Ask the Experts: What Do VCs Want to See in an Investment Pitch?

Previously in this series, our VC panel described the characteristics of companies that are ready for venture capital and the methods they use to value them. Now in part three, John Greathouse, Andrew Parker, Alex Taussig, Sarah Tavel, and Rob Go share some of the things they like to see when entrepreneurs make their initial investment pitch.

Next week: Why do startups fail?

What do you expect to see in an investment pitch (written and/or live)? 

John Greathouse, General Partner, Rincon Venture Partners

John Greathouse - Company Valuation MethodsWhy YOU will win. Too much ink and talking is spent on the opportunity. We get it; there are lots of really big opportunities out there. Tell us why YOU will dominate these markets, rather than harping on the size of the markets you are pursuing.

I also like corollaries. What other companies out there have done similar things in tangential/unrelated markets? Stay away from the ridiculous name-dropping analogies, like “We are Groupon for Twitter within Facebook.” However, don’t shy away from drawing associations with proven business models that you are emulating.

Rob Go, Co-Founder, NextView Ventures

Rob Go - Company Valuation MethodsI spend most of my time focused on the product, so I love to see a live demo or prototype. If that doesn’t exist, I want to understand how the product would work, how you plan on testing those hypothesis, what you want to launch with, etc. Even without a demo, you can get a great sense of the product intuition of the founders based on mockups or designs, how thoughtfully they talk through the details of their service, and how well they understand and engage with customers.

I also look for evidence of unique market insight (hopefully in a market that I think is exciting and big). This is often only derived from authentic experiences in the market.

Finally, I’m mainly looking for people I’m excited to work with that have a high degree of self awareness and transparency. You can figure this out to some degree based on how they communicate with investors, both on paper and in person.

Andrew Parker, Principal, Spark Capital

Andrew Parker - Company Valuation MethodsThe best pitches largely feature the product. Use three-to-six slides if it helps you tell your story, but beyond that, stick to the demo and let your ability to execute on the product speak for itself.


Alex Taussig, Principal, Highland Capital Partners
Alex Taussig - Company Valuation Methods

I am a big fan of Guy Kawasaki’s canonical 10 slides to pitch your business. Dave McClure has his own (slightly NSFW) version as well. Including these slides will get you 80% of the way to a decent pitch.

The missing component has everything to do with the entrepreneur — specifically his or her own motivations and credibility to solve the problem at hand. It’s hard to fake this one in a pitch, but if you have a compelling story, the best thing you can do is to tell it coherently and decisively.

Sarah Tavel, Senior Associate, Bessemer Venture Partners

Sarah Tavel - Company Valuation MethodsI love a short-but-sweet pitch deck that we can use to help structure a discussion and ensure we hit the main points. My colleague David Cowan wrote a great outline for how to do this here.


Share Your Thoughts

  • http://iNet2.Tv Ernie Johnston

    The link in Alex Taussig’s section for Guy Kawasaki’s canonical 10 slides to pitch your business [http://labs.openviewpartners.com/wp-admin/blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html] is broken. It should be http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html.

    • http://twitter.com/brencournoyer Brendan Cournoyer

      Thanks for pointing out Ernie! All fixed now

  • http://twitter.com/bruno_goulet Bruno Goulet

    Personally, I like to see 5 things clearly in any business startup I get involved with:

    1) Huge market (real customer need & strong demand)
    2) Vision and ability to create a killer app (great product that is minimally three times better then the other solutions available on the market)
    3) Strong business model (scalable, recurring, proven by others, multiple revenue sources)
    4) Proven and differentiated customer acquisition strategy (ability to exploit a large market segment that competitors can’t serve well)
    5) Highly creative, skilled, agile, experienced and passionate team

    Bruno Goulet
    President of Biztree
    Founder of StartupNow