In his blog, Thinking on Thinking, Volition Capital Managing Partner, Larry Cheng, writes about how much he loves meeting with new companies. “To me,” he says, “it’s the oxygen of this business and the most energizing aspect of the job.”
The one thing that can take the energy right out of an introductory meeting? A 20-40 page company pitch deck that drags on and goes too far into the weeds.
At Volition, we lean toward more informal, conversational meetings, in which pitch slides are used to introduce various important topics, rather than claim an entire conversation.
Here are some things to consider when preparing for – and taking part in – your introductory investor meeting:
Think It Through
- Know Your Audience. Study the firm and its approach. For example, Volition is a growth equity investor that is geared toward companies with some revenue and customers rather than a pure start-up. Be aware of the investments they’ve made in the past so you can demonstrate how your company might fit with the same philosophy.
- Less is More. Don’t feel the need to address every possible sub-question with actual content on a slide. Make points cleanly. You can always talk to the details during the presentation. Overstuffing a slide isn’t helpful.
- Highlight Your Biggest Strengths First. If your management team is amazing, explain why. If financial performance is impressive, show the math. If you’ve got a breakthrough product, share a dazzling demo.
Create a Crisp Pitch Deck
Not all decks will be the same, but here’s a model for a concise, engaging 10-Slide Pitch Deck:
- The Problem Statement. This is the problem the company solves. What is the problem,
why is it such a high priority for whoever has it? Why must this problem to get solved? (Check out, “Pitching to Investors? Start with the Problem.”)
- How You Solve The Problem. This gets to what the company does. Why do you have unique knowledge of the problem, how do you solve the problem, and why is that a differentiated or defensible approach?
- The Customer. This gets to your specific target customer. The more detailed and segmented this target is, the more credible it will be. For example, it’s more compelling to say, “The chief compliance officer at hedge funds with $100M+ in assets” than “financial services companies”. Provide examples of actual customers. How many of those target customers actually have the problem you articulated?
- The Value to the Customer. This gets to the return on investment. How much does the customer have to pay (what is the pricing model), and why is it clearly worth it to them to pay it.
- Actual Use Cases. Now that you’ve established the problem, solution and value in concept – talk about it in reality. If there’s only one primary use case, given an example of a real customer with a prototypical use case. If there are 2 or 3 common use cases, offer examples.
- The Product. This can go anywhere in the presentation, but if it’s at this point in the presentation, your audience may be eager to see the product in action. A live demo is always best.
- Competitive Position. Who else out there is also trying to solve this problem, and why are you better positioned to succeed? Why are you going to win your segment? This is a great chance to talk about win-rates against the competition.
- Financial Overview. Share a simple slide with historical and projected (to the degree you have them) income statement, balance sheet, and cash flows. A couple of bullets on financing history and ownership breakdown are helpful.
- Other Key Metrics. This is your opportunity to highlight the data that you consider leading indicators for your business. Maybe it’s retention rate, lifetime value/CAC, upsell dynamics, customer or transactional growth, etc.
- Management Team. Who are the people behind this company? Don’t just put logos of past companies, but titles and roles, companies, and key achievements for each exec at their prior companies. Also worth noting if there are any key hires you want to make.
Be Flexible Once You’re in the Room
When the meeting starts, don’t simply march through your slide deck (even if it is great!). The conversation is the most important thing. Be flexible and human.
- Manage the Clock. If you have a 30-minute introductory meeting, you don’t want to spend the whole time “presenting” your deck. Have your 2-3 “key” slides ready to go and be ok skipping the rest.
- Read the Room. If it’s most comfortable to start with the deck, go for it. But, read the room, ask questions and be comfortable pivoting or changing topics completely. In an introductory meeting, you should be prepared to answer questions on-the-spot. Feel free to ask for time to circle back with answers if you need to, however.
Remember that you’re mission is to engage your audience, not simply to share facts. By weaving your vision and experiences into a compelling story, and responding to questions in real time, you’ll put your best foot forward and place your company in the best possible light.
Read Larry Cheng’s post on the most “Unbelievable” things he’s ever heard in a pitch meeting.