Presenting to Venture Capitalists – Part I

Thomas M. asked

Could you please tell me which presentation method you recommend for pitches to potential investors or venture capitalists? On the one hand it is a small audience. On the other hand the conference room method seems to be rather uncommon – David S. Rose ("10 things to know before you pitch a VC for money") as well as Guy Kawasaki ("The Art of Pitching") recommend the classic ballroom method. It might also be a lot easier to transport emotion and to demonstrate a product using the LCD projector method.

Guy's approach is, I believe, an attempt to take a very bad situation and make it bearable. Faced with chronic Death by PowerPoint, advice such as 10-20-30, or "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em," helps avoid the very worst of PowerPoint abuse.  With conference room style presentations, instead of just trying to minimize the downside, we are actually focusing on improving your impact dramatically.  

But does it work when pitching to venture capitalists?  Jerry Weissman seems to think that the real problem is not knowing how to tell a story.  Conference room style, using the S.Co.R.E. method, helps fix that. 

But does it work for VCs?  It depends.  I emailed three Venture Capitalist friends of mine and asked them what they like/dislike about the presentation pitches they receive. The two main points appear to be: 

1. The content of the pitch and quality of the team are far more important than the quality of the presentation.  This was hard for me to hear as a presentation design person–but this is the audience speaking, so we have to listen.  The main point seems to be that you don't want to be too slick.  In the VCs' words: 

(VC 1) The content is the most compelling thing to me.  I
don’t really care how it is presented, other than it should be succinct and
cover the typical key questions an investor wants answered.  Some
questions are better answered in text (like management backgrounds).  Some
questions, like technology architecture, may be more suited to a graphical

(VC 2) For
us the presentation is very secondary – it is all about the people.  We are much more
interested in team dynamics, bios etc. 
… As a general rule there is an
inverse correlation between the quality of the presentation and the quality of the deal. The finest
presentations have resulted in the worst deals. 

2. Use few slides (this is where conference room style would be very helpful)

(VC 2) If someone came in with a 40 page ppt, I would throw up.
Unless they had a 10-page PowerPoint with 30 pages of backup data. 

(VC 2) Generally if you cannot distill your idea in one summary
slide it is probably not a deal for us. That being said, there should also be a couple of slides on people, market, competition, etc. I start to flinch when the presentation gets close to 15 slides. 


The response from VC 3 was significantly longer than the first two.  I will post it separately in its entirety later this week.

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