My First-Ever VC Pitch
February 11, 2008 3 Comments
I recently had the opportunity to pitch a VC firm. Hummer Winblad, to be exact. As someone who never thought he’d ever do that, I have to say it was all rather cool. Here are the details:
THE IDEA: Over the past couple months. I dreamed up an idea for online retailers to connect to social networks. I won’t say too much about the idea, because you just never know if it might see the light of day sometime. But I did take the time to lay it out via Google Presentation. That was pretty fun, I have to say. I had all these hack graphics courtesy of Microsoft Paint. Primitive, but it worked.
ASKING AROUND: Once the idea was written down, I needed to find out if it has legs. I didn’t worry about someone stealing the idea or anything. You can’t learn anything keeping the idea bottled up. So I asked a few friends to take a look at it. To my surprise, I got a lot of “great idea” responses. Followed by, “isn’t Facebook going to do this?” The feedback pumped me up, even if Facebook was going to do it.
CO-FOUNDER: I don’t code, can’t code, shouldn’t code. I needed to have a development partner. Well, I met a dev buddy and shared the idea with him. He liked it, and agreed to be a co-founder. So, good feedback from friends, and a co-founder who could actually make the idea a reality. Things were going well.
MARKET FEEDBACK: I talked with two different e-tailers about the idea. Both really liked it. Each had his own take on what he liked, and I was pleased with the responses. Good feedback from trusted friends, a dev co-founder, good response from potential customers. Check, check, check!
THE PRODUCT: Uh…we actually hadn’t built anything yet. Hmm…was this going to be a problem?
THE VC INTRO: I sent a link for my Google Presentation to a contact at Hummer Winblad. I had met with him a couple years ago to interview for a VC associate position (didn’t get it). To my surprise, he emailed back and said he’d be delighted to hear more details. I was thrilled, despite having no actual product to demo.
VC PITCH DECK: I needed to convert my original, handcrafted presentation into an investor deck. This was really pretty easy. First, a couple of VCs have written blog posts about what ought to be in a pitch (here’s a good one). Having spent several weeks researching the idea, the slide contents were pretty easy to pull together. The hardest thing was the financial projections. But even those weren’t too bad. See Glenn Kelman’s post on Guy Kawasaki’s blog for some very useful advice.
THE PITCH: My dev buddy and I arrive early for our pitch. We set up in a spacious conference room with a flat-panel screen. We’re a little nervous, but our attitude is “we have nothing to lose”. The VC runs late. Finally, my VC contact and an Associate arrive. We start the pitch. Good attention, questions are asked, dialogue is occurring. I’m feeling OK about it. Then they ask about what stage we’re at. “Seed. No product built as yet.” At that point, the pitch came off the rails. We were gracefully pointed toward the angel investor route. Alas, no follow-up meeting would be needed.
- In this web 2.0 age of free software and services, it’s safe to say you’d better have some actual product to demo. Only well-known successful entrepreneurs could get away with not having an actual product while raising money, and it’s unlikely they would ever do so.
- The entrepreneurs are the best prepared and most acknowledgeable people in the room when it comes to their idea. VCs can seem intimidating given all the pitches, investments and experience they have, but they’re generally learning in real-time from the entrepreneur.
- Don’t sweat getting a ‘no’. Is it the idea, the company or the VC? Focus on your own view here. If it’s the idea, what needs to be fixed? If it’s the company, what can improve things (e.g. actual product)? If it’s the VC, there are many others.
So that’s my first-ever VC pitch. I’m noodling on what to do next. The product remains, as of yet, unbuilt.