Every year at Boost VC, we see thousands of companies, meet with hundreds, and have formal interviews twice a year before we make selections for our sessions. Our most recent application for blockchain and virtual reality companies is open now, until November 30th, and we will be having interviews the first two weeks of December.
We have learned a lot about what makes a company stand out; and since we want each and every team to have the opportunity to always pitch its company to the best of its ability, to us and to everyone else, we thought we would share some things we have learned.
Say what you do, quickly and clearly
This seems simple enough, but many companies get really hung up on this first question. At Boost VC, during the interview, the partners will have read the application and have an understanding of what you do, but we really want to hear you articulate your vision. Having a clear statement that makes sense is paramount to hiring a great team, getting investors, working with the media, and, most importantly, getting customers. Sometimes this is called the elevator pitch, prepare to communicate what you do in less than 30 seconds, preferably just a sentence or two.
Why? Because this sets the stage for you to tell people more. If you nail this, you will have their interest and their ear. If you don’t, you lose them.
As an example, think of Priceline.com “We let customers name their own price for hotel and air reservations.” This encapsulates the industry, the problem, and the solution all in one concise sentence. For people that are interested, the door is open for the “tell me more” questions.
Priceline.com could have said “we have a complex algorithm that we have married with a sophisticated reverse auction system that searches millions of possibilities (faster, better, cheaper) in order to deliver blah blah blah.” But, then everyone’s eyes glaze over and interest is lost.
The answer to this question is what you do, not how you do it. Convey that the opportunity is large, the problem is real, and the solution is new.
Everything new is visionary, next generation, scalable, a platform, and many other dandy things. So, when you only have so much time to pitch, don’t say those things. Great things are simple to understand. Walmart is one of the most complex companies on the planet, they get by with “We sell for less.”
It is a conversation, not a presentation
At Boost VC, the interview is a conversation. It is not a presentation. We won’t let you run through your deck, we won’t watch a video, we won’t let you demo your product, and we won’t visit your website/app/experience during the interview.
Why? Well, because 100% of that stuff will change, and in an early stage startup normally it changes very quickly. Plus, we will already have some familiarity with what you do and/or we will have time for some due diligence after we are sold on the idea and the team.
That is what we really want to know, what is the big idea and why is this the team to get it done. If we can’t get there quickly, the rest of the stuff does not matter.
Boost VC interviews last about 15 minutes. After we are comfortable we get the idea, we will ask a number of questions. Answer quickly and consciously, if you don’t know an answer say so, but tell us how you might find out. NEVER LIE OR EXAGGERATE… not just to Boost VC, but always!
Likely questions include:
- Why did you start this company?
- How did your team get together?
- What part of your background makes you the team to get this done?
- Do you have evidence consumers love what you do?
- What is the hard, defensible, part about what you do?
- What is the competition? Who might compete with you?
- How will your company grow, how will it make money?
- What worries you the most?
- What resources do you need to make this happen?
- Will you dedicate the next two years to making this happen, no matter what?
Also, you will get to ask questions. This is your chance to show us you know a bit about what we do, and understand how we may be helpful. The best questions demonstrate that you know what you need to accomplish your goals, but are still searching for the best ways to get things done.
Also, have fun. We want you to do well, in the interview and beyond. Be nice, we will be nice too. This is a long term partnership we and you are contemplating.
That is what the Boost VC partners ask each other after the interview. There needs to be two things that stand out:
- I really get what they do and
- That is a great team. They have the skills and the passion to get this done.
That is what you can control. If you do this, you’ve done your job. Our investment decisions are based on a wide number of factors, and some of them are out of your control. But, if you convey these two things, your odds of being successful, at Boost VC and beyond, go up tremendously.