Optimize your VC meeting

30 mins = 30 mins: use it wisely!

Similar to my post on 3 Questions Entrepreneurs Get Wrong, entrepreneurs often fail to use their initial (usually only) shot with a VC effectively.  Given the length of the post, I’ve split it into parts: general tips on your meeting, a rough breakdown of time use, and tips for specific groups of entrepreneurs based largely on stereotypes.

At Genacast, we give anyone in the door 30 minutes for a first meeting.  Here are the rather unfortunate truths that many entrepreneurs usually fail to realize:

  • Our days are packed with pitch meetings.  We love them, it keeps us fueled to hear about each exciting idea, but the end time is usually a hard stop.  Even if we are late, that doesn’t mean we can go over (or it would cascade into large delays at the end of the day).
  • Whether admitted or not, we have fundamental questions we check-off in our mind, usually before we want to delve deep into your specific solution: (roughly, and in no particular order)
    • What is the core value proposition?
    • Is the market big enough?
    • Is this the right team?
    • How will it make money?
    • How will they go to market?  Acquire customers?  Build a network/marketplace?
    • How does the competitive landscape look?
    • Do they have some type of sustainable competitive advantage or is this an execution play?
    • …Seems like quite a list, but hit these quickly!*  Just the headliners will suffice to start off. We will drill deeper where we feel the need or move into the more interesting nuances in the business.
  • Prepare
    • (At least) read their website,
    • know what they invest in (our investment profile),
    • who a couple of their portfolio companies are,
    • if they have a competitive portfolio company,
    • the background of the person you are speaking with
    • …We know you pitch many VCs/Angels, and we can’t expect you to know much detail, but the vast majority don’t know anything.   Those that don’t do this basic step waste precious meeting time covering these bases (and frequently spark a realization that it’s not a fit with the fund’s stated thesis).
  • Move slides to backup.  If you have awesome data, customer feedback quotes, detailed financial models, numerous screenshots, etc. these are best left in backup to be referenced as needed.  Don’t assume we want all this until we ask about it, usually they are not essential in a first meeting.
  • No monologues!  I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve had where the entrepreneur gets started, and I don’t have an opportunity to jump in for 10-15 minutes.  At some point, I have to be a bit rude and cut you off so I can cover some of the gaps you left along the way (and everyone’s perceived holes will be different, don’t assume because you are hitting the points that came up in the last 3 meetings, you’re telling me what I what to hear).      PAUSE.        Yes, pause.       Frequently.      Leave these opportunities for questions or subject changes.
  • Listen carefully  as investors are usually driving at specific concerns they need to allay.  Make sure you understand what they are really asking before launching into a long explanation.  Entrepreneurs get similar questions a lot, so a buzz word can launch a canned response, missing the vital nuance differentiating the question.


Example meeting profile (by minute):

  • 1 – friendly banter
  • 2-3 – Me: intro to our fund, maybe myself if I can squeeze it in
  • 3-4 – You: Additional questions about our fund
  • 4-6 – Your background, maybe a bit about your team
  • 6-7 – Headliner of what your building
  • 7-10 – Major value proposition & best use-case scenario
  • 10-12 – Addressable market size
  • 12-15 – Revenue model
  • 14-17 – Go-to-market
  • 17-22 – Competitive landscape & your sustainable competitive advantage
  • 22-25 – Investment amount and use of proceeds
  • 25-30 – Buffer if any section runs over or a chance to get to the good stuff.

Throughout, keep the door open (verbally, with devices like pauses or upwards inflection that begs a response) for our input.  Throughout (and especially if the meeting does NOT go well), ask for advice.  BY FAR the best meetings are fairly rapid exchanges where we are able to cover some of the interesting parts of your business together (again, don’t assume you know what those gems are), so try to answer questions fairly concisely.  Ideally, you want to be talking no more than 2/3rds of the time.


* One potential strategy: start your deck out with a slide that hits on the major 5-10 points you know we will ask about.  My friend Mark Davis (DFJ, Kohort) first showed me a deck starting with such a slide, but rarely see this tactic used.

Posted on September 16, 2011, in Venture & Start-ups. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great article, Austin! Great perspective and well summarized

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