Your first 15 minutes in an investment pitch are really important. Use them wisely.

This is not a long post. But I needed to get this off my chest.

Entrepreneurs: For heaven’s sakes realize that the first 15 minutes of your pitch to an investor are extremely important. Even though you may notice a meeting is scheduled for 45–60 minutes, in 90%+ cases by the time 15-minutes are over, decision has already been made in investor’s mind if they are going to invest or not. For many it might even be sooner. Your 30-second elevator pitch might matter to get a meeting with a VC, but your first 15-minutes in a pitch determine if it was worth the effort and time for either side.

I have been in too many meetings where entrepreneurs don’t realize the above. They drone on and on for 15–20 minutes about their and team’s backgrounds, random connections they might have with me, about the companies they worked at in the past, or generalities about the space they are operating in. I some times try to nudge and guide, but often it feels too little too late. Once a VC starts thinking you are boring, not sharp enough, or not on top of your game, game’s up. Frankly, if at 15-minute mark you are not seeing investor’s eyes lit up and excited to learn more, you might as well say “Hey, looks like this is int’g to you but may be not int’g enough that you would invest. So how about we use the remainder of the time so you can give me feedback and advice on the business instead of me continuing with this pitch.”

I would encourage entrepreneurs to use their first 15-minutes to confidently deliver a few key ideas to convince investors that this is the MOST interesting startup they are going to meet that year. Since a VC would typically only invest in 1–2 companies per year, yours has to be the most interesting company they will meet and learn about. You have to make a personal connection with the investor, and a strong overall impression on behalf of your company: why is this an exciting and large opportunity to go after (not just TAM), why you and your team is the best in this space (not just, “we hired from Google/Microsoft”), what’s your secret weapon/your unfair advantage, how you plan to execute (don’t show a 5-year plan), how would you systematically reduce risk and create value for the shareholders (knowing risks clearly is a good first step), and what information VCs might want to read up in the next 24 hours to come up to speed if they are not already very knowledgable about this space.

Apologies for somewhat of a rant above. But I was pitched yet again where at 15-minute mark the entrepreneur was finally done explaining their role as a sales person in a company that went bankrupt in the dotcom era :(