Pitching to a VC [Updated]

I ran accross an old post over at Feld.com. Brad has a list of questions that covers about 90% of the same Q&A I go through with every company I meet:

1) WHAT IS YOUR VISION?
– What is your big vision?
– What problem are you solving and for whom?
– Where do you want to be in the future?

2) WHAT IS YOUR MARKET OPPORTUNITY AND HOW BIG IS IT?
– How big is the market opportunity you are pursuing and how fast is it growing?
– How established (or nascent) is the market?
– Do you have a credible claim on being one of the top two or three players in the market?

3) DESCRIBE YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE
– What is your product/service?
– How does it solve your customer’s problem?
– What is unique about your product/service?

4) WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER?
– Who are your existing customers?
– Who is your target customer?
– What defines an “ideal” customer prospect?
– Who actually writes you the check?
– Use specific customer examples where possible.

5) WHAT IS YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION?
– What is your value proposition to the customer?
– What kind of ROI can your customer expect by using buying your product/service?
– What pain are you eliminating?
– Are you selling vitamins, aspirin or antibiotics? (I.e. a luxury, a nice-to-have, or a need-to-have)

6) HOW ARE YOU SELLING?
– What does the sales process look like and how long is the sales cycle?
– How will you reach the target customer? What does it cost to “acquire” a customer?
– What is your sales, marketing and distribution strategy?
– What is the current sales pipeline?

7) HOW DO YOU ACQUIRE CUSTOMERS?
– What is your cost to acquire a customer?
– How will this acquisition cost change over time and why?
– What is the lifetime value of a customer?

8) WHO IS YOUR MANAGEMENT TEAM?
– Who is the management team?
– What is their experience?
– What pieces are missing and what is the plan for filling them?

9) WHAT IS YOUR REVENUE MODEL?
– How do you make money?
– What is your revenue model?
– What is required to become profitable?

10) WHAT STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT ARE YOU AT?
– What is your stage of development? Technology/product? Team? Financial metrics/revenue?
– What has been the progress to date (make reality and future clear)?
– What are your future milestones?

11) WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR FUND RAISING?
– What funds have already been raised?
– How much money are you raising and at what valuation?
– How will the money be spent?
– How long will it last and where will the company “be” on its milestones progress at that time?
– How much additional funding do you anticipate raising & when?

12) WHO IS YOUR COMPETITION?
– Who is your existing & likely competition?
– Who is adjacent to you (in the market) that could enter your market (and compete) or could be a co-opted partner?
– What are their strengths/weaknesses?
– Why are you different?

13) WHAT PARTNERSHIPS DO YOU HAVE?
– Who are your key distribution and technology partners (current & future)?
– How dependent are you on these partners?

14) HOW DO YOU FIT WITH THE PROSPECTIVE INVESTOR?
– How does this fit w/ the investor’s portfolio and expertise?
– What synergies, competition exist with the investor’s existing portfolio?

15) OTHER
– What assumptions are key to the success of the business?
– What “gotchas” could change the business overnight? New technologies, new market entrants, change in standards or regulations?
– What are your company’s weak links?

Instead of asking entrepreneurs to present their business, we go through a list of 20-odd questions with them (very similar to the ones above) to walk away from the meeting with a solid understanding of the business and the ability to make a decision on whether or not to continue the investment process. I’ve found this process to be 1000x more productive than sitting through a poorly structured Power Point.

[Update]
I think it’s important to know who you are pitching to and how they are used to receiving, or prefer to receive information. We require companies presenting to the London Business Angel network to prepare a presentation based on our own Powerpoint template. There is the requisite kicking and screaming, but the results speak for themselves: Over 30% of companies presenting receive their funding. Guy Kawasaki suggests 10 slides in 20 minutes in his book Art of the Start. Other investors prefer to receive an executive summary first- it all depends.

Also, if you’re approaching a VC you should look into whether or not they have recently invested in your space, whether they are actively making investments, and speak to one of their portfolio companies before the meeting if possible.

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