In 2011, I co-founded La Nevera Roja, a food delivery marketplace that was sold to Rocket Internet 40 months after launch for ~$100 Million*, becoming one of the few so-called Centaurus in the short history of Southern European Venture Capital (A startup worth $100 million or more)
A few months later, after helping with the transition, in the summer of 2015, I co-founded Samaipata, a venture capital firm focused on pre-seed/seed-stage marketplaces and DNVB’s across Europe. We have raised a first fund of $ 35M.
Fast forwarding 2 years, after having analysed thousands of start-ups and become proud investors at OnTruck, 21Buttons, FoodChéri, Deporvillage, Spot-a-home, Cornerjob and TheColvinCo and Jinn (the latter didn’t make it 😬), I’ve decided to travel back in time to send myself the deck I wrote when I was launching La Nevera Roja so that I can taste my own medicine and — more importantly — share it with the entrepreneur community.
How does it sound?
The deck I’m going to be talking about was written after 14 months of full time (well, full-life) work, but only 6 months of live operations (yes, it took us 8 months to launch the first version of our web, we hadn’t heard about MVP’s yet 😬)
Here we go with my feedback! I hope it helps
1.Don’t add friction
We read thousand of pitch decks a year, making VC’s life easier increases your chances to make it through the noise
1.1 Please, do it in English
Regardless of where you are from, the VC industry speaks in English. It may be an advantage for a native-speaker and a disadvantage for the rest of us outside Anglo-saxon countries, but it doesn’t matter at all, just do it well.
By writing your deck in Spanish (quite often), French (also often) or Italian (likewise), among others, you will make it much more difficult for the international investors to understand your business, and you will also succinctly imply that you do not have international ambition, being ambition one of the key things analysed by VCs. Remember, more and more industries evolve as winner takes it all plays, and that makes it extremely difficult for the local focused startups to raise money and/or win markets. Needless to say, speaking English properly is fundamental for fundraising with international funds too.
1.1 Design matters
Design can change the world. Specially in b2c start-ups this is extremely important… In case your own design-skills are limited, ask a professional designer for help: Either someone internal or outsourcing through services like SketchDeck, The Presentation Designer or Unicornpitch.
1.2 Don’t over-engineer
Those coming from consulting and banking will find it irresistible to make slides with bubbles, bridges and other fancy graphs. It´s ok to look sophisticated, just make sure you’re not losing your audience along the way. The more simple things are (as well as beautiful) the merrier
“Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler” A. Einstein
1.3 Skip that font-5 legal-disclaimer thing
Well, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m quite sure that kind of disclaimer page does not add much value from a legal standpoint… and you’re wasting time/ attention from the reader. This is also related to requiring signed NDAs. To keep it brief, VCs analyse hundreds of startups on a monthly basis. How come are we going to submit ourselves to hundreds of different legal obligations on a daily basis? Discretion is the number 1 rule of our business, and our whole prestige relies on this. Please, trust us 😇
1.4 Keep it short, go to the point
Although this type of slide might be very common in consulting or banking (that was my background) any slide full of text with tiny font size, will NOT make the life of the reader easy at all. Nobody is willing to read that kind of slides on a Monday morning…
Btw, the pitch shouldn’t be longer than 10–15 slides. Remember, the aim is to catch attention and get a meeting, there’ll be time to run through the business in full detail.
2. Don’t skip the classics, unless extremely necessary
There are a few topics that are a classic in the VC industry, I would definitely include them unless you have clear reasons not to do so.
My top 5 classic “topics” would be:
- TAM (total addressable market)
- Why now/ tailwinds
- KPI’s/ Business model
IMO, Team should be always the first slide, at least in pre-series A rounds. At our stage of specialisation (pre-seed/seed) decisions are very much based on the team so I don’t see the point of leaving the most important part of the deck at the end, as many entrepreneurs do.
Note (specially for the ones who do not speak Spanish) that the slide above is a mix between 2, 3 and 5, which may work sometimes, but not necessarily. In any case, in this slide there’s too much of a consulting hyper-condensed style which ,again, doesn’t make the life of the reader easy.
3. Don’t be too proud/ happy about big companies raising a lot of money within your industry. Copycats are harder to fund these days.
In the slide above we showed proudly how the likes of Index, Benchmark, Lightspeed and Google had invested in our US and North European competitors. We see this in pitch decks very often.
While that might be a good signalling for certain copycat-focused investors, it is scary for the rest of us. Again, as mentioned before, industries are becoming more and more winner takes it all plays so the only way to raise real VC money is by making clear that you might become the global or at least continental leader. So, on the one hand you should be transparent on competition raising money, but don’t take it as if that was good news.
4. Make sure the financing strategy you present ads up and do NOT talk about specific valuation in the deck
Setting the valuation in the deck has lots of downsides and no upside.
I’d rather introduce the topic once there’s real interest on the investor´s side. And, when the time comes, I’d rather go for a range of dilution and range of money raised (e.g. 0,5–1 m€ round and 20–25% dilution), that allows the competition level on the deal to fix the final valuation and money raised. Remember, things are worth as much as someone is willing to pay for them. There’s no point in being stubborn about an specific valuation figure in advance if there’s no investor appetite yet.
In any case, bear in mind these 4 main rules of thumb:
i) you shouldn’t get diluted more than 20–25% per round
ii) you should raise enough money to get at least a 12–24 month runway
iii)valuation multiples (€/ DAU, Sales/EV, etc) should be somehow aligned to market comparables, especially as the company matures (Series A and later on)
iv) ideally, valuation (as a proxy of value creation) between rounds/ deals should equal >5x the money raised.
In our case, in the slide above, in March 2012, we were raising our second investment round, a 0,5m€ Series A at 1,6m€ pre-money valuation (seems funny these days where A rounds are 10m€ ) .
Our annualised GMV back then was 0,5m€, so the pre-money valuation (x3 GMV) seemed more than reasonable, taking into consideration our growth ~x20/ year.
In our case, expected dilution was ~25%, which is OKish, but the expected runway was extremely low, just 6 months, which is very scary for an investor and not efficient for the entrepreneur.
Taking into consideration the average round takes 6 months to close, the proposed runway would require to start fundraising again the same day the money would be wired, that was definitely a bad idea,
What’s funny is that I did not only mention the valuation of that current round, but also talked about the valuation of the next round!… do NOT do that ever again, there´s only downside, no upside and besides, you never know what the future holds…
5. Respect your competitors
Watch out your comments on competitors. The way an entrepreneur talks about competitors is very relevant for an investor.
Most common mistakes here include:
i) talking too much about competitors: again, you must be transparent but do not make it the center of the conversation
ii) undervaluing or disrespecting your competitors. You don’t need to make them look small in order for you to be great. It’s usually quite the opposite. The more respectful you are the greater they make you.
ii) (this is the most relevant one) don’t make that stupid rule of three (as I did in the slide above) “they’ve burned “x” € and got “y” results. We’ve gotten “z” results with just “w” resources so we’re much more efficient, thus better. WRONG!! that’s not true at all. First and foremost, complexity is not linear, it is exponential. Secondly, raising money is not for free. Top-funded competitors deserve some credit just for having been able to raise that money (btw investors are not dumb usually, so probably they’ve invested for a reason)
6. Talk about talent and show that you care a lot about it
As you can see in the slide above, one year after having started working full time, the Team slide only shows 2 people. I’d now expect and organisational chart that shows your ability to attract talent and your willingness to build an exceptional team, AKA convincing extremely passionate and educated individuals to work with you. In my case the team slide only included 2 people and there were no signs of talent traction plans, building a top team or structuring an organisation.
Btw, it’s funny how strange it’s for me right now to see Iñigo and myself wearing ties 😳 even more funny is the fact that we wore suits + ties for the first 6–12 months, old habits die hard 😀
7. Beware of those looking for a quick exit
There was a time when fundraising was all about the “exit strategy” and beginning a project thinking about potential buyers was something good. Well, to me now it is quite the opposite.
At Samaipata we’re looking for smart, ambitious and passionate mission-driven individuals that are willing to take risks and work full life to create something great, something amazing that customers love and can change the world for the better. That obviously will create value and, in the end, will allow us to give high returns to our LP’s, but this shouldn’t be put in the first place. You can skip the “exit” part, at least when talking to founders´ funds like us 😜
If you have managed to read until the end of the post you may be asking yourself if we (La Nevera Roja co-founders) managed to raise VC money. Well, not a dime ☹️, and I hope this will help you succeed in this area. 💪
PS1: if you have an interesting marketplace or DNVB that you think we should analyse please feel free to send it to us. Link
PS2: *Interestingly enough, Just-Eat, (which was the natural buyer in first place) bought La Nevera Roja from Rocket Internet only 1 year after our sale, for a similar amount of money, after spinning-off Urban Ninja, the Deliveroo-like logistic platform that we had built inside La Nevera Roja.
PS3: Check the full deck of La Nevera Roja here
PS4: If you’re a Founder turned General Partner (VC) it would be great to share your deck and get feedback about it #FoundersturnedVCdecks
PD5: Check other useful links about decks, templates, design, etc on this post written by our dear friend Mathias Ockenfels.