Pitching for Success: What to Do Before, During and After an Investor Meeting
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Without support from investors, even the best idea can go nowhere. One of the main responsibilities of a CEO is to provide adequate funding for their company.
Kaltura, for example, was founded eight years ago and has since raised more than $100 million from various venture capitalists and banks, all without the aid of an investment bank. We went through a seed/angel round, five venture capital rounds and three bank loans, and in doing so have gone through hundreds of pitches to prospective investors.
I have learned an important lesson while fundraising, and that is that a successful investment pitch must transcend beyond a strong PowerPoint deck and its facts and reasoning. To secure an investment, you need to capture the investor’s heart, not just his mind. Here are some tips from my personal experience that can help achieve that:
1. Preparing for the meeting
Before meeting with any investor, it’s important to conduct research. Know who is receiving the pitch and what makes them tick. Check what portfolio companies they have in general, and particularly in the same industry.
Review bios of the investors on their website and LinkedIn. Look for a personal connection. What school did they go to? What boards are they currently sitting on? What groups do they follow? Are they involved in any nonprofit activities? Check if there are mutual acquaintances that could shed more light about the investors. Read past interviews or personal blogs, and watch their videos.
When done, consider if and how the presentation should be tweaked for the audience.
2. Starting the meeting
When the meeting starts, present the speaker and company in a few sentences (unless asked further). If there are any connections to a portfolio company of theirs, or to them personally, mention it.
Tell them the plan is to present a single slide that summarizes everything, and details will come later. If uninterrupted, go through the single summary slide then ask them if they have any initial questions or requests, or if there’s any specific area they would rather dive into first. If the investors want to alter the order of the presentation, follow their lead. Otherwise, present as originally planned.
This structure helps investors to understand the "forest" before getting too much into the "trees," but more importantly it enables them to provide feedback and share insights early on.
3. Ending the meeting
After the meeting, ask the investors what they liked and related to, or if they have any recommendations and suggestions. If they seem unengaged, ask what areas might be of potential concern and what theoretical advances or additional data points could help alleviate those concerns.
Feedback will help not only improve investor pitches, but also rethink and potentially improve plans. It also enables returning at a later date to the same investors and reporting on advances they would have liked to see, which shows them their feedback was taken seriously and makes them more likely to ultimately invest.
Before leaving, consider asking them if there is anyone they recommend connecting with or learning from. Keep in mind companies often communicate with the same investors many times across months and years until they invest, so the first pitch is only the beginning of a long relationship.
4. After the meeting
Keep detailed notes of the interaction -- who was at the meeting, what excited them, what they were worried about, and what specific results they would want to see as evidence for success. Connect with them on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter and create a Google Alert for their names and their fund to stay abreast of their investments and interests.
After the meeting, send a short thank-you note referencing the specific feedback/insights gained. If the investors mentioned what the company needs to do to be exciting for them in the future, reference it in the message. If and when the business reaches a success milestone, follow up on this thread and remind the investor of their past feedback. In addition, add the investors to the company email list, and reach out to them every now and then with updates.
Ultimately, good companies raise capital faster, from better investors, and at better terms, but there are other factors in play, too. Thoughtful preparation, a wise and personable pitch, and meticulous follow ups will ultimately "show you the money." Good luck!