Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Do You Do?

Over the years I've sat through many presentations/pitches by entrepreneurs seeking Angel or VC funding. Usually two minutes into their story I want to throw up my hands and shout, "Stop! Look around you. You have lost your audience. We have no idea what you're talking about or what you do. And you've not articulated or shown us by an illustration/slide what problem you're solving. So we're not with you; we're "behind" you. Our brains, which tend to wander anyway, are scrambling to catch up; but frankly, that becomes just a little too much work and we tune you out!"

I can usually accurately predict what's coming next. When the presentation is over and, out of courtesy to the entrepreneur, we move on to the allotted time for Q&A. There aren't many questions, which is always a sign of trouble. Not knowing what you do, we don't volunteer to ask since no one wants to appear dense, stupid or waste anymore precious meeting time.

A word about Q&A, should it happen: smart, experienced investors ask all kinds of questions. I guarantee some of them are going to be what I call the Achilles Heel questions: those you don't want asked but know they probably will. NEVER give a presentation without spending time preparing for Q&A. You must anticipate those questions and have well thought-out answers at the ready. And, equally important, your answer must be delivered with solid facts (never lie), confidence and conviction.

When I consult with an entrepreneur and start working on the story, the first questions I ask are what do you do, what business are you in, and why should I care?

You should always begin by telling your audience what your company does and follow that with how big the market is expected to be. If I can get that, I may warm to your story, continue to listen, and begin to see the possibilities as an investment worth a further look.

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