Pitching a Seed Stage Enterprise Startup
We hear lots of pitches at boldstart and in most cases write the founder’s first-check, so our bet is on people. It’s always interesting how differently my partners digest the same pitch. For instance, Jeff’s experiences building companies like (OnForce and Work Market) affords him a different view than my partner Ed, who’s been investing in companies like LivePerson & GoToMeeting for 20 years.
Founders in our portfolio will tell you, we know it when we meet the right team and get super fired up when it happens. While the best pitches get us excited for different reasons, they each have the same underlying elements. Thinking about @V1P1N’s upcoming NYETM I wanted to share those elements that we @ boldstart hope to learn in every meeting:
- Problem. What’s the customer’s pain, how is it addressed today? How intimately do you understand this problem?
- Solution. How have you solved this problem? What benefit does the customer get from the product (…and how quickly do they get value)?
- Why (Now)? What evolutions or trends make the solution you’ve built possible? feasible? today vs. yesterday (vs. last year, last decade?).
- Product. What’s on your roadmap, what features, architecture, and development is planned out over next 18 mos? What do customers want (have you asked them)?
- Market. Big and reachable, what / are customers willing to pay you? is there a budget or do you have to create a new one (which is almost impossible). Who is your “bullseye” customer? Who is your competition? Why are you better, faster, cheaper?
- Sauce. What’s unique about the tech, what is your competitive advantage that will allow you to build a defensive moat over time? What order of magnitude improvement does your product unlock?
- Team. Who are the founders, roles, and have they worked together before? We love when founders have experienced the pain first hand and built solutions out of necessity — they have felt the pain (please no don’t tell us about awards you have won).
- Magic. What makes your story credible and what’s our permission to believe you? Rarely do we get traction, in fact founders in many cases walk us through blueprints with specific customers in mind. Give us a reason to believe that you can bring a killer product to market (we love pulling in that first customer when it’s ready).
- Capital. Who do you need to hire? How much will that cost until you have to raise more (i.e. what is your target round size)? FYI, I can always spot serial founders because they talk about capital as a function of time.
A wise old VC once told me that asking the right questions is better than having the right answers. I considered sharing a “model” pitch deck in this post, I decided against after advice from one of our founders, Grant Miller @ Replicated (here’s is his email to me in response to a draft I sent him):
[Deck] “looks good, though, i’d tell seed companies that they shouldn’t worry about not having all of those slides ready… they might be strong in 1 area, but not the others — focus on your strength… what is the thing that you do really well.
This is by no means universal be-all of lists, it’s meant to be a framework to help my partners and I have a meaningful discussion about your business. As founders the first thing you learn fundraising is every investor is different (then, strangely i’m told we all start to seem the same after enough meetings :).