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April 08, 2008

Hold the PowerPoint; Launch the Site

PowerPoint presentations won’t get you into the meeting room of most venture capitalists even though you may need a presentation once you get there. Working software that they can look at before they look at you, on the other hand, seems a great way to start. That’s the result of a very unscientific survey that I sent only to my favorite VCs.

What got me into this was looking at presentations entrepreneur friends were crafting for the dual use of getting an initial meeting and presenting at said meeting. After a while I realized that no one presentation can possibly be good for both standalone use and personal presentation. Standalone presentations are suspect to begin with; they have to be incredibly wordy to introduce a new idea and words don’t make good slides. On the other hand, presentations you deliver in person need to be very sparse with good graphics to SHOW what your words TELL: the shape of your projected hockey stick; the commanding lead you’ve built in the marketplace; the beauty of your website (but why not just show the site?).  If all the detail is on your slides, people won’t be listening to you.

So I said make the best presentation you can to deliver personally; DON’T email it; DON’T compromise by making it standalone. Then I began to wonder whether VCs REQUIRE a PowerPoint in advance. Haven’t pitched VCs myself for a while and things change so thought I’d better ask:

“As a VC, what do you expect to see from an entrepreneur whom you don’t know or have a casual introduction to before scheduling time to listen to a pitch?

“A one-pager? A complete pp? A classic business plan or a casual one?


“What’s the pre-pitch norm? what do you get? What do you want?”

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures answered:

“A working web site I can play with and engage with others on

“I am dead serious bout that

“Nothing else matters to me at the start of the discussion.”

That’s actually great news for us nerds. Wouldn’t you rather code up some cool AJAX and php than make a PowerPoint presentation? In the old days you needed serious money to get a website hosted but that’s simply not true anymore, especially at small scale.

Rob Shurtleff of Divergent Ventures is looking for the highlights:

“What I think is most useful is a very carefully crafted one page email overview. This should be more then an outline, but focus on the top level “why is this deal interesting” points.  Problem being solved, results to date, team, target raise.  Include links so the reader can dig if they are interested.

“I am looking to see if it pattern matches on prior deals, http://www.shurtleff.org/2008/venture-pattern-matching/. My buddies at Foundry look for deals that fit their theme, http://www.feld.com/blog/archives/2008/03/glue_our_sticky.html.  The bar for getting a meeting from a cold email is pretty high, most meetings come from our networks.  It is completely worth the time investment to try and figure out a personal connection with a partner or associate.

“We get a steady stream of unsolicited physical and email inbound pitches, the most annoying come with an NDA…   Almost all have more information then I want to read through…”

Making a good one-pager can be harder that a whole deck of slides – but it’s much more important. BTW, it should be a well-laid out graphic one-pager chock fill of information but NO mouse print allowed. Don’t miss Rob’s point on how much better it is to have an intro –even a distant one – than not.

Speaking of Foundry Group and Brad Feld,  he not only answered me in email but immediately posted the question and his answer on Ask The VC. You can follow the link there to see all of it but here’s an excerpt:

“While everyone is a little different, I'm pretty simple.  Optimally, I'd like something to play around with (e.g. a simple web site or software demo / prototype.) ….I have no interest in seeing a business plan or a financial model for an early stage company pre first pitch.”

Good luck.

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