Turning up the heat on VC cold inbound pitch forms

Henrik Wetter Sanchez
Playfair Blog
Published in
4 min readJan 20, 2021

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TL;DR: Some VCs don’t value cold inbound; we do. Not only should it be a crucial part of the ecosystem’s access and inclusion efforts, but it strengthens dealflow too. Win-win.

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Why?

How many VC firms talk about access and inclusion, but are actually impossible to reach?

If you’re a founder from an underrepresented background without access to many privileged networks, how do you get your voice heard?

It is easy for funds to claim that the best founders filter to the top naturally, or to say they don’t have the time for cold inbound and have to instead focus their efforts on nurturing warm introductions from their network. At Playfair, we have made a conscious effort to resist these temptations because of the huge value to be found in this often overlooked source of deals.

We believe the best founders can come from anywhere.

The reality is that many VCs remain hidden and unreachable to those lacking a direct connection. This doesn’t chime with a widely-stated desire in venture capital to improve its diversity through access and inclusion.

Our solution: an open-to-anyone pitch form with immediate responses.

  1. Giving every founder an opportunity.
  2. Putting every founder on a level playing field.
  3. Saving founders’ time.
  4. Broadening and deepening Playfair’s source of dealflow.

We are encouraging other VCs to follow suit, rising the tide across the ecosystem like we have been doing with our Female Founder Office Hours initiative.

What have we done?

When we launched Playfair Capital’s second fund in 2019, we made a deeper commitment to ‘playing fair by founders’ with a new open-to-anyone pitch form on our website.

Since then, we have reviewed over 2,000 cold inbound pitches from founders, taken 150+ first calls and 20+ follow-up meetings. Of those, five companies made it to IC and we invested in three.

The first page of our open-to-anyone pitch form on our website

We have written a step-by-step guide for founders on how best to navigate the form and its questions. This is a useful guide for founders on how to nail your pitch, avoid common pitfalls and increase your chances of securing a follow-up meeting with a member of our team.

By centralising and standardising all cold inbound through our online pitch form — LinkedIn, Google, events, online directories, etc — we make it work for founders and for us. Your time is precious. That’s why we make sure every founder gets a response within a week (up to two weeks over holiday periods).

Product-market fit

VCs like to tell founders about finding product-market fit, but do we practice what we preach?

This is a key piece of feedback we received through Landscape VC — the Glassdoor for VCs:

We listened: we updated our pitch form and internal processes, with the results below. This is one of many examples where we’ve been continually evolving both the submission itself and our internal processes to incorporate founders’ feedback.

Before:

  1. 18 questions (12 required)
  2. 1h50m average time to complete
  3. 2 weeks average response time

Now:

  1. 13 questions (9 required)
  2. 16m average time to complete
  3. 6 days average response time

We don’t promise every founder a meeting, or personalised feedback, but whether it’s yes or no, we will give you an answer quickly, so you can focus on the investors that fit and on building your business.

How our process works

We believe in the importance of transparency, so here’s what the process looks like once you submit your pitch:

  1. A member of our investment team will review around 30 applications on a rolling basis each week. This focusses on your deck, website and founder LinkedIn profile(s).
  2. If we don’t think your business is a fit, we’ll email you then and there. While we can’t provide personalised reasons for passing to every founder due to the volume of inbound we receive, we always share links to useful resources to help you along your fundraising journey.
  3. We catch up as a team on Friday mornings to discuss the top 5–10% of applications that fit our investment thesis and culture. This involves a discussion of the key strengths and areas of uncertainty uncovered from the pitch review.
  4. We usually take 1–3 companies a week through to a first 30-minute call with a member of our investment team.
  5. From here, you’ll have entered the standard Playfair process, which our Managing Partner Chris has outlined in detail here.

Conclusion

If you’re a founder: apply here or share with other founders looking to raise pre-seed or seed funding.

If you’re a VC investor: start paying attention to your cold inbound (you’ll miss deals if you don’t); streamline the process (if you make it doable, you’ll do it).

Anyone: let me know your thoughts on cold inbound pitch forms, who has the best/worst ones, and how we can keep improving ours (shout out to

, and Talis Capital for their open pitch forms 🙌)

You can follow the Playfair team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes and Vimeo and here on Medium.

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Henrik Wetter Sanchez
Playfair Blog

Partner @PlayfairCapital | prev @Cambridge_Uni @BankofAmerica founder @RendezVu_App