- How WILL you market or distribute the product?
- Do you have the resources you need or what resources WILL you need to execute this plan?
- How WILL you measure or address changes in the market?
A VC will assess what you will do with their investment, not what you have done with earlier investor’s investments (although that is still a factor).
Again, VCs need high returns in a specific period. Maybe your growth plans are too slow. Maybe your market is too small or too difficult to penetrate. Maybe there is just not enough need or willingness to pay for your solution. Maybe you think you can do too much with too small of a team. Stepping back and looking at your business through a VCs’ eyes and accepting these realities can save you years of hard work and money. You could seek alternative sources of capital or perhaps pivot your company altogether.
In the end, if you truly have a good business plan and are on-point for venture capital, you will get a term sheet.
When filling a long-term role, remember that all jobs have a learning curve—no matter how much experience you have, you still have to learn new processes and systems when you take a new role. Also, skills can be learned. Instead of years of experience, you might evaluate a candidate’s willingness to learn, transferable skills, and aptitude for solving problems.