Startup Fundraising: Pitch Events, what happens after you leave the room?
You’ve prepped your investor pitch, executive summary, and financial model. You’ve rehearsed your pitch, prepared your Q&A and done the 1:1 investor meeting. Now you’re faced with the thoroughly contrived startup group pitch event. instead of a conversation with a potential investor you now have a timed event with timed Q&A.
This can take place in the form of a pitch competition or an Angel Group. In either case, you have to recognize that you are functioning within the rules of the pitch format. I’ve done three minutes, in large event (300+ people) formats as well as smaller angel group formats of 10-15 people with 10 minutes to pitch and 10 minutes of Q&A. What do you need to know?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad new – no one is rushing forward with their checkbook at the end of the event. This is a chance for you to get your message out. With the goal that the audience could be able to explain your company to their investment partner – that could be a VC or a spouse.
First, respect the clock!
If you’ve been told you have three minutes. That’s it… you have three minutes. They have a schedule to keep and you don’t want to be the one that makes the event or the meeting go overtime, you’ll be known for that and it’s not a good thing when you ask for the follow-up meeting.
Now the question is what do you take out of the pitch? I’ve seen some brilliant (but risky) people leave out some of the obvious 10 slide components, knowing that the panel and judges will ask the obvious question – for example, “How will you monetize your product” answered with “I only had three minutes so I’m really glad you asked that question” then they click over to the next slide in the slide deck. You’ve been given permission to take more time. But be classy about it.
It’s not about talking faster. REALLY! It’s about forcing you to condense your topic to its essence. If you do that well the questions will be the topics you want them to be answering. If, after the pitch, they are still asking what you do, that is a problem.
No BS! If you don’t know the answer to the question, your answer should be “that’s a great question, let me get back to you”. Especially for things you should know – like a competitor you’ve never heard of…
Affirm the questions – if you didn’t answer it in the pitch that is your issue, not the audiences. They are never dumb for asking a dumb question.
Note the questions to make improvements on your pitch. Integrate the answers into your narrative.
Are they asking the questions they “should be asking”? What I mean by this is that if the questions are still about what you do vs how will you grow, your pitch isn’t hitting the mark. You want them asking investment related questions.
But what happens after you leave the room?
You need to know what happens when the judges sit together or when you leave the room from a group of Angel Investors.
- Did you pitch check all the boxes? If not, you won’t get a good review
- Did you come across as evasive or arrogant? If so, people will be hesitant to follow up with you – don’t doubt the value of likability. I’m not saying you need to be a “golden retriever” but being an ass won’t help you either
- Did you recognize and neutralize the “expert” – there is always one person in the group or on the panel that know a little more about the market or the industry than others – if you don’t recognize who that person is in the Q&A they are likely to sway the rest of the group away from you. Regretfully, they may not end up really being an expert at all, they may just like to hear themselves talk. Your result will be the same – bad!
How should you follow up?
Make it clear in your presentation materials how people should connect with you. Think multi-modal here not just the way you prefer. Communications preferences can be aged based.
Get the contact info of the people in the room that have shown interest. Use a tool like Text Expander to improve your copy and paste ability. Investors should get a personal email, not a bcc.