Tech Startups: Apply your software skills to the venture capital pitch

I meet a lot of really smart tech founders who have all the skills to create great software that adds huge value for their clients.  The problem is that these tech founders who know all about how to design software from beginning to end, that all ties together in a coherent whole and connects everything from inputs to outputs, seem to forget everything they know when it comes to giving their venture capitalPitch for Venture Capital pitch.  Here are a few tips for taking those skills and repurposing them to putting together a great pitch.

1)      User Interface – A great pitch should have a great User Interface.  Your brand shows in the way that you compose your message and the slides that convey it.  Many tech founders use awkward blocks of text and don’t convey information well.  The user experience is one of the most important parts of the pitch.

2)      Simplicity– The pitch should be easy to understand.  I’ve seen complex bioscience companies who know that they are pitching the company and not their peptides or whatever.  Explain only enough to show that there’s a market, but don’t take us through all the nuts and bolts.  Your pitch should be like well written software that looks simple, even if it’s complex behind the scenes.

3)      Tell a Story– connect each part of your pitch together so it flows logically and covers all the bases, but also ties together into a story that hangs together like a good software program.

4)      Validate your data – you know how to do this when you’re populating your databases, why don’t you do that when you’re putting your pitch together too?  Do some market research and work up a proforma with defensible, well researched numbers.

5)      Learn the rules – software development is part art and part rule based.  If you can’t get the rules right, your software won’t run.  Venture Capital has its own set of rules.  Learn how to play the game and research best practices and understand how VCs work.  Learn the rules and follow them to increase your chances of getting funded.

6)     Not just an MVP – If you want to get funded, it’s important to get all your ducks in a row to gain trust with investors.  Especially when syndicating with Angel Investor groups like Rockies Venture Club it is important to be able to create excitement and gain momentum.  You won’t be able to do this if you have to go back to the drawing board for a month or more to work up your due diligence package and basic research.

7)      Test – test – test  – You know about the importance of testing and Quality Control for your programs.  A huge percentage of your development time is focused on making sure everything works right.  Take that same attitude towards your pitch and practice on everyone you know and keep refining the pitch and above all, don’t just try to wing it.

In summary, you’ve spent years developing the craft of becoming a developer.  People respect you because of your knowledge and expertise.  Realize that seeking venture capital is not just a sideline, but is something that will take up at least half your time or more until your round is closed.  And once that’s done, you’re probably ready to start on raising your next round.  Understanding the rules of venture capital is not just a nice-to-have skill  – it’s something you’re going to use for the rest of your career, so take the time to learn and do it right.

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Peter Adams is the Executive Director of Rockies Venture Club and Co-Author of Venture Capital for Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, August 2013.  Available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and your local bookstore.

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