We Raised Money for Our Startup Without an Investor Deck. Here's How.

We know that taking a different approach was risky. But, it was what we believed in, and we didn't want to change our tune.

learn more about Jaleh Bisharat

By Jaleh Bisharat

Dan Dalton | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When we were raising money for our clean beauty startup, NakedPoppy, we got plenty of advice from fellow entrepreneurs. One said, "Whatever you do, do not send your deck in advance."

Related: I Took 400 Meetings With Investors to Get My Startup Funded. Here's What I Learned.

Her reasoning? Investors love to look smart. One way they achieve this is by shooting rapid-fire holes in your plan. This is especially easy when you are two women, two laptops and an idea. So, the best way to control the situation, according to my friend's reasoning, is to not give them fodder they can mull over in advance.

For us, there was a simpler reason we never sent our deck in advance. We didn't have one.

I had become a fan of the Amazon-style six-page memo, for all the same reasons Amazon believes in them. When you write, you are forced to be crisp. Words are precise. You cannot fool yourself or dance around your thoughts.

In other words, no fuzzy thinking or in-the-moment interpretation, as is possible with slides.

For readers, the format is usually magical. In 15 minutes they can inhale what might take four times as long to digest with a live presentation. Without interruption, they can see precisely how your logic flows. What's the customer problem? What's the solution? What's your differentiation? How will you make it work? You can then have a fully informed discussion at the end.

So, that's what we did. We summarized our entire vision in less than six pages.

Related: This Entrepreneur-Turned-VC Explains What Makes a Perfect Pitch

The memo began as something we carefully crafted for ourselves. We genuinely wanted to be sure our dissection of the customer problem and our solution hung together. Where there were holes in our thinking, we talked to prospective customers -- online and in shopping malls and farmers markets. We iterated, challenged ourselves and iterated some more.

I dared to show the early draft to a mentor, Thomas Layton, for his feedback. Two reactions ensued:

  1. He became an angel investor.
  2. He advised us to not waste time translating the material to a pitch deck. "Go contrarian. It's a better format anyway," he said.

Well, not everyone agreed. All of the following happened to us:

A Palo Alto venture capitalist asked for our presentation before the meeting. We said we didn't have one. Because we didn't. The VC disappeared.

In Menlo Park, a venture capitalist said, "You are trying to change the way we operate, but let me tell you something: People don't like change." In Silicon Valley, investors eat disruption for breakfast, lunch and dinner so we were rather disappointed. The VC did not invest.

Related: How to Use Psychology to Get Investors to Close When You Want Them to

Another Menlo Park venture capitalist cringed. "I'd like to invest, but please, for the love of God, create a slide deck to share with my partners. I will even sit with you and help you craft it."

By then, we'd become convinced that decks were a waste of time and that VCs should like co-founders who don't waste time. We said no and held our breath. And held it. And held it. We think of ourselves as pretty humble, but what if we'd overstepped? The VC convinced his partners to invest.

An East Coast venture capitalist said, "I wasn't interested the first time I read your memo. But, I read it a second time, and a third time, and it grew on me. Anybody this precise in their writing deserves consideration." The VC invested.

We know that taking a different approach was risky. But, it was what we believed in, and we didn't want to change our tune.

It's true that a written document doesn't work in every context (think: large audiences). But, in small group settings, where details matter, there's really nothing like it.

Jaleh Bisharat

Co-Founder and CEO, NakedPoppy

Jaleh Bisharat is co-founder and CEO of NakedPoppy, a clean beauty startup at www.nakedpoppy.com. She formerly served as CMO/VP marketing at Amazon, OpenTable, Upwork and Eventbrite. She earned an AB from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

I Live on a Cruise Ship for Half of the Year. Look Inside My 336-Square-Foot Cabin with Wraparound Balcony.

I live on a cruise ship with my husband, who works on it, for six months out of the year. Life at "home" can be tight. Here's what it's really like living on a cruise ship.

Business News

American Airlines Sued After Teen Dies of Heart Attack Onboard Flight to Miami

Kevin Greenridge was traveling from Honduras to Miami on June 4, 2022, on AA Flight 614 when he went into cardiac arrest and became unconscious mid-flight.

Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Business Solutions

Learn to Build a ChatGPT Bot for Only $30

If you want to see what AI can do for your business, grab this course bundle today.