A few months back I wrote a post bemoaning the sad state of the startup pitch.
That post sparked a series of conversations, both online and off, about what makes a pitch great and how to best use the time a founder secures with a potential investor. One point several commenters took issue with was my suggestion that founders ought to have a pitch deck prepared for their first meeting with an investor. Many cried foul that this flew in the face of today’s conventional wisdom that you should keep it light and informal, you know, ask for advice and get money or whatever they kids are saying these days.
There’s a saying I often use with founders as it relates to the deck/no deck debate- some people can pull off a pitch without a deck, you are probably not one of them.
First, little bit of background.
Similar to VCs tracking startups, often LPs start wanting to “get to know” a VC fund shortly after they close their most recent fund. That being the case, we’ve had active, ongoing discussions with potential investors about fund III since we closed fund II back in 2010. Tho many established firms have their LP base solidly in place, we’re relatively new and still trying to sort out the right mix of institutional investors, be it fund of funds, pensions, endowments, etc. So these meetings were helpful in shaping our thinking around what types of new investors we wanted to bring on board for fund III.
That said, we also keep a very active dialog with our existing investors in the form of quarterly reports, semi annual LP advisory board meetings and frequent 1 on 1s over a meal. We have a deep loyalty to them.
Our strategy for the new fund was to make sure that any existing investors who wanted to participate were able to make their allocations known before we started making commitments to any new investors.
This time around we were able to have the good problem of more investor interest than we could accomodate. Which meant the fundraising process was much more accelerated and fluid that in years past. In the midst of taking in commitments from existing investors and sorting out allocations for any new ones, a partner at a firm asked us to prepare a presentation for a meeting we had lined up to get final sign off from their entire partnership.
And that’s when it hit us- we didn’t have a pitch deck.
We were within 6 weeks of closing, had secured most of our commitments and had not put together an investor presentation.
The shock of that realization and scramble to pull something together, resulted in the above deck. Which I use here to highlight for the “anti pitch deck” crowd how lightweight an investor presentation can be and still remain effective. I called it our MVP- minimum viable pitch.
How I decided to frame the conversation with this presentation was as a review of what we said the last time we talked to investors for fund II, the progress we’d made since and what’s changing with fund III. Given how sparse the deck is, you can imagine that for every slide we had 2-4 stories from recent experiences in the general market or from our portfolio which brought home the points we wanted to make.
Despite its simplicity, the deck proved to be extremely effective for framing the conversation with both new and existing investors. It doesn’t hurt that we “brought it” or that those return numbers I removed were quite good by any industry standard.
Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you need me to clarify anything in the comments.