Powerpoint vs Working Code?

My friend Tom Evslin did an unscientific poll of three VCs (including me) and concludes that:

PowerPoint presentations won’t get you
into the meeting room of most venture capitalists even though you may
need a presentation once you get there. Working software that they can
look at before they look at you, on the other hand, seems a great way
to start.


That’s actually great news for us nerds. Wouldn’t you rather code up some cool AJAX and php than make a PowerPoint presentation?

Think about it from an investor’s perspective. If you are getting dozens of new opportunities a day, it’s just more efficient to be able to play with something quickly on the web to understand what the entrepreneur is up to.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. awilensky

    No more room for people with subject matter expertise in complex to implement sectors.

    1. fredwilson

      We have learned the hard way that if you want to crack ³hard to implementsectors² you need to find something simple to start with that gets you intothe game and then you can innovate from there.fred

    2. Devin Dawson

      Just less room. This is a sample of three. It’ll either prove a wise rule and compete its way into the conventional wisdom (to be broken in some spectacular fashion in 4 years) or less useful and be disowned.

  2. Mustafa K. Isik

    Well it is in the best interest of any investor to expect some sort of protoype. This behaviour/expectancy speaks for the non-representative set of polled VCs.It is hard to believe though, that anybody without somebody else’s money to burn, would settle for a slide presentation and “credentials”.Isn’t a prototype worth a thousand slides after all? 😉

  3. awilensky

    I knew the answer already.

  4. Peter Cranstone

    Here you go then. (I’m assuming you have a Blackberry with version 4.2 OS or above) link: http://www.5o9inc.com/black… – real time demo’s one installed can be found here: http://www.5o9mm.com – company stats – positive revenue for the last two quarters and booked for the current quarter. More info on the company can be found here: http://www.5o9inc.com – Web Application Software for the Mobile Enterprise. (And yes we do have a PowerPoint – however the demo’s are much more fun)

  5. Chris Dodge

    Timely post.I’m putting together some proposals for a new Mobile Internet Device (read: iPhone initially) startup that will sell into the Enterprise. Coming from a Tech/Product Dev background my instinct has lead me to start writing the foundations of the product as a “nights-and-weekends” projects (I have a young family).I spent a couple of days on writing code, then put on the breaks. I’ve done startups for my entire career and I feel comfortable with the Product Dev side of things and I don’t see much business risk from that area. However, I’ve also learned that product only gets you so far, one needs to have a business strategy including well thought through Market Positioning and Go-To Market strategy, particularly when making an Enterprise product.Therefore, I’ve been forcing myself to concentrate on a Business Proposal (e.g. Powerpoint Deck). Given my limit time to dedicate to this project right now, this has prevented me from advancing the code (and resulting demo).So, my question to you is, for someone who only has “nights-and-weekends” time available (maybe 7-10 hrs/week) and is putting together a Seed Stage pitch, as an investor what would you like to see more put together: a functional demo or a refined business plan which is well thought through.Obviously both is nice, but what would you recommend?

    1. fredwilson

      I would rather see the demo because if we are the right investor for you, wecan imagine the business plan opportunitiesfred

  6. Fabian Siegel

    Providing a prototype is most likely hard for the entrepreneur who is not able to code. However the concept that the entrepreneur comes up with might be still valid and yield opportunity. I guess in the end there will be a self-selecting process between VCs who are willing to imagine what a concept can become and those that prefer to look at engineer driven opportunities. Or it means more angel funding prior to pitching to VCs.

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t believe it’s a good idea to start a company these days without anengineer in the founding teamfred

      1. Jack

        Fred. Get ready for a flurry of questions! So what’s your advice to a start-up/entrepreneur that doesn’t have an engineer in their founding team at the outset? Don’t do it/put things on hold til you’ve found one? Doesn’t sound too entrepreneurial (I’m imagining that you’ll say “find one fast”, but maybe that’s not always easy, depending on where you are). And what’s your reason for saying this?: because a start-up without an engineer as a founder lacks credibility, stability or core expertise (or a mixture of all of these plus others)? Would you ever invest in a team that doesn’t have an engineer in the founding team? And what’s your view on outsourcing dev (from an propsective investor perspective)? Fundamentally bad idea? And if this route has been taken (i.e. working with a freelance developer/outsourced dev shop) and has turned out a reasonable result, would you discount it as an investment opportunity because of the lack of engineer in the founding team? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

        1. fredwilson

          This requires a whole blog post or maybe a series of blog posts but the answers to your questions after “what’s your reasons for saying this” are; sort of, yes, generally no but there are always exceptions, hate outsourcing devfred

  7. Pierre

    I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s best to make something, and make it make money, then start discussions. If at least some revenue isn’t there then all the projections are just a bit too pie in the sky IMHO. You learn a lot of hard and necessary lessons in making the first couple thousand dollars that you couldn’t guesstimate otherwise.Most web based ideas are pretty easy to implement now a days. To not have at least a tiny bit of revenue generation experience when you walk in the door for funding is crazy.There’s some exceptions, like companies that build platforms for others to make money on, but those types of deals are few and far between.

    1. drewdeal

      Agreed. We are taking that approach now ourselves. Now that we have some provable revenue, the game is changing for the better

  8. salutor

    If you had posted that with a good demo entrepreneurs wouldn’t need a Powerpoint at all then you’d hear some real enthusiasm. I stand with the dreamers who look forward to a post-Powerpoint world.

  9. Darren Herman

    100% agreed. Proving that you can execute is worth more than talk.It all comes down to: Can you back up your talk?

  10. drewdeal

    The logic makes perfect sense, but the mindset of the investor regarding what they want to see, and what they are comfortable playing with is all that matters.I have found myself dumbing things down for investor prospects so often to overcome their barriers it is a joke. Even if the product is dreadfully simple, each person’s prejudices will drive what they expect to hear about it

  11. Steven Kane

    Listen — you can hear legions of freshly-minted MBAs crying into their laptops and lattes.

  12. Benjamin Soussan

    I kind of agree with what has been said on “starting your venture alone first”, and then go and try to get Vcs interested. A good idea/project/business can work whatever the size, so it makes sense to start it small with little capital, then grow it with the help of VCs, and show some revenue. But of course, it might be a totally different story if the business requires intensive engineering work.

  13. Lloyd Fassett

    I think you should be along as far as possible, at any stage of your business. It’s all about reducing the risk until you find investors that like that risk profile.What’s also interesting to me though is that Tom Evslin has 0 real comments as does the link to Brad Feld’s related posting. There are 19 here before this one. The original content can be replicated easily enough, but the discussion happens elsewhere. While this may not be entirely new, It’s not clear to me if the comments are happening on Fred’s blog, or on Disqus or on my account on Disqus. The portability and search for context that information takes on is interesting. It seems like Fred’s audience is passionate and took a little while to build too, kind of like band building an ethusiastic following.I think the music industry is getting it too.

    1. fredwilson

      ExactlyCommunity is kingFred