A Gem from Paul Singh – You Might Have the Best Start-up in the World, But…

You know, I’ve been sitting here thinking about that email I sent you an hour ago… and I want to clarify the second tip I mentioned to you: You might have the best startup in the world… but if the investor across the table doesn’t get it, the deal’s not happening.

  • If they can’t relate with you or your customers, none of it matters.
  • If they don’t like you, the deal’s not happening.
  • If they don’t understand your business, the deal’s not happening.
  • If they don’t understand how they might profit on investing in you, the deal’s not happening.

So spend time on THAT — the art of connecting with them, listening to them and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, thinking proactively about about what they want to get out of meeting with you.

Thinking back to my younger self, I didn’t even spend 10 minutes thinking about what the investor across the table from me wanted to get out of meeting with me.  I certainly didn’t ask them. I just started pitching. And pitching. And pitching. And then wondering why the deal never happened. In hindsight, all the mistakes seem obvious.

If I were pitching my company today (or my fund today), here’s what I would do differently:

  1. Spend a few minutes visualizing what an investor really wants and fears. They want to invest in a growing company. They fear that they might bet on the wrong company and eventually lose their job. They’re skeptical of all the startup jargon because they’ve met sat through enough pitches talking about big data, AI, VR and every other fad this year. They’ve been bitten in the ass before and they’re not going to let you do it to them.
  2. I would actually talk to 3-5 of them. I would insist on getting to know a few active investors well before I ever started pitching my company to anyone else so I could be sure about what they want to know and how I could best deliver it to them. I would ask them questions like, “What were the most important deciding factors in your most recent investment?” and “What are the 3 most important topics you discuss with your investment partners or your Limited Partners?” I would ask them, “What do you think the best performing investors look for in a pitch?” (Sometimes people are more honest about what others want than they are about themselves.)
  3. Finally, I would spend at least 30% of my time on the relatability of my pitch. Relatable stories, including mistakes, rather than spending too much time explaining how great I am, how great my team is and how big of an opportunity this is.

If you’re currently fundraising or you plan to raise money within the next year, these are lessons you can start applying TODAY.  You might be the most qualified person to run your company but when was the last time you really sat down to think about your investors and what they want?  When was the last time you practiced being more relatable in your ideas, your writing, your pitch decks or your actual presentation?  When was the last time you actually picked up the phone and actually talked to investors — and really listened to what they want?

I’ve given (and sat through) enough shitty presentations but it’s been one of the best things that’s happened to me.  Now I hope those lessons help you along the way too.

-Paul Singh

P.S. if you’re struggling with improving your pitch or you’ve been putting it off entirely, this is a great time to check out the pitch deck teardown