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The Recipe for a Successful Fundraising Meeting

It is extremely hard to get potential investors’ attention— 99% of the time they say “No.” Nonetheless, get them to meet you. That’s how it works. After you have succeeded in securing a meeting, you get one opportunity to impress the investors and you must be at your best, better than 99 other startups.

I once asked a VC fund partner how long it takes him to decide if he wants to invest in a startup. “You want the right answer or the real answer?” he asked.

“The real answer,” I said.

“Before they sit down,” he replied. That’s how fast investors make up their minds.

This is why the first impression is critical. You may then have a few more minutes to either let it solidify or change that and therefore you have to start with the strongest point in your story. Otherwise, by the time you get there, it may be too late already.

That’s the reason it is important to arrive prepared for these meetings and make sure to tell a good story that creates the right engagement that results in a commitment to invest.

When I asked investors why they had decided to invest their first investment into a certain company, the answer was, “I liked the CEO, and I liked the story” – that’s it.

If this is the case, then the CEO has to go alone to the first meeting, so they can shine, and no-one is distracting the attention. The CEO must learn how to tell a good story. A good story is about creating emotional engagement. You want the listener to want to be part of the story.

The Winning Tips for a Successful Fundraising Meeting

Standing on both sides – as a founder looking for funding, as well as an investor investing in companies, and a mentor to entrepreneurs, here are some of my learning and insights:

  1. Arriving with more than one person on behalf of the company. CEO should be presenting alone. He or she needs to shine and have all the focus on them while presenting the startup’s story.  
  2. Arriving late – coming late to the meeting will prevent you the opportunity to set the stage.
  3. Set up the stage: You should keep this routine, position yourself between the audience and the presentation, so they are looking at you when you speak.
  4. Don’t look at the slides. Have your laptop with the slides in front of you and keep your eyes on them – looking straight at them. Make a real connection by creating eye-contact and smiling.
  5. Not answering a question immediately. If you’re saying ‘I will get to it in the presentation’, you’ve lost the audience’s attention and you may lose the relevancy also. Answer immediately and go deeper, they have just hinted that there is something that they care about – use the hint as an opportunity dig deeper where the investor showed interest. In many cases they don’t even care about the answer, they care to see how you handle it – go deep, show your expertise. And don’t go to that slide.
  6. Having overcrowded slides – each slide should have ONE message, no more than that.
  7. Avoid long and tiring presentations – you won’t get beyond a single-digit number of slides anyhow, so make sure you deliver the most important part of the presentation at the beginning.  
  8. Stand up when presenting. Standing up you get the audience’s focus; you look more energetic and motivated.
  9. The most important element in your slide-deck is not the design or structure. It is the message it delivers.
  10. The first element to notice is slide “zero,” yes, the title slide. Most people would ignore it and will have a generic “Investor presentation of XYZ company September 2023” – If you do that, then you have just missed an opportunity, an easy lay-up. This slide is your homepage. It is going to be there before everyone’s entering the room, and will remain displayed throughout the entire small talk. Have your most significant message there. It could be”1 billion people are stuck in traffic every day” when presenting Waze,”93% retention” or “4X revenues growth YoY” if your company has that kind of data. Whatever it is, use it.

The Slide Deck Order Should go as Following:

  1. Put the strongest point in your story first.
  2. Why – say why you are doing what you are doing and for whom it is intended.
  3. What are you doing.
  4. How’s that different – the uniqueness.
  5. How much money you need.
  6. Strongest point at the end.
  7. The ‘thank you’ slide is the second lasting slide in your presentation. It will remain for the rest of the meeting, so make sure that it says something more significant than “thank you.” Use it to repeat the key message, or remind everyone the WHY, or whatever it is that will make a lasting impression.

You should be able to tell the story of the entire presentation without slides, so practice again and again and again. The reason for that is that you want to be focused on the investor(s) and not on your story. You should be free to get the nuances, answer the questions and listen attentively to positive indicators.

The Positive Indicators You Should Notice

  • They say they are interested.
  • They ask more questions about the deal, the cap table, or other investors.
  • They have recommendations on how to alter the slide deck.

The Negative Indicators You Should Notice

Some of the negative indicators would be of the investor arguing, not asking questions, engaging on other activities while you are presenting, like looking at their smartphones.

Fund raising is always hard, this time around, way harder. It is best to arrive prepared.

The article was previously published on Forbes

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