Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why we politely ask for a deck first

When founders reach out to us to pitch us for an investment, they usually have a fundraising deck which they’re happy to send over. But every so often it also happens that a founder wants to set up a call or a meeting before sending over any material. In these cases I usually ask the founder if he or she could send us a deck first, with a view to have a call or meeting as a potential second step. But every time I do this, it makes me feel uncomfortable because I don’t want to come across as impolite, arrogant or unapproachable. In this post I’d like to give some background on how we work, which will hopefully make it easier to understand our behavior in the scenario I described above.

I have understanding for founders who want to walk us through their story and vision rather than sending over some slides. A startup is a founder’s baby which they often have a deeply emotional relationship with, and it’s understandable that when they pitch it, they want to leave the best possible first impression. It’s also understandable that founders want to get to know us first and learn more about us before sending us confidential information. What’s more, most founders are very smart people who are great to talk to. For all these reasons, I wish we could talk to all founders who reach out to us.

But it’s impossible. In the last 90 days we’ve logged 987 potential investments in our Zendesk (which we use for deal-flow management). Even with three Associates and one Intern, we can’t talk to all of these startups. If we did, we wouldn’t have enough time to dive in deeply into sectors, do due diligences, spend time with our portfolio companies and do many other things which are important for our business.

This is why using the pitch deck as the first filter is so important for us. When we go through a deck, a couple of minutes are usually enough to determine if we want to learn more. There are plenty of reasons why a company may not be the right fit for us (and Point Nine not the right partner for the company): It may be too early-stage or too late-stage. It may be a sector we’ve looked at before and aren’t excited about or it may be an area which we don’t have any expertise in. Or it may be in a field that’s too close to one of our existing portfolio companies. Most of the time when we pass quickly after having seen a deck, it doesn’t say anything about the quality of the startup and only means that the company is outside of our investment focus.

Obviously our process isn’t perfect. Not taking a closer look at each incoming request means we will miss great companies (and grow our anti-portfolio). But the same is true for any other approach.

A few closing comments:

  • I know that most other VCs feel the same about this, so if you want to raise money, spending time on producing a great pitch deck is time well spent. I also think that creating a deck is a great exercise because it helps you think through each area of your business systematically.
  • Michael wrote a great post about “What should be in my fundraising slides”.
  • Don’t ask for NDAs.
  • Don't send your pitch deck to dozens of VCs. Do your research to find out which 5-10 firms look like the best fit for you and start with those.
  • You don’t have to include everything in your “teaser” deck. I would recommend to include KPIs in the deck, since these are crucial for the investor to determine if you’re at the right stage, but it’s perfectly fine to leave out sensitive information like details on your product roadmap.

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