What’s the best way to pitch your company to investors?

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Early startup pitches are like movie pitches, not business pitches — Medium

An early startup pitch might be more like a movie pitch than a business pitch. Early startup investors might be more like Hollywood movie producers or A&R people in music — listening to the tape! — than they are like Actual Businesspeople. The best ones just know what a few bars of good jazz sound like when they hear it.

What’s the best way to manage your board?

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, The trust thing

The investor-founder relationship is, by nature, out of balance. Founders are devoted to the most important (work) project of their lives; investors have the luxury of more than one such project at a time. Founders can do incredibly well personally, under circumstances where the investors may do fine though not great. Founders know much more about their company, investors know a little more about what’s happening elsewhere in the world (maybe).

What’s the best way to get introductions to investors?

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Introductions and the “forward intro email”

A good forward intro email: 1. Says why you want to be introduced. 2. Includes its own context — enough about you or your startup so that the receiver understands what’s being asked. Always helpful if it includes what’s special about your startup, increases the likelihood the person will want to meet you. Attach a file if you think it makes sense (a deck, longer summary, screenshot). 3. Uses only as many words as you need — the receiver is going … (read more)

What’s the best way to create your pitch deck and demo?

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Why Most Demos Confuse

Demoing a product by starting with the home page (or, actually, starting anywhere on the website or in the app) is like a realtor showing you a house starting in the living room… Consider, instead, walking through the front door — having come from somewhere, paid attention to the neighborhood, the cars on the street, the front porch. Start with the first moment a user might learn of your product — maybe it’s an email invite, or a text from a frie… (read more)

What’s the best way to pitch your company to investors?

Aaron Levie (CEO of Box)
Aaron Levie (@levie) | Twitter

Sizing the market for a disruptor based on an incumbent’s market is like sizing the car industry off how many horses there were in 1910.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Startup financing is not a popularity contest; everyone saying yes is irrelevant to you. It’s more important to have the right person say yes than it is to have everyone say yes.

Tim Jackson (‎General Partner at Lean Investments)
Investment Swarm with Tim Jackson at Hive53.com – YouTube

Team: how good? Traction: how fast? Market: how big? Barriers: how high? and then… Why did this deal come to me? How can I help?

Rob Go (Co-Founder and Partner at NextView Ventures)
Why The Series B is the “Sucker Round” – ROBGO.ORG

In the seed and Series A, you are selling promise and some execution. In growth rounds, you are selling something that already “works”. You are selling a marketing machine, and the ability to “put in 1 dollar and get out 2″. In between, you are selling a hybrid of both, and that isn’t easy.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
What happened to innovation? – Sam Altman

A two-by-two matrix of progress in innovation (and ease of attracting investment) with software/physical on one axis and short-term/long-term on the other axis looks like this. Green is good, yellow is ok, and red is bad. https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/948806/gd5P6SxQ7LcBL_LP4XtEtlK9Jx4/medium_matrix.png

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Just make an affirmative statement about what you do and why it’s important. SpaceX has a great elevator pitch: “Launch costs haven’t come down in decades. We slash them by 90%. The market is $XXbn.” (Contrast this with: “We’re NASA meets Toyota!”)

Anthony Lee ( Managing Director of Altos Ventures, Marketing @ Evolve Software (acquired), McKinsey)
Why Big, Why Now, Why You? – Altos Ventures

Specifically, there are “3 Whys” that I want to see in every pitch: WHY BIG? WHY NOW? WHY YOU? On Why Now? — this is one that entrepreneurs almost always miss and so it is one that I have come to feel is the most critical. So much of startup success is dictated by good timing

Kris Duggan (CEO and Founder at BetterWorks)
The Second-Timers: Kris Duggan of Betterworks: “This Time, I Generated Leads Before We Even Launched” | SaaStr

If you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money. I spend 10x more of my time on customers than investors. For example, we don’t have an investor deck here at BetterWorks. If a potential investor wants to talk, I show them our sales deck so they know how we talk with prospects. Thinking that way makes me remember to stop ‘pitching’ and keep listening.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

When pitching a VC, you need to have at your command the macro stats for the industry, because that is how they compare your problem with another idea that someone else is pitching. Intuitions are not enough to make the comparison, and for the partner to pitch his/her colleagues – there needs to be some market data about the size of the market etc.

Ben Yoskovitz (VP Product at VarageSale, VP Product at GoInstant (acquired by Salesforce), Author of Lean Analytics)
“No Marketing” Isn’t as Impressive as You Think

Marketing is learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not making progress. Don’t tell investors that your traction is “without any marketing” because that just means it’s not repeatable and scalable.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
My Golden Rule for Pitching Your Startup or Product

There’s a simple rule I use when pitching a product or even a company to someone. I call it No “and”s. You have to be able to describe your idea in a single sentence without using the word “and. ” The problem with using “and”s is that they often confuse ideas instead of clarifying them.

Alfred Lin (Partner at Sequoia Capital, Former CFO/COO Zappos)
How to Convince Investors

It’s doubly important for the explanation of a startup to be clear and concise, because it has to convince at one remove: it has to work not just on the partner you talk to, but when that partner re-tells it to colleagues.

David Beisel (Co-Founder & Partner at NextView Ventures)
Never Raising Capital Ever Again – GenuineVC

Capital fundraising is to facilitate growth ahead of cash flows generated by the business. If there is truly a huge venture-scale opportunity ahead of a startup, there should be an appropriate cost of capital for future financings to expand which make sense for the company. … perhaps in many cases the desire for the Seed round to be the final round of financing is a tacit signal that it doesn’t have the potential to be “venture scale” after all.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
3 Startup Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

You can only raise money by pitching the “Dream” or by selling “Traction”. So either bootstrap your startup, or raise money in the early “dream” (no code, no plan, just a dream) phase or in the “traction” (the model is working) phase of your business.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Pitching to investors: What truly excites you? | A Founder’s Notebook

A pitch to investors doesn’t need to be an exhaustive overview of your business. You need to get investors excited, and you can then follow up with details. And what gets investors excited is probably what gets you excited.

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Five Mistakes New VCs Make (& How I Tried to Avoid Them) | Hunter Walk

New VCs are vulnerable to fashionable verticals. What are some motivations to chase the market? Groupthink certainly; high volume of new companies in these spaces; perceived appetite for these companies from downstream investors mean you can get some quick markups over next 12 months.

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

You should be able to tell your whole story, in a compelling and detailed fashion, in just 20 minutes. This will almost always expand to fill the hour… At the same time, you want to have hours and hours of nerdy details squirreled away in your head.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Black Swan Farming

The two most important things to understand about startup investing, as a business, are (1) that effectively all the returns are concentrated in a few big winners, and (2) that the best ideas look initially like bad ideas.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

The general rule is one business model drives the business. It’s tempting to list multiple revenue streams because you’re trying to prove that you will be big. Yet when consumer internet companies do this, investors generally see a red flag.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Pitch by analogy. Show, don’t tell. Again, your pitching goals are to increase investors’ confidence in your investment thesis and lead them to a shared view of your company’s problems. To accomplish this, you should show rather than tell whenever possible.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Understand where analogies apply and where they do not. Pitch by analogy but don’t necessarily reason by analogy. When I’m the investor listening to a pitch, one detail I consider is whether the entrepreneur is being too deluded by their analogies and not thinking hard enough about exception cases. It’s better to have no analogy than a bad one.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

When pitching by analogy, anchor your business to other valuable businesses to signal that your business will be valuable, too

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Avoid debating the validity of your analogies. If someone pushes back and tries to challenge elements of an analogy, don’t let yourself get drawn into a back and forth. Analogies are a conceptual framework, so they’re not going to be 100% accurate.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Express your competitive advantage. Why are you going to break out of the pack? What is your advantage? An understanding of product-market fit? Is it a technology advantage? What’s your differential business strategy? Your differential growth strategy? Your differential product?

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Show some maneuverability. Don’t just say that you have five different options. Instead, say that you’re doing one, but you also have some fall-back or maneuvering options.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Ultimately, you’re selling the partnership, so give the individual partner the talking points to be successful. What will that partner tell their partners? Put yourself in their shoes.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

When in doubt, lead with what will make the most sense to investors.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Underpromise and overdeliver. Internally, our team expected that paid members would potentially get access to the whole network, but we had to make sure that the network would be comfortable with this. So we showed four degrees [of seperation] to our investors, to be sure.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Be wary of adjectives and especially adverbs. Anytime you use qualifiers like “very”, you’re overstating your point, which shows that you’re nervous about it. When I’m being pitched as an investor and I see such qualifiers, I make sure to ask questions about those areas because I know the entrepreneur is most nervous about them. It’s okay to be hyperbolic, to be aggressive, to be visionary [but] avoid adverbs and adjectives when possible.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

Explain to them why you are unique (if you are in a larger market). In essence, why did everyone else pass on you?

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Tell a story – and try to do it first without relying on your deck. People like stories. Our brains are wired to respond them. We recall facts better when they are embedded in narrative. Why did you start your company? What do you want to achieve? Then drape the facts around that skeleton.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
This For That – AVC

We’ve made a few of these investments and some of them have worked out pretty well.Edmodo is Facebook for classrooms. SoundCloud is YouTube for audio.
If you are going to do a “this for that” investment, the first thing you need to make sure is the iconic company (this) is not going to go after this other market (that) themselves. Then you need to make sure the other market (that) is very large. And finally, you need to make sure that the founde… (read more)

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Early startup pitches are like movie pitches, not business pitches — Medium

An early startup pitch might be more like a movie pitch than a business pitch. Early startup investors might be more like Hollywood movie producers or A&R people in music — listening to the tape! — than they are like Actual Businesspeople. The best ones just know what a few bars of good jazz sound like when they hear it.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

One of the most important things to understand is that, like all people, VCs are different people at different times of day. It helps to pitch as early as possible in the day. This is not a throwaway point. Disregard it at your peril

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

The standard format is stringing together a few well-known products and services that you sort of resemble: “We are Instagram meets TaskRabbit meets Craigslist.” You should reject the standard format.

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Don’t pitch from the defensive & don’t start by apologizing

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Framing matters a LOT (seed round vs seed extension)

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
What I Wish I Knew Before Pitching LinkedIn to VCs | Greylock Partners

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Talk to your network to evaluate your ideas and evaluate your pitch. The questions you should always ask are: What’s wrong? What’s broken? Why won’t it work? What do you think the risks are? People by default will want to give you good feedback rather than bad, so you have to ask negative questions.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Take competition against your potential revenue streams seriously. Being detailed about your competition, especially listing the specific companies, helps increase investor confidence.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Be decisive and ship. Including specific dates, for example, shows decisiveness. Being decisive doesn’t mean that you have to stick with your decisions. Good investors expect you to iterate often as you figure out what product will grow your market.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

VC’s don’t fund mobile app companies anymore. The reason is it’s impossible to get distribution through the iPhone app store or Google Play.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

VCs are looking for the ten-year level of discourse, rather than the six month level of discourse. Being in an investor meeting is actually the one environment where you can let you imagination rip

What’s the best way to manage your board?

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Asking your VCs questions | A Founder’s Notebook

I sent our board members 5 questions [after the meeting]: What was your overall reaction to our board meeting? What are the biggest factors holding us back? What blind spots (if any) do you think we have as a company? What is your top piece of advice for us? How do you think you can add the most value to [the company] between now and the next board meeting?

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
What Makes For The Most Productive Management-VC Partnership? – AVC

My number one suggestion is frequent face to face communication. If you can’t do face to face, then I suggest hangouts or skype. And do it regularly. Make it a routine. I have breakfast every two weeks with quite a few of the entrepreneurs I work with.

Jim Whitehurst (CEO at Red Hat, former COO of Delta Airlines)
How to Establish a Great Relationship With Your Board | Inc.com

One-to-one and two-to-one discussions are often where you can really gain knowledge and value… Try to interact three times as much with your board outside of the formal meetings as you do during formal meetings.

Boris Wertz (Founder of version one ventures)
The investor’s role in a founder’s three key priorities – Version One

The best investors are instrumental in helping founders recruit the perfect team. An investor should serve as a critical sounding board during strategy discussions… In those discussions, the best investors are great listeners and rather ask the right questions than provide all of the answers. Great investors have a large network to pull from and make very specific introductions.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Board Members – Sam Altman

Board members are very useful in helping founders think big and hire executives. Board members are also a good forcing function to keep the company focused on execution. In my experience, companies without any outsiders on their boards often have less discipline around operational cadence. As a side note, bad board members are disastrous. You should check references thoroughly on someone before you let them join your board.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
What Makes For The Most Productive Management-VC Partnership? – AVC

Once you’ve signed the documents and started working together, my number one suggestion is frequent face to face communication. If you can’t do face to face, then I suggest hangouts or skype. And do it regularly. Make it a routine. I have breakfast every two weeks with quite a few of the entrepreneurs I work with. For those who get up late, we do afternoon meetings or hangouts.
Email is great for information sharing. But for building a relations… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
What Makes For The Most Productive Management-VC Partnership? – AVC

Which leads me to my third suggestion. Do not ever act like the entreprenur works for you. Because they don’t. If anything, the VC works for the entrepreneur. So the relationship must be as peers who respect each other and are working together to get to the right anwers. This is a partnership not a boss/subordinate relationship.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
VC pitfalls to watch for: trying to fix companies | A Founder’s Notebook

You don’t want investors who think their role is to enlighten you or fix your company.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Entrepreneurs Have Control When Things Work, VCs Have Control When They Don’t – AVC

An entrepreneur or hired CEO can own as little as 5-10% of a Company but they can control it like a dictator if they are doing a great job running the business and the company is making a lot of cash flow and has no need for additional capital. An entrepreneur can control 95% of a company and all the seats on the board but they can easily lose control of the business if they company is floundering and they need more money and the only investors w… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Onboard Your Board – AVC

When you put someone new on your board, ask that person to spend a day or two at your company. Set up “one on ones” with your entire senior team, have them attend an all hands, have them sit in on the weekly management meeting, and spend some quality time with them (dinner?) during this process. That will help your new board members immensely. They will be “up to speed” on the business from the very first board meeting instead of having to spend … (read more)

Ryan Howard (Founder @ Practice Fusion)
Transcript: Protecting yourself as the founder; Ryan Howard | VatorNews

A great lawyer can assist you in managing your board. When you think about your attorney, a great attorney, one I’ve used in the past and I’m using again right now, his name is Eldon Satusky, he’s at Wilson Sonsini, he spends half of his life in board meetings. He’s an expert on this. Leverage that expertise. A great attorney should be a strategic asset in managing your board. They should be able to give you a pulse on how the board’s feeling, wh… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Losing The Team – AVC

Boards can be pretty patient. They can put up with a lot of failings, particularly in the early days of a startup when the product isn’t where it needs to be. But one thing a Board cannot tolerate is when a CEO loses the confidence of the team. If I think about the times I have had to remove a CEO, by far the most common reason was the loss of confidence of the team in the CEO. You get the call from one of the senior team members.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Committees – AVC

The Board is required to provide oversight on the Company’s financial statements, the Company’s compensation plans, and the ongoing maintenance of the Board.
As such when a Board gets big enough to justify them, it makes sense to create committees of the Board to deal with these specific responsibilities. A good question to start with is “when is a Board big enough to need committees?”. A three person Board should not have committees. The Board … (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Meetings – AVC

I’m a particular fan of the twice a quarter Board meeting. The idea is to have one meeting mid quarter and one meeting after the quarter has been completed. A lot of public companies use this format since the Board needs to review the quarterly numbers before they are reported to the public. I think eight meetings a year is a great heartbeat for a Board and this schedule works well for all kinds of companies.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Meetings – AVC

I prefer that the Board get all “official business” out of the way at the start of the meeting so that the meeting doesn’t have to get cut short to approve stock options, minutes, or some other important but perfunctory Board resolution.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Meetings – AVC

Board meetings should last two to three hours. I think two hours is too short. But more than three hours of intense discussion will turn most brains to mush. So you can’t go on too long either.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Meetings – AVC

There are a few techniques that I’ve observed over the years that I like a lot. The first is that the Board deck should be sent out three or four days in advance and it should include all the important financial and operational results for the Board to consume in advance of the meeting.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Meetings – AVC

Possibly the most important technique I’ve observed over the years is the executive session at the end of the meeting. This is when the Board meets without the CEO and team in the room and has a discussion of the meeting and what the key takeaways are. The executive session can be five minutes or it can be a half hour. Sometimes there is very little to discuss in executive session. Sometimes there is a lot. After the executive session ends, the C… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Chemistry – AVC

When you are building a Board, you must think about chemistry as much as you think about it when you hire a team. You want to have a Board that can work well together.
And you need to invest in chemistry after you’ve assembled your Board. I like regular Board dinners before or after the meetings. There is nothing like breaking bread and having a beer or a glass of wine to get folks to relax and connect.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Board Chemistry – AVC

Sometimes you will have a Director (or two) that just doesn’t fit in. Unless that Director has a contractual right to their seat (usually as a result of investment) or brings a critically important skill set to the Board, you should seek to remove that person from the Board and replace them with someone with similar skills who will fit in better.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors – The Board Chair – AVC

It is common for the founder/CEO to also be the Board Chair. I am not a fan of this. I think the Chair should be an independent director who takes on the role of helping the CEO manage the Board. The CEO runs the business, but it is not ideal for the CEO to also have to run the Board. A Chair who can work closely with the CEO and help them stay in sync with the Board and get value out of a Board is really valuable and CEOs should be eager to have… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors – Selecting, Electing & Evolving – AVC

When the founder loses control of the company (usually by selling a majority of the stock to investors), it does not mean the investors should control the Board. In fact, I would argue that an investor controlled Board is the worst possible situation. Investors usually have a narrow set of interests that involve how much money they are going to make (or lose) on their investment. It is the rare investor who takes a broader and more holistic view … (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Board Leadership – AVC

If you are not getting what you want out of your board, or worse if your board is causing trouble for you and your company, consider addressing the board leadership question. There is nothing worse than a collection of strong minded people who don’t agree with each other all telling you what to do and pulling you in multiple and opposing directions. If that feels like what is going on with your board, you need to find someone on the board to step… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Board Leadership – AVC

The leader of the Board should help you set the agenda of the board meetings. They should help you decide what is important to talk about at the meetings and what is not. They should help you get through the meeting on time and cover everything that needs to be covered. They should make sure the most important topics get the most air time. And they should make sure that everyone who wants to say things get to say them without taking over the meet… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Anxious Investors – AVC

Here are a few suggestions for managing anxious investors: 1) Increase the frequency and duration of the communication. There is nothing that amplifies anxiety like a lack of communication. 2) Have a frank and candid conversation with your investors about the source of their anxiety. 3) Get more face time with the rest of an investor’s firm. 4) Get some independent directors on your board. 5) Fix the problems in your business. Nothing helps to re… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Board Of Directors: Role and Responsibilities – AVC

Boards should not be controlled by the founder, the CEO, or the largest shareholder. For a Board to do its job, it must represent all stakeholders’ interests, not just one stakeholder’s interest.

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, The trust thing

The investor-founder relationship is, by nature, out of balance. Founders are devoted to the most important (work) project of their lives; investors have the luxury of more than one such project at a time. Founders can do incredibly well personally, under circumstances where the investors may do fine though not great. Founders know much more about their company, investors know a little more about what’s happening elsewhere in the world (maybe).

Evan Schumacher (CEO of Going)
Tips for Startup CEOs

Every Friday have all your direct reports submit a “weekly update” one page or less focusing on progress against metrics, key accomplishments for the past week and summary of what’s on deck for the next week. Then, aggregate/consolidate/summarize those updates, add CEO level stuff, and forward to your board on Sunday night

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Investors, VCs and product advice | A Founder’s Notebook

VCs add a ton of value, but not as product managers.

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Most investor advice is very good for optimizing and scaling a working business. Listen to it. Most investor advice isn’t very good for building a magical product. Nobody can help you build a magical product — that’s your job.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
VCs aren’t product managers | A Founder’s Notebook

VCs opinions about product shouldn’t have board member weight, but should be treated with the same weight as feedback from other committed users.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Great Entrepreneurs Will Listen To You But Will Follow Their Own Instincts – AVC

Most of the time the entrepreneur will have a better feel for their product vision than the VC will. But there are times when what the entrepreneur is doing is not working and the VC will have to figure out how to get the entrepreneur to see that. I have learned to trust the entrepreneurs instincts until it is very clear I should not. Finding that line is art and not science and takes a lot of experience. And I still get it wrong from time to tim… (read more)

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

Do a 20 minute google hangout catchup once a week with the investor [if they are not in your market]

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
For SaaS startups — how to avoid increasing costs inefficiently and prematurely | A Founder’s Notebook

A frequent VC error is to push companies to scale prematurely. If VCs want the money they put into a company to be deployed immediately and aggressively, and they have no experience of how to measure product quality, VCs may push to add sales people before the product is good enough.

What’s the best way to get introductions to investors?

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Founder Showcase – Mark Suster Keynote on Vimeo

I like to say, in the era of social networks if you can’t figure out how to get access to a VC hang up your cleats now. You’re done. Game over. You don’t pass the IQ test.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

No senior VC needs to do your investment. You should never forget that. Any senior VC that you’re talking to is already wealthy and has many famous deals to show for it.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Tactically, the first thing to do is find someone who does need to make investments. That can mean finding a senior associate or a principal for your first pitch, not a senior partner. This contravenes the conventional wisdom that holds that you should not to pitch junior people.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Another route you could take is the cold pitch. It’s very simple: You just e-mail your deck to submissions@givenVC.com or call their main line. The only problem with this route is that it has an almost zero percent chance of working. Your pitch will be ignored upon receipt.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

TechCrunch has to run 20 stories a day. Let one of them be about you. If you do it right, VCs might actually approach you. And you won’t have to engineer an aggressive press strategy come product launch.

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Introductions and the “forward intro email”

A good forward intro email: 1. Says why you want to be introduced. 2. Includes its own context — enough about you or your startup so that the receiver understands what’s being asked. Always helpful if it includes what’s special about your startup, increases the likelihood the person will want to meet you. Attach a file if you think it makes sense (a deck, longer summary, screenshot). 3. Uses only as many words as you need — the receiver is going … (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Before you can talk to investors, you have to be introduced to them. The best type of intro is from a well-known investor who has just invested in you. So when you get an investor to commit, ask them to introduce you to other investors they respect. The next best type of intro is from a founder of a company they’ve funded. You can also get intros from other people in the startup community, like lawyers and reporters.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Should You Introduce Yourself To Me At A Bar? – AVC

I would suggest you walk up to the VC, say “I saw your talk today. It was great. My name is Jane Doe and I’d love to find a suitable time to tell you what I’m working on. I’ll send you an email to follow up. It’s a real pleasure to meet you.” Then make a polite departure.

What’s the best way to create your pitch deck and demo?

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

While it’s important to think carefully about your future, don’t think too far into the future. You will change, the world will change, and the competitive landscape will change. It is useful, however, to have a strategic direction supported by confident projections.

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Why Most Demos Confuse

Demoing a product by starting with the home page (or, actually, starting anywhere on the website or in the app) is like a realtor showing you a house starting in the living room… Consider, instead, walking through the front door — having come from somewhere, paid attention to the neighborhood, the cars on the street, the front porch. Start with the first moment a user might learn of your product — maybe it’s an email invite, or a text from a frie… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Traditionally [early] fundraising consists of presenting a slide deck in person to investors. Sequoia describes what such a deck should contain, and since they’re the customer you can take their word for it. (https://www. sequoiacap. com/article/elements-of-enduring-companies/ and https://www. sequoiacap. com/article/writing-a-business-plan/)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

You’ll also want an executive summary, which should be no more than a page long and describe in the most matter of fact language what you plan to do, why it’s a good idea, and what progress you’ve made so far. The point of the summary is to remind the investor (who may have met many startups that day) what you talked about.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Assume that if you give someone a copy of your deck or executive summary, it will be passed on to whoever you’d least like to have it. But don’t refuse on that account to give copies to investors you meet. You just have to treat such leaks as a cost of doing business. In practice it’s not that high a cost.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Raise Money

Sometimes an investor will ask you to send them your deck and/or executive summary before they decide whether to meet with you. I wouldn’t do that. It’s a sign they’re not really interested.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Customer slides are more appropriate for enterprise pitches. Great customers are predictive of future customers for enterprise businesses. On the consumer internet, however, this is a sign of trouble because it indicates that the entrepreneur may not understand how the consumer internet works.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

It’s always better to have less slides, but it’s much more important to have a great deck. Don’t stress about the exact number of slides. Entrepreneurs often hear advice that their decks should be a particular length. I, for example, recommend a length of 20 to 25 slides. But these are only rules of thumb, which means you can violate them if you have a good reason.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

It’s helpful (but not mandatory) to put your thesis in each of the titles. If an investor sequenced through the titles, they’d be able to get a sense of the flow of the argument. This is especially helpful when investors are sharing the decks with their investment partners.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Show a focus on bottom-up tactics for your strategy. And show that you’re focused on the metrics that matter: revenue numbers, engagement traction, etc. [Total addressible market] slides quote people who have incentives for artificial inflation, so entrepreneurs risk demonstrating that they have no real sense of how to take dominance of the market.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Have reasonable numbers and assumptions that can pass the blink test during the pitch. Investors want to make a quick assessment that you have an intelligent view of the model of your business, and they know those assumptions can later be validated by due diligence. You don’t want investors to fixate on claims that appear crazy.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

One common mistake is putting the team slide early in the deck. The team behind your idea is critical, but don’t open with that. Instead, open with the investment thesis. Persuade investors that your investment thesis is intriguing, then show who can make it happen.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Does It Tell A Story? – AVC

Too many decks (and pitches) are full of facts and figures but lack a cohesive narrative that makes them compelling. Dressing the deck up with beautiful visuals can help, but even if you do that and you don’t “tell a story” you are not putting your best foot forward

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why your startup needs a visual message | A Founder’s Notebook

Your startup needs a visual message. Create visual metaphors that stick in peoples minds and are easily repeated.

Jason Calacanis (CEO of Inside.com, Formerly “Entrepreneur in Action” at Sequoia Capital)
How To Demo Your Startup | TechCrunch

Show your product within the first 60 seconds. Most folks start their presentations with information like the size of the market they are tackling. The longer it takes for you to show your product, the worse your product is. The best products take less than five minutes to demo. The better the product the LESS time it takes to demo. If your product demo takes more than five minutes to demo, it probably sucks. Talk about what you’ve done, not what… (read more)

Jason Calacanis (CEO of Inside.com, Formerly “Entrepreneur in Action” at Sequoia Capital)
How To Demo Your Startup | TechCrunch

Bullet points of obvious facts show that: a) you don’t have the ability to create a compelling story with data b) you don’t think that much of the person being presented the information

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

When you design your presentation, you want to make sure to emphasize the points that will drive people to the conviction that they should back your idea. If you believe the market opportunity is the most compelling thing you have to share, spend more time on it. If you believe the strength of your team is unmatched, take the time to dive into their bios and experience

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Open with your investment thesis, what prospective investors must believe in order to want to be shareholders of your company. Your first slide should articulate the investment thesis in generally 3 to 8 bullet points. Then, spend the rest of the pitch backing up those claims and increasing investors’ confidence in your investment thesis

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

You should end on a slide that you want people to be paying attention to. A placeholder slide that says only “Appendix” or “Q&A” is never that. Instead, close with your investment thesis.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

I now believe you should begin and end with the investment thesis. The beginning is when you have the most attention, and the end is when you should return to the most fundamental topic to discuss with your investors.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

If you anticipate serious questions from the kinds of investors you want, preparing appendix slides with structured answers is impressive, showing that you’ve considered all of your business’ challenges, opportunities, and comparisons. Appendix content typically fall under two categories: providing additional information or addressing objections.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Reinforce key concepts when delivering a concept pitch. Diagrams are one way to accomplish this, helping investors visualize key concepts. In our pitch, we [LinkedIn] wanted to make sure investors understood that you build the network first and then you can build a platform of businesses on top.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Show your product rather than saying you intend to build a best-of-breed product. Ideally, you want to have the product built. Otherwise, you should show what you have in mind with a mockup.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Pre-Product Phase – AVC

One of my big weaknesses as an early stage investor is my eyes glaze over at wireframes, design sketches, photoshop screens, and prose that describes a product. Until I can get my hands on it and use it, I have an incredibly difficult time imagining what the thing is.
For that reason, I prefer working on projects that are designed in code as opposed to paper, photoshop, or some other tool.

What’s the best way to ask for a meeting?

Aaron White (Former technology entrepreneur and Co-founder of Boundless)
Want a Coffee? A Brief Guide for Neophytes | Aaron White

When reaching out to ask for a coffee meeting, be immensely specific about why you want to meet, and what you hope to get out if it. The more specific you are, the more value you’ll get from your potential coffee-partner. If you communicate a clear possible path for the conversation, coffee partners who can’t provide value will self-select out, but even then if your ask is clear, it will make it so much easier for them to forward you to the right… (read more)

Scott Britton (Co-Founder of Troops)
How To Ask Someone For a Coffee Meeting

[to send a good email …] 1. Intro context: Give the reader context of who you are and how you found them. It’s always beneficial if the context of how you “found” them demonstrates support, eg. reading their blog. 2. Specific context why you’re reaching out. 3. Recognition that they’re giving you their time: When you signal to them that you acknowledge their time is very limited and valuable, they appreciate it. It indicates that you recognize … (read more)

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Also, Introductions and the “forward intro email”

A good forward intro email: 1. Says why you want to be introduced. 2. Includes its own context — enough about you or your startup so that the receiver understands what’s being asked. Always helpful if it includes what’s special about your startup, increases the likelihood the person will want to meet you. Attach a file if you think it makes sense (a deck, longer summary, screenshot). 3. Uses only as many words as you need — the receiver is going … (read more)