This new podcast lets you invest in early-stage startups
Last June we featured The Pitch on BetaList. A new podcast where entrepreneurs pitch to a jury of investors on why they should back their startup and you get to listen in, and perhaps even invest.
The Pitch officially launched today and so we thought it would be a good time to interview founders Josh Muccio (previously at iHeart Repair, and podcast host at the Daily Hunt) and Sheel Mohnot (active angel investor) about where the idea came from, what their plans are, and how The Pitch will enable you to invest in up-and-coming internet startups.
Tell me about the beginning. How did it all start?
Sheel: I was watching Shark Tank and wanted to invest in one of the companies featured. Around the same time, I was enjoying listening to the Startup podcast and an idea clicked, and it became ‘The Pitch.’
Josh: I was skeptical at first, and forwarded that email to a few other people to see if they knew anything about Sheel haha. It was a totally cold email so I wasn’t sure if this guy was legit or not.
After receiving that initial email from Sheel, we scheduled a call the following week. I remember two things about that initial call, Sheel talked about my “perfect” voice for radio for the first two minutes of the call (totally blowing smoke I’m sure). We chatted for about 30 minutes and decided to move forward with the idea of working together. Over the next few months we kept getting rejected by founders who wanted Sheel’s money, but didn’t want to broadcast their pitch on our podcast.
We almost gave up on the idea about two months into it, but then on the 13th of May, I connected with Harry Stebbings (host of The Twenty Minute VC) for the first time, when he pitched me on the idea of starting a podcast called The Pitch. Harry, not knowing that we had stalled out on the exact thing he was describing, was the catalyst that helped spur me to not give up on the idea.
So on the 13th of May, I started talking to everyone I knew about the idea. I was surprised by how excited everyone was about the idea.
Literally everyone I talked to about it wanted to help out in some way.
So we started working on the design of the website with the help of Cat Noone, posted the project on BetaList, and then began work on episode 1 of The Pitch.
At the last minute, while Sheel and me were networking with other angel investors and VC’s with the hopes that they would support the show; I decided to head out to San Francisco to spend a week putting together the final pieces. Episodes 0, 1, & 2 were all recorded during that week. Episode 0 titled ‘Why The Pitch’ was recorded in the car while we were driving up to Kleiner Perkins on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park to pitch The Pitch to a partner there named Randy Komisar.
You recently released the first episode.
What has the feedback been like so far?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with over 40 reviews in just 2 weeks of being on iTunes. People have described the show as well paced, fun, and educational. Investors seem to want the show to be longer, and cover more details of the startup, while founders and casual listeners say that what they love most about the show is that it shines the light on something that traditionally only happens behind closed doors.
There are pitches from founders plastered all over the internet, but the feedback (the conversation) from investors after hearing the pitch is what’s most interesting and can help other founders learn the most. So we’re having to work hard to strike the right balance between what founders want to hear and what the investors find most useful in evaluating startups. We’ve got some exciting new stuff coming that people can look forward to hearing in upcoming episodes.
How do you get much sought after investors like Dave McClure involved in a new project like this?
It’s tough, for sure. Investors are very, VERY busy people. And to them, a podcast appearance is optional. Whereas working with their own deal flow is required. So it requires a lot of persistence and plenty of rejections as well. We were honored to have Dave McClure as a part of our pilot episode.
What’s in it for the investors? Both listening and on the panel.
Don’t they get enough deal flow already?
There are a couple of reasons investors want to be on the panel:
- Brand. In these crazy times there is a lot of competition to get into the best deals. Founders give access to investors they have heard of.
- Deal Flow. Getting quality deal flow is important for investors, and most investors want better deal flow, especially most angel investors.
Those listening in obviously don’t get the brand benefit, but do get the deal flow. We’ve talked to a lot of investors who are excited about that.
Can we expect to see real investments happening on the podcast like on the TV show Shark Tank?
Yes, real investments will happen between founders and guest investors/panel members. It’s likely that the details will be worked out after a podcast airs, but a portion of each show is dedicated to following up with prior startups to hear about what happened after coming on the podcast.
Not giving too much away for the follow on episode, but Sheel actually invested in Chameleon, the first company featured on The Pitch!
Speaking of Shark Tank, was there anything you learned from the TV show that you’re applying to your podcast?
That the most interesting pitches are not always the most investable. Shark Tank, like any reality TV show, will bring on participants that are entertaining but not a serious contender. Just like how the show American Idol often showcases some of the worst singers because it evokes a response from viewers. We’ve decided not to go that route for The Pitch. While we want entertaining pitches on the show, we aren’t going to sacrifice the quality of startups we bring on the show just for entertainment value. Our goal is to bring on startups that strike just the right balance of entertainment and investability.
Who’s the audience for The Pitch?
Is it primarily aimed at the startup community, or are you hoping to expand to a wider audience like Shark Tank?
We are hoping for a wider audience, but our goal is to cater to investors and founders first. It’s important to us that this show be as real a representation of what happens between founders and investors as possible. It’s a fact that two-thirds of the “deals” that happen on Shark Tank will never actually result in a real partnership. We want real investments to happen as a result of founders pitching on our show. Whether that happens between the investors we have on the show or the investors who tune into our show doesn’t matter to us. We just want deals to happen!
How do you plan to monetize the podcast?
We have some interesting ideas on how we could monetize the show, including sponsorships from the right companies that fit our listeners. What we find most interesting about the future of the show, is what happens when the JOBS act fully goes into effect in 2016. We feel that AngelList in particular is poised to be at the center of this change, but as a show we’d like to help the countless new investors who will become accredited under the new legislation. We see a unique opportunity to allow listeners to invest in the startups they find interesting on our show via our AngelList syndicate.
What are your plans for The Pitch?
We have some interesting ideas on how we could monetize the show, including sponsorships from the right companies that fit our listeners. Mattermark might want to reach our VC listeners, and Mixpanel might want to reach our startup listeners, for example.
What we find most interesting about the future of the show, is what happens when the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) act fully goes into effect in 2016. For those of you who aren’t familiar, in the U.S. up until now, startup investing has been by law limited to those who either 1) have a net worth of over $1m excluding their home, or 2) earned an income over >$200k each of the past 2 years. The JOBS act (signed in 2012 but not fully in effect yet) allows equity crowdfunding, and will theoretically allow anyone (no need to be accredited) to invest a small amount of money in startups. We think this is a huge opportunity for the average person to be able to invest in startups.
We feel that AngelList in particular is poised to be at the center of this change, but as a show we’d like to help the countless new investors who will become accredited under the new legislation. We see a unique opportunity to allow listeners to invest in the startups they find interesting on our show via our AngelList syndicate.
If someone wants to pitch their startup on The Pitch,
what should they do?
We take a look at a lot of factors when selecting a startup, including how we first heard about them. Typically, a startup that is recommended to us by another investor we know will get first priority in terms of eyeballs and consideration for the show. But for most startups, the best way to apply is by going to ThePitch.fm and clicking the “Apply to pitch” button in the top right corner.
If I’m an investor looking to possibly invest in the startups featured on The Pitch, what should I do?
We’ve got a button on ThePitch.vc titled “Join as investor”. We share extra information about our featured startups that investors will find helpful in determining whether or not to invest in a particular startup. There’s a lot of things we can’t really discuss on air, so we created a special channel for investors so we can share more of these details.