Face-to-Face Meetings With Investors Are Important, But Don't Underestimate the Power of Written Communication
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I've noticed a lot of founders raising capital prefer to have face-to-face meetings, as opposed to answering questions in writing. When you're fundraising, I suggest you do both, keeping in mind you are accomplishing different goals.
The goal of written communication with an investor typically has three stages: Persuade the investor to meet you, become your advocate and once you've done that, then help your advocate win over her broader organization.
At the majority of venture capital firms (including ours), you don't just have to persuade one partner. You have to persuade one partner, plus the other team members have to either approve the investment or at least not vehemently oppose it. If you're talking to a VC, you should find out how decision-making happens. Different VCs have different internal decision-making processes. For example, Jeff Clavier, founder of Uncork Capital, observes, "There is obviously respect among us as a team, and if one of us really wants to do a deal where he or she has an established track record, others will defer and support -- unless the 'over my dead body' card is pulled, in which case we pass." Providing answers in writing makes it easier for the lead partner to share your view, and persuade her colleagues to back the investment.
The goal of the face-to-face meeting (or a phone call, though it's usually less effective) is to move closer to sealing a business relationship. It is very difficult to get an investor to commit without that direct dialogue, ideally with as many of her colleagues as possible. A retail investor might join an existing syndicate on a crowdfunding site based on a deck and maybe an email. However, usually the biggest challenge for a company is finding a lead investor, and that requires a meeting.
If you do not provide the answers in writing so that the lead partner can readily share them, here's what happens:
- The lead partner asks diligence questions;
- You answer them in a meeting or call;
- The lead partner may possibly take notes, which will inevitably be a diluted summary of your response; and
- The partners have a meeting to discuss you, during which time the lead partner tries to win other people over to your side. However, usually the lead partner is going to do a worse job pitching you than you can.
There's only one way that you can simulate being in the room with the other partners: Prepare thoughtful, concise, neutrally worded responses to the investor's concerns. I've been in investor meetings where I or a colleague will pull up your deck or some notes, and say, "Actually, here's what the company says about that ... "
I suggest creating a "frequently asked questions" document, summarizing the questions you most commonly get from potential investors. It shows a lot of self-confidence if you can share the entire document, giving new investors confidence that they have identified all the various issues which they should be probing.
Your goal is to make your advocate's job as easy as possible.