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    Checklist: how to prep for your first investor meeting

    ryan borker
    Feb 23, 2016 · 4 min read

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    If you’re a successful entrepreneur you’re going to have a lot of investor meetings. If you’re an unsuccessful entrepreneur, you’re also going to have a lot of investor meetings — those investors will likely just say no.

    However you slice it, interacting with investors for the first time is something you’ll face multiple times.

    I’m surprised by how often people ‘wing’ these meetings — so are VC’s. It’s a truism, but VC’s are people too (citation required).

    But prepping for these meetings is simple.

    Except investors generally take a lot more than axes to take down. Though come to think of it, I’ve never tried pitching with an axe…

    There are plenty of posts on what the goal for the meeting should be, materials to bring, etc. What most people don’t know is that prepping for the audience is equally or more important than your own pitch.

    At Shortlist, here’s what we do for every meeting and every person there. I’d suggest doing it too. It should take at most 30 minutes and will, I promise, improve your success.

    If you’re too lazy to read a 3 minute article, here’s a checklist I created. Use, customize, and succeed. If you like this, please share / tweet mentioning ryan borker or Shortlist.

    Part I: Prep for you

    What do you want the outcome of the conversation to be? Visualize the outcome for 30 seconds. It helps. Trust me on this one.

    How would you ideally spend your time? Make this a rough plan, not a hard and fast one. Blowing through slides when folks are trying to converse with you is a great way to destroy credibility.

    What questions will you ask them? Investors, like most people — but much more than most people — really really really love their opinions. They literally get paid for their strong opinions (the earlier stage the company, the more investing is opinion and not fact-based). Indulging these opinions is not only the smart thing to do, but it builds relationships and interest in your company.

    Even if they don’t invest / help immediately, proving that you can provide value to them is very useful. Do you have market intel? A unique insight on what’s happening in a hot area? Investors love this kind of information.

    Part II: Prep for the investor

    Find commonalities — do they know similar people? Did they go to similar schools? Do you volunteer at similar organizations? I’ve made meetings happen through all of those avenues. Look at the info they give, if they put their high school there it’s fair game.

    These cues won’t give you everything you need to know, but will provide a basis for conversation.

    Who have they invested in? What is their latest fund? Who do they follow? Any companies similar to yours or competing?

    This is so crucial because many VC’s (and corp dev) departments have competing investments. They’ll meet just to mine you for your information then pass it on to their portfolio company. It’s on you if you haven’t done your homework on their investments.

    What can you infer from their investments? Showing insight into their investing style can impress and show awareness.

    Get a sense for how often they communicate and what they’re about. This will help you understand their style, how you should present them. Don’t flatter, but if you have a thoughtful perspective, they’ll likely engage.

    Investors see hundreds of folks a year. They’ll take social signals for why they should pay extra attention to you. Do you have a friend of theirs or a founder that can lob in a good word? That’s a good way to prime the pump and cut through the noise. If you can do this, do it!

    Oh crap, I’m in the lobby and didn’t prepare!

    You idiot. Still, any prep is better than no-prep. Pull out your phone and rush to check the Mattermark App, LinkedIn app, and Twitter app in that order. Tell yourself this is the last time you’ll do this.

    Last words:

    Remember, you’re selling an investor a second meeting at some point in the future. That’s what an initial investor meeting is. Even if you’re not immediately selling part of your company and instead trying to get an intro, prep goes a long way to a great outcome.

    Feedback? Comments? I’d love to hear them.

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    ryan borker

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