The VC Problem Solution Set

Sometimes the blindingly obvious is often the most overlooked advice you will ever get. If you are in a long line for something and you see the person servicing the customer is getting hammered, smiling and being nice almost always gets you better results. Blindly obvious but many people ignore or forget only to have crappy service just like the other people in line.

Investment professionals see a million deals a day while on the tennis court. Between sets, trust me, it is a mad dash to go through all those requests for meetings, feedback, pick-your-brain sessions, and cash. Nobody works harder then your tennis focused VC.

With the VC short attention span theater concerns in mind, here’s my blindingly obvious advice on the pitch:

  • Four (4) slides
  • 8 minute total pitch (120 seconds per slide)
  • Demo
  • This is a giant duh, right? So why did you ask for an hour? Let’s take a quick look at each point.

Your Four Slides

Slide one: The Problem.

      Ideally, the slide has a picture, 3 bullet points and you explaining the problem in 120 seconds or less.

Slide two: The Solution.

      A picture (or screen shot) and 3 bullet points combined with you explaining the solution.

Slide three: Who’s going to pay for this?

      3 bullets, a bag of money and your explanation of the ideal customer.

Slide four: How big is the market?

    This is the money slide. Showing there’s a billion dollar opportunity that is believable is this slide’s objective.

The 8 minutes is linked to the four slides. 120 seconds per slide is it. It is the maximum time an investment type can stand to be on one slide. This is to prevent the “checking the BlackBerry” behavior or at least minimize it since most of these people (and I was one) are genetically unable to resist touching the device for 8 minutes. You do what you can.

The demo does not have to be the shipping product rather enough to make the point and get the VC to ask more questions. You will know in 15 minutes what the status is, how they feel, and what your prospects are. There are 100s of tools out there. One tool you may not have heard about is ClickDummy. The simple value prop is taking your mock ups (screens) and making a demo you can click through. The product is monster easy, monster obvious, and monster powerful.

The Pitch

Here’s some additional advice to go along with the obvious:

  • Practice with assholes. Seriously. How helpful is it to practice your pitch with your best friend or an in the sack hopeful when they are just going to be nice? Nice people giving you encouragement with all that high five awesome dude (dudette) stuff is only helpful to your ego. What you really need is a tier one jerk to tear you pitch/idea apart. When they like it or at least grumble quietly, sweet, now you’re onto something. Okay, a bit melodramatic but you get the point. Get credible and useful feedback.
  • Ask for 30 minutes and plan for 15. Trust me, you will be different. VCs never ever get a 30 minute meeting request rather they get “how much time do we have” when the meeting starts. Dumb. The phrase “I need no more then 30 minutes” is not better then sex but it’s up there. Keep it short.
  • Don’t send the slides ahead of time. If they ask, ignore the request. Here’s my view as to why. People who get the slides ahead of time don’t listen in the meetings. Sorry, they just don’t. They act all polite but after 2 seconds into slide one, take you off course. I know. I’ve done it. It’s not meant to be mean or challenging. What happens is that slides show up and the recipient will form up all the opinions before here from you. You’ve lost control over the situation, which is generally a bad thing. Lots of VCs are going to scream from the mountains that I’m wrong. They are going to tell you how organized you’ll look, how professional it is, etc. Nonsense. You should be controlling the situation, not them. You’re doing all the hard work building business while they are playing tennis and worried about red or white with lunch. Harsh, sorry, but my point remains. You control the situation.
  • Don’t handout slides during the meeting. I not as firm on this one especially if you hold to the 4 slide rule. The problem is simple. If you hand out the slides, guess what those crazy kids will be doing? Right. Reading ahead and not paying attention to what you are saying. One of the reasons you don’t put a million bullets points on a slide is for this precise reason. Yes, it’s an ugly abuse of PowerPoint but the most important point is people read while you are talking. Have people pay attention to you and not the slides. The first comment you should make as you start should be “I’ll email you these slides right after this meeting.”
  • Have your one pager ready. You should always have handy a one page, on one side of paper, summary of your business. The stuff you would tell anybody including your competition while at a public event. As the meeting is wrapping up, offer up your one page summary as the leave behind. Remember not to give this up front as people will read it while you are talking.

This essay morphed into a primer on investor meetings but all of this advice really does center on the key message of the problem solution set, who will pay, and how many potential customers are out there.

Note: No, I don’t have an anti-Tennis thing going. You can substitute Golf, Cricket or Horseshoes, as you like.

About the author

Rick Segal

Rick Segal, is the co-founder of Fixmo. Prior to starting Fixmo, Mr. Segal was a partner at JLA Ventures, a large Canadian Venture Capital fund. Mr. Segal was President and Chief Executive Officer of Microforum, a leader in providing integrated e-business solutions in a wide array of industry verticals.

Mr. Segal joined Microforum in July 2000 from Chapters Online Inc., a leading Canadian e-commerce company, where he held the position of President and Chief Operating Officer (1997-2000). Mr. Segal began working with Chapters Inc. in 1997 as a consultant on the technical development of the Chapters e-commerce venture. Based on this successful collaboration, he was named the President of Chapters Online in August 1998.

Prior to joining Chapters Online, Mr. Segal was a partner at the international firm of TMS Consulting from1996 to 1998. Mr. Segal worked at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington from 1992 until 1996 as Director of technical services for the Internet Customer Unit. Mr. Segal is also the author of four books on Network Management and Windows software development.

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