What advice do VCs want to give founders during pitches, but refrain from?

I try to avoid pitches at all at this point. Send me the deck ahead of time, with as much detail as possible. I promise to read it carefully, and have questions.

Still, the pitch is part of most processes.

Here’s what I love:

  • A one-slide deck. OK I know this is controversial, but it shouldn’t be. The best oral pitches are “elevator pitches”. The best powerpoint decks and powerpoint pitches IMHO are “one-slide decks.” This doesn’t mean literally one slide, but it means the first slide can totally stand on its own. What (you do — one line). Who. Why. Where (you are in terms of Progress). Next (you are going). If you can make an amazing 1-slide deck, you can also make an amazing 10 or 20 slides deck. But often not vice-versa. And also. If you can do a great 1-slide deck. You can do a great email intro & summary of the opportunity, too.
  • Precise understanding of the next 12–18 months. There’s no excuse not to know all your hires, your ARR goal, your product goals for the next 12–18 months. If I don’t hear that, I’m out. If you don’t know … they there’s a lot more basic stuff you don’t know, either.
  • Clear path to $300m ARR. Tell me why, ideally with some simple bottoms-up data, why you’ll get to $300m in ARR and beyond. TAM is great, but that’s not enough. Tell me why this is a pre-pre-unicorn. Clearly. More on why this matters here: Is $300m ARR the New $100m?

What I hate, but can tolerate if CEO is great:

  • Crappy design. Dude. Outsource it. Get the deck looking decent.
  • Rambling intro on The Market. I don’t need 5 slides on how The Cloud is Changing Everything. These pitches are almost always No. STOP.
  • Terrible operating plan, projections and financials. Creates lots of anxiety. But I can work through it if I have to. But 100% gross margins? Crazy numbers? Then … I’m out.
  • Anything less than super-crisp analysis and discussion on competition. We all have competition. The crisper you are here (and the less emotion you have in it), the more I know you may be a winner. Condescending views of successful competition? The opposite. I am pretty sure you will fail.

Thing is, many of the investments I’ve made had terrible pitches. You get better.

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Published on July 11, 2016

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