Prepare Yourself

Jason Portnoy
Jun 15, 2018 · 3 min read
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“We convince by our presence.”

-Walt Whitman

I’ve been having the same conversation with several entrepreneurs lately. That’s usually a sign that I need to write something down and share it more broadly.

I frequently get asked by CEOs to review their deck and pitch as they are preparing to go out and raise money. Over time I’ve noticed that they are very focused on two things that they plan to bring into their meeting:

  1. Their deck: The SLIDES they use to communicate their product, company, idea, etc.
  2. Their pitch: The WORDS they use to communicate their product, company, idea, etc.

What I tell them, though, is that they are forgetting a third and equally important thing that they are going to bring into the meeting: themselves.

Investors invest in people.

Investors invest in people. This is especially true when talking about a Seed or Series A stage company (where we focus our first checks). There are so many things that will happen as the founders start building the company. We need to trust that the team will make 10,000 micro decisions in the next few years that will lead the company to success. Yes, we need to be inspired by the idea and the mission of the product/company, but that isn’t enough. In the end it comes down to investing in great people.

So when you go into a meeting with a potential investor, you are bringing three very important things:

  1. Your deck
  2. Your pitch
  3. Your self

We could debate the relative weighting that should be given to these, but for now let’s just assume that they are all equally important. That means that in addition to getting your slides to look right, and practicing your verbal pitch, you need to do some work to prepare your *self* for the meeting.

Know the goal of your meeting before you walk in the door.

Your number one goal when walking into a first meeting with a potential investor should be to build a relationship and connection with that investor. If you don’t succeed at that, you will not get an investment from them, no matter how great your company or idea is. So preparing yourself for that first meeting means preparing yourself to build a relationship.

Building a relationship with someone takes a lot of things, but one that is very high on the list is quiet, focused attentiveness. Don’t meet in a loud coffee shop where there are a lot of distractions. Meet in a quiet place, ideally a quiet conference room. As you start your conversation, don’t dive immediately into your slides and your pitch. Take a few minutes to start building your relationship. Get to know each other. Where are you both from? What kind of family do you each have? When you do start transitioning the conversation to your pitch, start with the most personal element: Why are you prepared to dedicate the next 5+ years of your life to building this company?

In my experience, the time you devote to building this connection will pay dividends in the form of more open and engaging dialogue, and usually a more productive working relationship as a result.

I don’t want to make this post too long so this feels like a good place to stop for now. In the next post I will try to offer more concrete examples of ways that I’ve seen CEOs successfully prepare themselves for fundraising meetings.

Good luck out there.


Oakhouse Partners

Oakhouse Partners invests in companies that use…

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