The Sad State of the Startup Pitch

You’d think that given the sheer volume of material written about how to pitch your company to investors that we’d be in the midst of some sort of golden age for the startup pitch. Clear concise value propositions, crisp tales of product market fit (or failed attempts at discovery), direct asks for how much is being raised and what’s hoped to be validated. The canon of fundraising content is so vast, many would claim it’s complete, even overdone.

And yet in all of my 11 years as a VC, I’d argue we’re at the low watermark for startup pitches. It’s really bad and seems to just be getting worse.

Of the 3-5 new pitch meetings a day I take, most founders can’t be bothered to put any type of framework around the conversation (PPT slides, Exec Summary, anything), many consider “demoing the product” to be pulling up a browser and clicking around aimlessly while trying to describe what they’ve built, when asked what they’re are looking for in a new investor, most respond “speed, so we can get back to building the product”. I block out 30 min for these meetings, most can wrap up in 10.

If you follow the arch of the meetings outlined above, many map the to conventional wisdom of today’s fundraising fodder. Founders are never supposed to be raising money, so keep it casual thus no presentation. Investors just want to see the product, thus the short and aimless clicking. The product is so key, that you can’t be bothered to focus on anything else, including fundraising.

Here’s an idea, if raising money is such a bother than build products that don’t require you to do it. 

Seriously.

Here’s another idea, if you’re going to take the time to track down investors, create a slot on your busy calendar to meet and drive all the way across town to do so: bring it. Bring it every single time.

If you half ass it with an investor, you’re likely half assing it elsewhere in your business.

Maybe this shouldn’t bother me so much. Perhaps I should simply embrace it as a fantastic filter. But, I can’t bear to see founders wasting their time and mine with with sloppy, half hearted pitches. 

We can do better.