Imagine you’ve just received an email from a VC.
They want to learn more about you and your company. Amazing!
- Insist on meeting in person
- Open your pitch deck
- Present for 20 minutes
And after a few follow-up emails, the VC responds saying she's no longer interested.
What happened? What went wrong?
The latest episode of Uncapped Notes covers exactly this. Read on for tips on how to make your first pitch to a VC absolutely extraordinary.
(Reminder: Uncapped Notes is our video series to demystify venture capital and the startup ecosystem for first-time founders. Below is a summary of the episode. If you prefer to watch, you can see the episode here. It’s 8 minutes long.)
Meet on Zoom
Eric (co-founder at Hustle Fund) has seen nearly 20,000 pitches from startup founders. So he knows what makes a pitch great.
His first tip: Get on Zoom for your first meeting.
Why? Because you get an opportunity to see one another in your natural elements.
When founders pitch to Eric, they see him in his garage with his kids’ bikes, BBQ, and trash cans in the background.
Eric shows his real background because it shows what his life actually looks like. Vulnerability is often reciprocated, and that’s where you can both start to form a more personal connection.
Zoom tip: Set your camera to be at eye level to make the meeting feel more conversational.
Don’t use a pitch deck
Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s ok to not use a slide deck during your first meeting.
See, when you use a slide deck, you automatically enter “presenter mode”, which gives the meeting a clear power dynamic. Both parties become uncomfortably aware that one of you is the decision maker (hint: it’s not you).
When you have a relaxed conversation with someone, the power dynamic feels more balanced.
And when the dynamic is balanced, you can connect more deeply as humans.
Remember: you can still pitch yourself and your company without using a pitch deck. After the initial small talk, ask the investor to tell you a bit about themselves:
- How they got into venture
- What their role at their firm is
- A big deal the fund recently completed
After they share, you can tailor your pitch to the VC’s context.
Great storytelling is great listening
Here’s another reason to structure your first meeting with a VC like a normal conversation rather than a formal presentation: it gives you an opportunity to listen.
For example, let’s say Eric is pitching his company to investor Janel. During the conversation, Janel mentions that she recently did a big deal in the digital health space.
This is a great data point to weave into the narrative of your own pitch.
You can say something like, “I have friends who are working in the digital health space. One of them is the founder of Rupa Health. She's shared with me some of her struggles in fundraising in the early days of building the company.”
This is a good way to capture their attention and start to build stronger connections.
One more thing... as you start to talk to the investor about your business, notice their reactions on Zoom.
If the other person is looking away or fading off, change the subject to what they care about. If they're nodding and smiling, those are cues to lean more into your story.
Have a great meeting
Next time you meet with a VC for the first time:
- Meet on Zoom
- Don’t use a slide deck
- Listen more than you speak
By the way, this episode of Uncapped Notes was the start of the massive topic on How to Pitch a VC. Subscribe on YouTube for more advice on pitching to VCs.
Until next time,
Tam “ok zoomer” Pham