Author: JD Weinstein, Oracle for Startups – North America
What do Airbnb, Uber, Slack, Pinterest, WhatsApp, Square, and Venmo have in common? These highly successful technology startups were all founded during the Great Recession in 2008-2010. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are once again fighting through difficult times to both survive and transform the world.
There is no doubt that venture funding has begun to slow. The silver lining here is that transformative startups will persevere. As the world continues to turn, many startups continue to need operating capital.
Your pitch might look different when it’s confined to a Zoom window. Here is how to make it count.
Consider these 5 key insights to help you better prepare meeting VCs in these virtual times:
- Adaptation is the most powerful characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Above experience, IQ, and unique value propositions, successful companies have battled hardships and found a way through. Resilience is what separates the best from the rest. Great investors like to see you overcome adversity – whether it be a founder divorce, running out of cash, or another obstacle – demonstrate grit, and keep going. Remember, change is the only constant in business.
- VCs invest in lines, not dots. I first heard this fitting metaphor from Joshua Baer, CEO of Capital Factory, in 2014. Think of every meeting you take with an investor as a dot. Once you accumulate multiple meetings (dots), you can start to draw connecting lines between them. VCs almost never invest in the first dot on the map, but rather the lines you create by building a relationship over time. Through connecting the dots, they’re able to capture a sense of your business growth, your leadership style, and how you deal with challenges that arise.
- Limited resources typically force companies to make better decisions, leading to better outcomes. Most startups should first bootstrap their businesses to test limitations and find product-market fit, before raising venture money. This is even more true today, as entrepreneurs need to be lean and creative with their decision-making. The strong will survive and then succeed. Demonstrate that you know your budget and limits by creating multiple data-driven scenarios – from bare minimum resources to ultimate scale.
- Opt for a video meeting over a phone call. This one is tactical. Studies from UCLA show over 55% of communication is nonverbal. By not pitching in-person, you miss out on a lot of these nonverbal cues. When presenting to an investor (customer, partner, or colleague), be sure you dedicate time to pause and listen. Don’t try to ‘fill’ every space with pitch material. If you can meet via a video platform, you can pay attention to body movement, facial expressions, and posture. Pro tip: Stand up when you speak. This allows your body, voice, and tone to be in a power position.
- Be human. Be truthful. The fact is that these are challenging times for everyone. It’s okay to recognize this in an empathic way. You are not pitching ‘VC XYZ’ but rather a human being or partner from that venture firm. Remember what author and vulnerability expert Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
Looking for advice, or just a sanity check? JD has a limited number of office hours available for startups seeking capital, connections, or cloud solutions. Grab 20 minutes and get answers to your VC questions.
About the Author: JD Weinstein (Oracle for Startups – North America) helps startups scale through Oracle’s rich enterprise ecosystem, cloud solutions, and global customer network.