The Perfect Pitch

Last week I posted on how you can meet VCs- this week it’s how to get the most out of that meeting.

What format should you use for the first presentation? This is the template that I developed over several years, and recommend whenever an entrepreneur asks what format to use. It’s a time tested format I’ve used for multiple pitch events that I’ve run- it works. The most important part of this pitch is your demo. Make sure that it’s flawless.

The objective of your first meeting is to get to a second meeting. You will start to drill down on one or two points of the company for that meeting. Then you will move on to other points for later meetings. But, for the first meeting, you want to give a fly-over, and leave plenty of time for discussion. Focus on the Product – your demo. It will be the shining point everything else is built on…

So, here’s the Presentation Outline. Stray from this sequence at your own peril.

1. Problem
2. Solution
4. Business Model
5. Underlying magic/ technology
6. Market
7. Competition
8. Milestones/Timeline
9. Financials/Forecasts
10. Summary slide

Good luck!

3 Steps to Meeting Investors (at Events)

You’re at a big event, lots of investors are there – how do you optimize your chances of getting an investment from a VC or angel investor? Follow these three steps (and do not stray).

Your goal is to get a meeting. You’re not going to close a deal right there on the spot- understanding that and what you’re trying to achieve is essential. Securing funding is a multi-step process- you only need to take one step at a time. Step one is getting that meeting. So, on to the process:

1) Do not, and I repeat, do not walk up randomly and pitch them on the spot. (Aka Don’t pitch me, bro!)
VCs are busy – even if they are standing there alone, it’s been a full day of meetings meeting new companies or working with current ones. Their brain is full. They are probably tired. They probably don’t want to hear about your business – even if it’s a deal of great interest. If that’s the case, why are they there? For one, to keep current contacts fresh – to say Hi, ask about progress, see other VCs- ask about deals, etc. But, they are also there to meet new people… so, how do you meet them?

2) Get an intro from another VC, Angel or Portfolio Company.

Social validation is your best friend. Getting an intro to a VC is old info, but it’s far and away your best option. It is also rarely how companies approach me. Your chances of gettting a meeting go up exponentially if you’re introduced. Case in point- I was at the Seedcamp party last week. I’m chatting with the Seedcamp team on how the week had been going when a VC walks up to me with an entrepreneur in tow- he says “Sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to introduce you to Mr. X. I think they’re doing something great that would be of interest to you. How about I send you an email next week to connect you two?”. And that was it. The chances of Mr. X getting an HOUR of my time the following week was 100% at that point. The gain there is huge – my undivided attention and a full hour of it. Not 15 min in a loud venue, with no demo, no deck. And probably no deal.

3) Walk away.

Once you’ve made contact and made a good first impression – get out of there! In the above example, the entrepreneur simply shook my hand, said hello, and said he’d look forward to exchanging info. That’s the perfect thing to have done. I stopped him later in the evening, asked where he was based, and started checking dates for a meeting.

Now, you’ve got the meeting with the VC – what do you do? Prepare your slide deck and demo. I’ll post next week on my thoughts on the perfect pitch.

Good luck!

Creative Destruction

Last week, I spent 3 days in Helsinki at Slush. It’s the second time I’ve been there – last visit was three years ago.

The differences between the two visits were staggering: last time there were circa 500-700 attendees. This year saw a 3000+ sell-out crowd. The floor was so thick you could barely walk. The demo floor was packed with startups – I, foolishly, thought they would be there both days. But they changed them out from Day 1 to Day 2. So, I missed lots of companies I wanted to see…

So how to explain all of this activity- it didn’t come out of nowhere. In my mind, it came out of Nokia. Or Nokia’s downsizing. A classic creative destructive force…

Nokia was the primary employer in Finland for engineers and tech talent, a safe, solid bet. Most Finns in tech were at Nokia 20 years, or that’s the only company they’ve worked with, etc. Working for Nokia was the brass ring. With the company’s decline and the layoffs that ensued, smart techies had to find something else to do. And they did.

Stand-out companies like Supercell have sprung up in the last few years; Rovio is a global brand now – and success is breeding success. The halo effect of these two companies alone means skills and know-how are being shared and transferred to new startups – whether that’s through mentoring, angel investment or collaboration.

It’s a painful time in Finland right now economically, but I think a little bit of short term pain will mean amazing things for the country. Not having Nokia is probably one of the best things that could have happened to the country and the start-up scene in Europe.

A serious tip of the hat to the entrepreneurs I met there building amazing companies.

The European start-up scene. It’s finally working.

What a difference a year makes.

Last April, I posted that:

Europe has always had problems gaining start-up momentum – there’s no epicenter, there’s no critical mass- and there are no Heros.

The Wired 100 list has gone a long way towards making 100 heroes visibile. Big applause for the Wired team. This year’s Wired 100 is on stands now – one person I was happy to see on the “bubbling list” – John Taysom. He’s an awesome guy. I’ve got a few other personal favorites that aren’t on the list yet, but I’ll cheer for them in silence… oh, and obviously congrats to everyone that’s on the list.

Europe *has* a start up scene now – and fortunately for me – most of it revolves around London. Spotify, Mind Candy (Moshi Monsters), Soundcloud – all amazing companies are doing well on a global stage. Young startups like Groupspaces or Lightbox (go David, go Thai) are popping up and getting funding from tier 1 investors.

I could count on one hand the number of hot European startups two years ago. I can count them on two hands now. I might even have to throw in a toe or two as well.

Silicon Roundabout is real now – thanks largely to initiatives like techhub. Seedcamp continues to expand it’s footprint and pulls together the who’s who of the European start-up world during seedcamp week each September. There’s an event this weekend spear-headed by Songkick for developers – silicon milkroundabout. Sign up for it here. This just wasn’t happening 2 years ago…

There’ve been some interesting companies getting acquired -M&A activity is picking up significantly – and money is getting returned to investors in Europe. But, we need to see more high-profile European IPOs. Skype is grabbing for the ring, just got bought by Microsoft for a cool $8.5bn, Daniel Ek at Spotify is (rumored) to be gunning for an IPO. (That would be awesome if you did Daniel.)

All of this is coming together to make London a hot spot. It’s a great time to be here… (plus the weather’s really great this year). One more turn of the wheel and I think we’re there –

Entrepreneurial Leadership Speaker Series

Hussein Kanji has organized a venture capital and entrepreneurship lecture series starting in October, which will be held at London Business School. Current speakers announced are:

Robin Klein, The Accelerator Group, Thursday Oct 1
Stan Bowland, Icera, Thursday Nov 5
Stefan Glaenzer,, Thursday Dec 3
Bernard Liautaud, Balderton, Thursday Feb 4
Jos White, MessageLabs, Thursday March 4
Herman Hauser, Amadeus, Thursday, May 6
Mike Hedger, KVS, Thursday June 3

Other speakers will be announced in the near future.

If you're interested in venture capital and entrepreneurship; then this is the series of speakers you need to get to…and it's FREE. It's a stellar lineup, and the price is right. Full details and bios available at the London Business School website or on Hussein's blog.

See you there.

Pitch your startup: VCIC 2009

I've been a judge for the VCIC competition held at London Business School for the past few years. The school is actively looking for entrepreneurs willing to pitch to a room a VCs and MBAs learning to be VCs. The venture funds present (previously) were Accel, Atlas, Amadeus, Balderton, Doughty Hanson, et al plus corporates like Microsoft and Qualcomm Ventures.

London Business School is currently recruiting Entrepreneurs to pitch at either of the competitions- general requirements are: 

  • Actively looking to raise capital
  • No previous institutional funding
  • Has product.  Preferably has customer traction
  • Available to present on 20th /21st February and/or 27th February

It’s an opportunity for your start-up to present to several top VCs in one shot. If you are interested in pitching at VCIC please contact and/or for more information regarding pitching click here.

Amazon Web Services Meetup- London

I received this in an email today, in case anyone is interested in learning more about Amazon's services in Europe:

Amazon Web Services Technology
Evangelist for Europe Simone Brunozzi and Cohesive co-founder Alexis
Richardson will be hosting the next AWS Meetup in London on Cloud
Computing and AWS, with details on S3, EC2, CloudFront and the other services!

Details of this free evening event are as follows:

When: Wednesday
4th February, 6.30pm
start – as usual afterwards we will go to the Crown for drinks and further
Skills Matter, 1 Sekforde St, Clerkewell, London EC1R 0BE

Simone and Alexis will each speak for 20-25 minutes and there will be time
for some Q&A after that.

For more details about the event and speakers
please visit

Registration is open and places are filling fast so register now at