On Tuesday, the True team spent the afternoon at the World’s Largest Office Hours, part of the National Venture Capital Association’s VentureScape annual conference. The goal of these office hours was to bring hundreds of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs together in one room for an afternoon of networking, mentoring and idea exchange. As a member of the NVCA and supporters of innovation and entrepreneurship in general, we were extremely happy to participate.
Our team had a series of six meetings with Founders of companies who were seeking our feedback and advice on their business and pitch. As we worked through each session, we began to see a pattern emerging. Specifically, within the first minute of sitting down, the Founder would launch directly into describing the product or show a demo of the product.
In each case, we would slow the Founder down and ask a series of questions designed to provide background and context to the broader story.
In general, those questions were:
– Who are you?
– Why did you decide to work on this project?
– How and why is this team working together?
– How much money have you raised?
– How much are you raising now?
– How has the business evolved since the initial inception?
In music, they say that you have been writing your first album your entire life. In startups, it’s the same. As a Founder, you have been with your business from day one. Your product is an extension of you, based on a problem that you identified through your set of unique experiences. Therefore, any time you want to show people your product or talk about your business, they really need the broader context of your background and how you ended up starting this company to truly appreciate what it means. (And long-term, the final product will look very different from where it is today.)
Especially at the seed stage, investors are investing in the people and how they see the world—not the product or business you’ve built today. Knowing that, Founders should spend 80% or more of their time talking about their background, their values and how they see the world, because this information is what gets an investor excited about potentially joining their journey.
For more fundraising tips, check out a presentation Christiaan and I gave last year on more inside tips on raising venture capital financing.