By Fernando Berrocal
Many aspects of startups have altered as a result of the COVID-19 limitations, including how entrepreneurs pitch Venture Capitals (VCs). Founders are depending on phone conversations and video meetings to connect with investors and try to raise funds more than ever before.
Though remote pitching might be difficult, it can also be a wonderful way to meet VCs you wouldn't typically meet in person. Even after COVID-19 is over, founders and venture capitalists who have expertise in pitching—and accepting pitches—share their expert tips on nailing remote pitches.
- Creating a pitch agenda:
When VCs are listening behind a screen, it's easier for them to become distracted, so make your pitch short and sweet. According to Kate Brodock, CEO of Women 2.0 and founding partner of W Fund, most pitch events only provide you 5–10 minutes on the stage. Concentrate on why your idea or solution is viable, what your needs are, and how you intend to use the funds you receive. According to Jen Neundorfer, a founding partner of January Ventures, it's also critical to communicate your long-term vision for the startup and explain why you're the ideal person to carry it out.
Establishing a pre-planned agenda will help you remain on topic and easily lead the conversation. Consider adding the following to your to-do list:
- You and your teammates have to make introductions.
- The investor makes an introduction.
- Demo of the product.
- Overview of the financial situation (including how COVID-19 affected your company, if relevant).
- Plans for achieving goals and collecting funds.
- There are questions and answers.
- Information on how to contact us and the next steps.
You may be tempted to invest the entire time in describing your proposal, but Brodock advises that you set out time for other aspects, such as answering investors' initial concerns. “It’s a really interesting way to see how fluidly founders can speak quickly to questions,” she says. “It shows the depth of their knowledge”.
Brodock advises that you “sure there are times built in where you’re not just doing a straight pitch”. Going off-pitch now and then, whether by laughing or telling a brief anecdote, may show your passion and help you build a personal connection with the investor.
- Make your pitch unique:
When pitching, Neundorfer thinks it's critical to appeal to an investor's interest. You can customize your presentation to someone's objectives and previous investments if you have a better understanding of their goals and previous investments. “Make sure the investor comes away with a reason to follow up with you,” Neundorfer says. “You don’t need to get into every last little detail, but tell them enough so they’re compelled”.
One of the advantages of a virtual pitch is that you have more time to conduct preliminary investor research. Breanne Acio, CEO of Skr Inc., recommends, “Take advantage of that and the networking ability you get from being able to do the due diligence”.
However, you should be prepared to depart from the script if required. Neundorfer suggests asking an investor how familiar they are with your company or solution at the start of the meeting to evaluate their level of knowledge and interest. Depending on their response, you may either go into your pitch right away or offer some context.
- Talk about the financials:
The most essential element of your pitch is the bottom-line explanation, not the product demo. “It’s really easy to spend time on the story and the product”, Brodock adds, then forget to discuss finances. The startup's economic potential was the biggest indicator of whether a VC wanted an introduction with a founder, according to a feedback vc study. The product or solution itself was a weak indicator of venture capital interest.
An investor, above anything else, wants to know that their investment will be well spent. Brodock suggests finding a balance between emphasizing your solution and providing the metrics regarding market size, growth potential, and profit.
- Rehearse your pitch:
The secret to success is to rehearse your pitch ahead of time. “There’s a difference between a polished pitcher and someone who maybe thought of it as a two o’clock phone meeting,” Brodock says. You must not only hit the essential points and properly express your viewpoint, but you must also talk calmly and confidently. Writing out what you want to say can assist, but Acio advises against relying on a script. When pitching virtually, it's tempting to read from your notes, but investors will notice.
Demonstrating your product should also be practiced. According to Neundorfer, a virtual pitch is an excellent chance to show rather than tell someone how your product works. Check that you know how to share and unshare your screen, adjust your audio settings, and troubleshoot if your connection drops down. Try presenting to one or two trusted coworkers before your official pitch. Request feedback on your pitch deck, demo, bottom-line explanation, delivery, and ability to properly answer questions.
- Read the Room:
It's tough to keep up on context signals while pitching virtually. “One of the mistakes we’ll see is people who dive into their pitch and go, go, go, go, go. They’re looking at the slides, not at our reaction”, Neundorfer explains. Remember to take a break now and then, unshare your screen, and make eye contact with investors, advises Neundorfer “I think that is a really important way to build rapport and trust”.
Establishing an authentic connection via a virtual meeting may be more challenging, but building a bond may help you gain credibility as a leader. “Chances are they'll be able to do it with consumers and with their employees,” Neundorfer adds if a founder has “the human element and can establish that rapport with me".
- Follow up on your pitch:
Once you've logged off the computer, check-up with the investors, thanking them for their time and asking if they have any more questions. You may also wish to include a copy of your pitch deck and also any background and company information.
- Every pitch should be viewed as an opportunity to learn something new:
“Pitching is hard and takes practice,” Acio explains. Make the most of this time by arranging a few remote pitch sessions, whether one-on-one meetings with investors or participating in virtual pitch slams. “Do it as much as you can,” Acio advises, “Especially in this time where [pitching is] virtual and you have this layer of protection”.
You'll grow better at presenting your concept and explaining its value to the world, both economically and otherwise, the more you practice, pitch, and adjust your approach.