How to nail your first meeting with an investor

Elicia McDonald

Investment Associate at AirTree Ventures

Empower your champion. Jerry Maguire said it best — “Help me, Help you!”

Over the past quarter I’ve had over 200 meetings (that’s a lot of coffee!) and I’ve reviewed countless more pitch decks. So I wanted to share my learnings about how to prepare for your first meeting with an investor and what to expect.

The first person you meet in a venture fund will be the person you need to champion you internally. Don’t underestimate their influence on the investment decision. You need this coffee to turn into a term sheet and for that to happen, this person needs to love your business enough to fight for it. If you nail the first meeting, this person will become your champion. Empower them with the information they need to get buy in from the whole investment team. If you do that, you’ll get a second meeting.

Tips to consider before a first meeting:

Your time is precious

There are only so many hours in a day and as a founder you need to constantly balance competing priorities to decide how best to use your time. Before meeting with potential investors, review their website and do some background research to understand if they will be able to invest in your business now and/or in the future. When did they make their last investment? Do they invest in your stage business? Do they have experience in your business model/industry? Your time is your most precious resource. Use it wisely. Demonstrate that you value your time as well as ours and come to the meeting prepared.

Share your ‘why’

The first meeting with AirTree is normally a coffee catch up. No shark tank style panel! We’re keen to know your story and understand why you are best positioned to solve the problem you’ve identified. Tell us about your connection to the problem and why you’re passionate about solving it.

The basics

We love playing with a product or seeing a pitch deck prior to meeting a founder. When we already know the basics, we can spend our time together most effectively (see my point above about time being your most precious resource). And no, we will never share commercially sensitive information and we certainly won’t steal your idea. When we’re across the basics, we can focus on the key points that will determine your chances of securing an investment and we’ll be best prepared to champion you internally.

Demo your product

To the extent it’s possible, we love seeing product demos. We can learn more from a 5 minute product demo than a 50 page pitch deck. This will help us understand the depth of your technology and get a feel for why your customers love your product.

Know your metrics

In a first meeting there is no need to walk us through a polished pitch deck or your full financial model but you do need to know your key metrics. It’s ok to not have all the answers, we’re not looking for a perfect sales pitch. We know start ups are chaotic at the best of times but it’s important to be honest about your gaps and areas for improvement. These will eventually come out in diligence and it’s best to be upfront and honest from the start.

When you establish trust and authenticity in the first meeting, you’re kicking off the relationship in the right way. And if you empower your champion, this first meeting is much more likely to be the start of a long relationship between you and your investor.

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