opinion

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How To Pitch VC Funders

If you ever get the opportunity to help a client pitch venture capital funders, go for it. Even if you don’t actually shake loose some greenbacks, the experience and feedback are priceless.

I had such an opportunity at a VC event in 2014. One of my clients is bringing to market two rare berries grown in Ghana, West Africa. One will function as an all-natural sugar substitute, the other a taste modifier whose users will include cancer patients. Talk about a fantastic way to change the world! 

Well, we made it to the final four among some two dozen pitch makers, but ended up losing to some cute young ladies peddling lingerie. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Let’s face it. The majority of business owners and C-level executives may be brilliant business people, but they don’t know how to pitch the short-attention-span VC crowd. So lots of coaching and “media training” is required. I say media training because it’s all about how to present top-line information and make it easy to grasp.

During the event held in Manhattan, we had five minutes or less to make our case to each VC person who came to our table, round-robin fashion. While it wasn’t exactly “Shark Tank,” we were in some rough waters. Here are a few takeaways:

  • Keep the pitch in layman’s terms and easy to understand. Imagine you are presenting to your mother.
  • VCs want the macro level, so refrain from industry jargon and technical details. One of them barked at my colleague, “I don’t want to hear about kilograms!”
  • Overselling backfires. VC’s won’t be impressed that you are marketing to “everybody.” They want to know you have a grip on reality and have effectively defined your target market.
  • Products or services that are in pre-revenue mode are really up against it. The folks we were pitching wanted to invest in companies that are already bringing in money.
  • Don’t be afraid to rearrange your pitch space to your advantage. The original table layout had us with our backs to most of the room until I commandeered more space, moved some things around and gave us a more feng shui power position.
  • Dress in a business suit (most of the VCs were men in suits or jackets and button-down shirts) and toss in one item of eye candy, in my case a necklace with a big, colorful stone.

Fortunately, we did get some amazing feedback after making it to the final four. Backed by what we learned, we’re giving it another go with VCs in March. Hopefully, this time we’ll have some revenue to talk about. I’m convinced this was a major advantage the cute little lingerie ladies had over me and my client. They could cheerily proclaim, “We took in 20 grand last week!” 

Don’t get me wrong. I would have bought their stuff in a heartbeat.

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