Six Slides, Three Slides, or No Slides
I read a blog post (via Hacker News) this morning that suggested three slides is enough.
I've written that six slides is what got it done for us.
And the best presenations I've seen lately used no slides, but started with a live demo of a working web app and went from there.
Nothing beats a demo in my book. It allows the founder(s) to talk about what they built, why they built it, and where it is going "in situ."
So think about ditching the pitch deck and using your app as the backdrop for your fundraising meetings. I am confident you'll like the results.
Agreed!! I haven’t used PPT in ages. It’s a bad prop and crutch. If you know your stuff (and you better! ), it’s so much more effective to talk _to_ your meeting attendees, than _at_ a slide.Go au natural.
IF NEED CRUTCH, SHOULD RECONSIDER MARATHON.
Proof of the pudding is in the eating.Nothing smells like a rose than smelling the rose.
I hate pitch decks. I hate them doubly now that I’m watching my (brilliant, beautiful) wife go through the pain with her biotech got-up (revenue!) as they seek series-B expansion capital.The product we’re working on is, essentially, an API. We are struggling with how the heck to demo an API.So let me ask you, how would you like to see a demo of an API?-XC
SLIDE 1: SHOW CALLS TO APISLIDE 2: SHOW THINGS BUILT ON APISLIDE 3: ADDRESS TO SEND CHECKS TO
Grimlock, you are on a roll today!
Build something on it live in front of me
Twilio from one of your older posts: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…Think that get’s it done pretty well
That was greatSo was soundcloud’s one slide
No slides all the way.
I’ve struggled with this a bit.Start at the whiteboard. Landscape and problem. Launch terminal. Then use cURL to make some calls.Open an IDE, put the finishing touches on an app that uses the API. Compile, run.Then demo other things built with the API
That is badass. I love it
Compile?!? That’s just crazy talk for fast prototyping… 😉
I read a great guide to being a retail stockbroker (some friends do this as a career and it was lying around).I went to the section on presenting to potential clients. The book said, basically – you can’t demo the product (your relationship) and it flat out said that people expect you to be lying if you talk about returns & you are selling concern and understanding of a complicated issue (managing wealth).The answer – when it comes time to pitch, hand draw your presentation on a blank sheet of paper. You can customize it; it implies / shows deep understanding and supreme confidence.My way of saying you are going for the gold standard @ErikSchwartz:disqus – I am a huge proponent of that approach. Keep at it!
Calling your API from a good visualization/analytics tool does the trick.You can take a look at high level software to access some APIs like: – Tableau – PowerPivot – Apatar (open source)or typical web mashup platforms such as Yahoo Pipes
WHAT IS BETTER, ICECREAM OR PICTURE OF ICECREAM?THAT IS WHY DEMO > SLIDES.
Father, it is my hope and dream that someday you overtake Fred and become the AVC bartender.P.S. What would be useful would be a list of VCs and what their preference is: If they prefer experiencing icecream, or prefer to hear about the qualities of icecream. It would be nice to cross-reference if you’re planning to pitch different VCs that you aren’t sure what their preference is – perhaps even a list of their current portfolios and the style of pitches they provided as well. This would be quite beneficial to VCs too so the information is coming to them how they prefer.
Both. if you ever go to Van Leeuwen ice cream shop in the village, the descriptions help a lot. I think slides should be the same way, an introduction to a demo
Having someone point out the qualities of an icecream while I am enjoying it certainly would be my preference… I’m unsure if slides first makes a lot of sense. However, it’s very likely prototypes were already viewed before you got a meeting – so going to a demo might be immediately repetitive..
I remember that AngelList had a list of investores preferences for a meeting (like prototype running, etc). It will be interesting to organize a central repository for this kind of video presentations, so investors can screen entrepreneurs before making personal appointments.
Have a video for investors to view before pitching?
HAVE ALL STARTUPS RECORD DANCE VIDEOS. SEND TO VCS.IT GUARANTEED TO WORK. ME SEE ON TV.
It sounds very similar to me.
Like an Ignite talk — you have to submit a video when you apply.Love that format.Come to think of it folks I’ll be doing one of the Ignite talks on Oct 10, 6pm at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Conf. If any of you my AVC BFFs wants to come cheer me on. It’s a 1600 person audience, I need some good mojo! Tix for this segment are just $10. http://bit.ly/ignitenyc13. #shamelessplug
Tereza,For yourhttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…my response is inhttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…
I need to save my AirMiles for November and perhaps going out west – otherwise I’d try to make it; Will be there in spirit though. I’m sure you’ll knock’em dead.
i have no intention of handing over bartending duties. but the grimster can sub in for me at any time!
Maybe he’ll just sneak behind the bar while you’re not watching and wear a MEETUP “Hello, my name is…” sticker that says ‘Fred’ on it..
NO LIKE TO BARTEND. KEEP EATING DELICIOUS BEER FILLED HUMANS.IT REALLY CUT DOWN ON TIPS.
Just take their wallet out of their pockets first silly..
ME, GRIMLOCK, AM A GRIMLOCK, NOT A FRED.BUT PITCH IN IF FRED ASK.
How ’bout you start him with a guest blog post?
a blog post in all caps!
People might think we have too much fun at AVC … we shouldn’t let them in on our secret..
ANY TIME WANT, JUST LET GRIMLOCK KNOW.FAKEGRIMLOCK PLUS SHIFT 2 PLUS FAKEGRIMLOCK.COM(THAT CODE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS, NO TELL ANYONE)
if you could post on any topic, what would you choose?
WHAT WOULD WRITE?WHY PERSONALITY (VOICE) MATTERS MORE THAN EVEN UX, TECH.
donebring iti will publish it any day other than mondays
IT DEAL.WILL WRITE LATER IN WEEK. PREPPING FOR CONFERENCE RIGHT NOW.HAVE IMPORTANT PRESENTATION. TITLE IS “HELLO, FOOD”. IT GOING TO BE KILLER.
i’m already loving it
FAKE GRIMLOCK on a tear this morning. Love it!Best presentation I ever saw was at a public stock meeting for Getty Images. CEO Jonathon Klein put up beautiful image after beautiful image and spoke – no words on the slides. When he did break from the slides he showed how he searched for and built the deck of images – right from the gettyimages.com site.Fantastic and at the time completely groundbreaking.
I saw that presentation as well. Amazing. I sit on the Etsy board with Jonathan. He is awesome
Nice! Thanks Fred. I really liked the 6 slides post. I like thinking of any presentation in 3 key slides personally.And the grimster is doing some heavy commenting today!
Totally agree Fred. I generally find slides distracting and, at best, a demonstration of graphic design skills, which usually isn’t the point of the pitch. The Getty presentation was essentially a demo, and that context is why it was so compelling. I think slides are best used as a ‘leave behind’ to ensure people have the key data, contact info, etc.
Agree on the leave behind Rob,What I do is try to post on the topic I’m presenting if a public venue although the ubiquity of video is changing this somewhat.Private pitches, summaries are really useful.
I love the idea of a public version of the presentation as the leave behind. That’s what I usually do
Agree on the leave behind.But, the slides used to support a presentation are not the same slides that tell a cogent story as a standalone.For instance in a live presentation if I can encapsulate the problem in a single image I might use that as a one slide presentation (3 actually because you want a title slide and a thank you slide). Keep an image of the problem up while I talk about the solution. But leaving that deck behind is meaningless.
Agree that less is more, action/demo more than a retelling the story slide.Size of group determines the number of props to me though.In a boardroom, or informal gathering, a whiteboard or a a slide to set the context is all I need.Larger venues, having something to create visual pace is a big asset.In spirit I agree completely. Personally we all know what we need to get the job done well.
What??!! you want to see an app and no deck….c’mon this is a bubble…surely you’ll just take a look at my 45 slide pitch and fund it. It’s a great idea, nobody else has thought of it (well I haven’t exactly checked that but you can take my word for it).
I’ll fund you Richard!
Thanks very much Matthew that’s very kind of you.I was kinda hanging out for a VC with a Jedi Council to come knocking on my door…..
Btw Fred, I went back and read that 6 slide post. Some folks asked you in the comments to post those slides and I’m wondering if you ever did? I looked on the USV site, but didn’t find them.
“no slides” has a “lean” thinking to it, and probably says something about the team presenting if they do it well.
Yes, a good demo is like the front door to getting in and talking further. But soon after a great demo, you’ll have to answer a bunch of real questions.On that very same topic, just saw this new (Canadian) product launched yesterday at TC Disrupt where you can do a virtual demo by instantly sharing your screen remotely,- really cool service called GoInstant http://goinstant.com/ founded by @jevon:twitter
I often recommend that a huge percentage of slides should be in an appendix at the end of the deck so they can be referenced in QA.How is GoInstant better than Skype for screen sharing?
Hi Erik– We are working hard to build an experience that focuses on the web, not the desktop. Because we have built something on the web, we have been able to do a lot of things differently.GoInstant is:Interactive- No more handing off control, instead you focus on working together, which creates a highly engaging experience.Web native- You interact on a website, not a screen image.No downloads- we mean it. Never download an app, applet or plugin before a meeting again.Mobile- Use GoInstant on your iOS, Android or other device just by going to the meeting URL. No apps or downloads.
Cool. I will take a look.
Thanks for the mention William! We have actually managed to get rid of screen sharing completely and we have focused on a web-native solution. It takes about 5 seconds to be connected and working together. @fredwilson:disqus — happy to give you a look! We want to kill slides and one-way demos completely so our customers can just let their products do the talking.You can see our demo from last night here: http://www.techcrunch.tv/sh…
I would like to know the time-line this service GoInstant is build. Such a huge team and twelve investors seems it’s going be the next Canadian Amazon dot com. Great service.
is that the service you used for your demo?
Bookmarked the tool, could come in handy in a number of different situations.
Great method for meeting #1. I think it might be helpful to many people to explain how this initial presentation fits in to the overall X step process. The goal of this first “pitch” meeting is to get the potential investors excited enough to ask for more information. For USV and probably about 100% of other internet focused investors that is a working demo that shows you can actually build a product, that has taken into consideration design, and that clearly communicates the value prop to real users which will drive increasing adoption.At disrupt this week, Paul Graham put it as something that is very simple, very beautiful, and very social.For context, can you go through what the follow on requests for info (diligence) and follow on meetings look like in the USV process?
2 comments from someone who makes a living designing decks (so biassed):Often, slide limits just result in poorer decks. People cram all their content in 3 slides. A better way to think about this is: “I want to fill 10 minutes, what amount of visuals do I need?” The answer could be 3, but can easily be 45 (minimalist of course).On demos. If you are in a turbo charged 20 minute all or nothing pitch, a demo is just too risky. Better use screen shots that cannot go wrong and are not dependent on Internet speed. Once the VC is interested, book sufficient time to go through a demo.
Agree on the first one. Good point.On the second, not so. Whenever I see a screen shot, I want to see the real thing.
It depends on time. If you have very little of it, a technical glitch or actions that do not provide information (loggin in, looking for stuff, going through screens to find things) somehow pop the momentum out of the story. “John, can you hear us? John? Let’s try again”-type of distractions are expensive in a 15 minute pitch.It all depends on what sort of startup you have of course.
Agree…context defines the rules. My personal rule is that if you can you should.
Good rule 🙂
And for the community, I’ll attest to your expertise in this area.Smart work that speaks for itself on your website.
Thank you for that endorsement!
Agree entirely on the slide limits. The better rule is “one idea per slide.”
Precisely: 30 ideas: 30 slides. But you might not put up all of them depending on where the discussion goes.
I plan to combine the best of both worlds.I will have 6-10 primary slides, which I may or may not use – and then a long-spreadsheet of features I want to add.They will really just be used as reminders of things that eithera) the demo won’t necessarily prompt me to talk about, orb) that the VCs will ask about and I can have a slide with the grouping of related information whether it be competition (eg: list of competitors, investment they’ve received, simple matrix of basic feature differences, etc)I think a full presentation that would be 40+ slides should really just showcase how organized you are, knowing where you’re currently at, where you hope to be in x months, etc.. It should be a guide for yourself and that VCs could skim over afterwards to fill in the gaps to make sure you’ve actually thought through things in more detail than the basic top-layer of stuff you’ve presented or talked about; Clearly you shouldn’t set yourself up to try to explain everything, all the narratives as to why, etc – that would push anyone towards the edge of insanity. If you’ve given yourself enough time and know what you’re doing well enough, you’ll know everything on the 40+ slides off by heart anyway..
A great approach.
Point on slide limits is spot on.Disagree with the point on demos.I understand the desire to play it safe, but if you’re building something that’s going to be out in the wild and used by lots of people, you have to at least get it working in a controlled environment, and do what it takes to either gain more control over the environment (eg get a better hotspot etc) or build something more robust.And “showing” people is generally better than “telling”; it fills the imagination gap, it puts your vision into action, and ultimately will definitely say things that you cant in words.
These are great principles. Try if it works and if not: have a backup of screen shots in case Murphy’s law strikes.
I was in a prospect’s office in Baltimore once, with my then-company’s CTO on the speaker phone from NJ, ready to go through a demo, when he realized that the prospect company’s firewall blocked access to our site. That was awkward.
I have had the same thing happen to me, more than once. Now I always ask for a “test drive with their tech support” before doing any live ‘demo’s” . And, I have had this happen with decks as well, particularly if you use and kind of video embedded in the deck.
PECHA KUCHA HAVE GOOD MODEL FOR PRESENTATION.
Have not seen pecha kucha in apitch though. VC: can we go back a slide? Pitcher: no way gotta be out of here in 2 minutes.
See this Euler’s Identity in 5 minutes: http://blog.ideatransplant….
I think 5 does the trick for intro meetings (30 mins)1) Title2) What3) Why4) How5) The Ask
I think best thing is not to present at all, let the USV’s of the world find you and let you know what they can do for you in terms of recruitment and marketing as most web services start-ups ( focus of USV”s of the world) don’t require large amounts of capital.I have friends who are building sustainable energy technologies and for them the pitch deck is still the way to try and get seed funding as their world is completely different than a web services companies, don’t know how you could do a demo for say better turbine blade for a windmill until you have built it, most of their demos for the most part remain CAD videos and show the tech details on paper and computer simulations.
Agreed. When the VCs are pitching you, you’ve nailed it
If you are confident on what you are offering you should be able to do it live. A couple years ago I was asked to give a few lectures about some Excel advanced uses for a big group at a big company. Things like solver, multiple scenario simulation, writing macros in VB and stuff like that. A week before starting they asked for the slides. I said I was gonna only use Excel and a big screen. They fired me because it was too risky. Some other guy made a Powerpoint about Excel.
Rule number one of pitching is have multiple levels of fallback.If live fails go to video. If video fails go to slides. If slides fail hand out paper.
I know, but I was doing this because it was interesting and kinda fun. Almost no money involved. When they took away the fun part I was not eager to compromise much. I tried them to accept me explaining videos, but they just wanted Powerpoint and I was not going to go that way.
FAIL BEING SELF IS WIN.WIN BEING SOMEONE ELSE IS FAIL.
Couldn’t agree more, Fred. Whenever a prospect says “send me a deck” I mentally move them from the “open opportunity” to “closed – lost” column in our sales tracking. And personally, my eyes glaze over whenever anybody says “let’s review the deck.”On the other side – it’s what people are used to seeing, so there is some expectation.
We use our deck as a warmup pre-meeting (meaning we send it over prior to a meeting)…hopefully it gives them a little bit of an outline on what we’ll be covering/talking about as we demo them the real product and talk about our plans/future…and in a best case scenario, it also allows them to come in with some specific questions and areas they want us to focus our demo on.I don’t think we’ve ever done a meeting with a potential investor were we’ve gone through our whole deck (and we only have about 6 slides)…we always end up in demo mode and much more interesting conversations 😉
I’m months away from having to worry about this but I’ve been thinking about it.The problem I see is that our technology is broad and deep and it’s way more powerful for an investor to see the product while knowing where we see the puck going.The challenge for me is to see if I can deliver that broader vision more concisely and just as powerfully without using slides.
The 3 slide rule post Fred linked to was really good. It linked to a 37 signals post that was good too. Bottom of that post quoted a CS prof from U of GA.”Clear writing leads to clear thinking. You don’t know what you know until you try to express it. Good writing is partly a matter of character. Instead of doing what’s easy for you, do what’s easy for your reader.”I’m taking two reminders from that. Write my message in advance to make sure I know what it is and have my thinking refined. Figure out the form my audience likes and try to give it to them.
Teaching a subject is the best way of mastering a subject.Once you have completed the “teaching” materials, go back and see what is redundant or what will flow from a question.Anticipate every possible question and prepare an answer.I did not say PRESENT it all but just be ready for it all.Preparation is the key.
Tried and true:1. Imagine a world where….2. Here’s how we get there…3. Known obstacles to overcome4 The pot of gold5 Why our team is awesome6 Routing number for investment
Or a bitcoin account 😉
LOL that would be a classic.
I don’t know many who take bitcoin..
paypal is another alternative
bitcoins are kind of illiquid – don’t they behave a lot like gold, which you disapprove of?
BITCOIN IS JUST BARELY MORE SECURE THAN POUR GASOLINE ON MONEY AND LIGHT IT ON FIRE.
1) Story / why it’s needed + Demo2) Future Plans3) Competition4) Forecasts5) Why our team is awesome6) Create a bank account so Fred can wire me money
I still remember this comment. Great one Andy.
Love the demo idea, but how do you get in front of the VC without a deck?
Leave a comment in their blog 🙂
We have done that a few times….. Lover your blog, incredibly informative.Guess I need to get back to NY once in a while….
OK. Watch the video, create an account, demo.http://showgov.cloudfoundry…[email protected]
Either know him or be pitching something he’s heard of.
The real question is getting in front of the “right” VC…..I registered for an account with retailpitch by reading your comments here; strange place to meet up, on a tech blog!
Amazingly we have received leads from so many places. There is a pretty large market for retailers looking for solutions, and small brands trying to get in to the marketplace.
Brad, the reality is that trade show attendance is way down, and its been trending down for over 8 years. When you realize that a trade show can cost a company $20,000 easy its really hard to justify the expense. The other issue is that sales reps are hard to find and they no longer travel.So the concept of a “virtual tradeshow” makes all the sense in the world.
Nice to see that we are not crazy…. Wait till you see what our system will give brands and retailers.
Oh, come on now, we all are a little nuts! We eat and sleep new ideas…that’s not normal!Come to think about it, we are really nuts!
TRADESHOWS GOING SAME PLACE BOOKSTORES, MUSICSTORES, AND PRINT MEDIA GOING. NOWHERE.
Innovate or die!
Network. Relationships. I first pitched USV 6 years ago.I was commenting on AVC. I had 3 separate intros (including the ex-CEO of a portfolio company that had exited). For reasons of team and market, he passed (we were eventually funded but he was right on both accounts).While I have not formally pitched Fred for investment since, I have shown him demos of most things I have been working on. I think I have a pretty good idea of what he’s interested in and none of the things I’ve built recently have met those requirements (yet).
When I started fundraising I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so I surfed the web and followed the advice that I found. The reality is that your presentation should be tailored for your product and your audience. If you got a tech start up and you are presenting to a tech VC firm then a demo is what you need.In my case, being a “hybrid” ( a tech buddy of mine says that is just a nice way of saying “freak of nature”) all of my presentations have been alloted an hour, so obviously my audience is not VC firms. Of course I have our shirts, since we make those already, they always create conversation because they are so big and well made. Of course you have to deal with questions such as “why don’t you make these in regular sizes?”Then you go with 2 slides.I just realized that the only thing lacking was a demo. Not real sure why it took me so long to realize that if the shirts were such a positive why I didn’t realize that a demo of the internet platform wouldn’t be as successful.Of course all of my problems would be solved if I could find a VC firm made up of big and tall / plus sized partners, but no, investors are always healthy, small, exercise constantly, and have never shopped at Walmart.
Side question Carl, you don’t happen to have access to incredibly comfortable dri fit 2-3xlt shirts? I’ve been trying dozens of brands but can only find a couple that feel incredibly comfortable after exercising for a while. The old Nike dri fits were perfect but they never made any big and tall sizes. Reebok’s dri fit shirts are pathetic.
Actually, we are producing a line of 100% cotton Transdry activewear in 2012. While 100% cotton they have superior moisture wicking properties to that of dri fit.Email me your address at [email protected] and I will send you a couple of our 2XLT tees so you can try the fit. The fit is the same its just that the fabric and fabric weight will be different.
I love that the world is moving here.I can remember my most frustrating pitch decades ago when I started a demo and the VC immediately stopped me and said: “look we assume the technology works, lets see a slide deck.”I couldn’t believe people “assumed” things worked and had such a low regard for the technology which is/was the foundation of the investment. I did a forced march through a crummy slide deck and of course found no interest.
While we are selling to them they need to be selling to us.
Sorry Erik, They’ve got the $$$. No $ no Bizz. Or be friend with Eric Reis’s Lean Startup math.
Taking money from the wrong investors can kill your business as fast as anything. If you’ve got one investment offer, but a bad feeling about what the investor will do on your board of directors, TURN IT DOWN.
I am not seeking VC funding but Erik, I wholeheartedly agree with what you say! In fact I have turned down 2 sources of funding (yes, said “no” to money!) and didn’t accept 3 requests to present.I would assume that this is a bigger issue with angel investors and or seeking funding from industry sources than it would be with VC’s.
Like, Like, Like.I think the relationship is one of a Sultan/Harem, best case, not a marriage. But you better pick your Sultan wisely not desperately.
@fredwilson:disqus is this rule applied independent of what stage the company is or is it for seed rounds?
Seed and early stage roundsGreat point that late stage rounds require a different sell
In a seed round, couldn’t you be inm build or pre-build? I keep thinking of aarvark where the founders spent a huge amount of time in wireframes to make sure the interactions worked. They raised money while in that stage.What counts as demo?
USE LEAN STARTUP, NOT WIREFRAMES.RAISE MONEY WITH WORKING PRODUCT.
Wireframes are part of lean startup…..And depending on your startup (especially if you are b2b, in the big enterprise category) having a working product may not work so well because you have to deal with what your head honcho and users want
BUILD PRODUCT IS HOW FIND OUT WHAT USERS WANT.IF CARE WHAT HEAD HONCHO WANT, NOT LEAN.
yeah I’m going with Grim here – wireframes are required if you have clients that have to see everything before you create it for approvals – you can’t actually get interactions until well, your interacting with it.If you want to use wireframes – pick key pieces of the process – key areas within the product your building – to develop out your design philosophy etc. and then just create it and go from there.
How about 9Slides http://www.9Slides.com
When I present I make an outline, present sans deck but usually with a demo or concrete “show and tell” piece, and after the presentation but before Q&A and/or discussion I hand out the outline. Seems to work quite well.
How many slides does it take for a great pitch? Choose One: Three http://wedg.me/rbvunm or No slides, just a demo http://wedg.me/pxS6Hm
ME SEE WHAT YOU DO THERE.
I walk into restaurants where I see happy animated guests, laughing, eating, talking, drinking; sometimes I see a dish being served and think “Wow I wouldn’t mind some of that.” Occasionally I go there on recommendation (but I always consider who gave the recommendation). I may walk into a restaurant because it looks cool or quirky, or has old world charm, or even because the menu sounds good (or has things I have never tried).What I NEVER do is go to a restaurant because I saw a copy of the cookbooks they use, read their health inspection certificate, or saw the Chefs’ training certificate.A presentation slide presents a theory. Theory and practice are identical – in theory. And there’s the rub !
“What I NEVER do is go to a restaurant because I saw a copy of the cookbooks they use, read their health inspection certificate, or saw the Chefs’ training certificate.”No, but you might go because you read a great Zagat or Yelp review of the restaurant, or saw a picture and description of a unique dish they serve, and those are analogous to the sort of information that might go in a slide show.
Slides are a great organizational tool, but when you know your product and your pitch, and you can demo then rap without distraction, THAT’s what makes zero slides effective.
Incidentally, if you do have slides created as part of your preparation, then they can be useful to have on deck in case you have visuals to enhance the answer to a question post demo. They also let you play the “I’ve got a deck ready for today, but we don’t need it. You guys will get it as soon as I show you what we’ve been working on.” card 🙂
With respect to demos and demo meetings, “Do the Last Thing First!” I (rather strongly) recommend organizing the information to be delivered in the “inverted pyramid” approach that well-written newspapers (and news websites) use. You put the most important ideas right up front, simllar to the use of headlines and photos in news articles, to capture attention and interest. You follow with a crisp summary of the key elements, again similar to the first one or two paragraphs in a well-written news article.Finally, you “peel back the layers” in accord with your audiences depth and level of interest, moving to finer and finer detail – but you only go as far as needed. (“Stop selling when the customer is ready to buy.”)For more on demos skills, tips, and methods, you might check out the Great Demo! book on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Great… and/or my blog at http://greatdemo.blogspot.com/
THIS GOOD ADVICE.IF NO CAN LET GO OF GIANT PILE OF SLIDES, DO THIS:1. MAKE GIANT PILE OF SLIDES.2. MAKE SECOND VERSION WITH 30 SLIDES.3. MAKE THIRD ONE WITH 15 SLIDES.4. MAKE LAST ONE WITH 6 SLIDES.SHOW LAST ONE TO VC FIRST. IF AT END, VC WANT TO SEE MORE, SHOW THIRD ONE. ETC.YOU PROBABLY NEVER HAVE TO SHOW MORE THAN THIRD ONE.
“in situ” ? In situation? Haven’t heard that one before.
Damn, I am so uncool.
Bottom line, make is short and sweet unless you are a math professor teaching the class. Does anyone agree with this?Glenn WrightVP of MarketingPartner Source (Ranked #2 for Service/Cost: B2B & B2C Lead Generation & Survey Company)Minneapolis, Minnesota, United Stateswww.thepartnersource.com
If you frame this as a gated process, or a sales funnel, it helps build comfort in reducing slides:1) Get a meeting2) Deliver the differentiating idea3) Pass the diligence test4) Agree to termsEnterprise level sales people (I define this as people who sell to people who can move budgets) know that you cannot rush through all the stages in one meeting.Six slides should get you through stage 2; no amount of slides will get you through stages 2&3 in one meeting.I think a demo is the bridge between stages 2&3.What many entrepreneurs lack is the confidence to be looking at the funder during stage 2. If the investors don’t get it after 6 slides, when other knowledgeable people do, then they are likely a bad fit. That lack of initial intellectual support is deadly, if they get involved on your BoD.
Agree that a demo is always better, but when you’re dealing with larger partnerships or funds, don’t you think it’s valuable to have something to leave behind that can be shared with others who couldn’t attend?That being said, we always tried to be conversational and show a live product. Funny enough, there were more than a few occasions when firms asked us to go by the slides…
Mark Suster has some slides showing that most VCs have been getting poor returns. So, if I were an LP, I’d DARNED well want to know, to the greatest extent possible, in crystal clear, rock solid terms, just why a VC firm was going to make good returns.For good returns, I’d eagerly ice some bubbly. For bad returns, I’d get TORQUED.And you had 20 years of investing experience. And apparently, just from a look at some of the names of famous, now large, companies in your portfolio, it’s easy to believe that currently you’ve got the best ROI of any venture firm and your wife no longer cries in the grocery store from an empty checkbook. Not fun to see females cry. When you report to your LPs, if that is part of the deal, then they should be popping corks and pouring into Swedish crystal flutes for you. I would.Then, all those 20 years got squeezed into just six slides.Then, I would ask: With just six slides, how the HECK did the LPs have the information they needed about USV to be sure your returns would be good?Or, didn’t they care? Or all they looked at was the poise, tone of voice, a tiny glance from 100,000 feet of your 20 years? Or they believed in a ‘magic touch’? A crystal ball? Tough to believe.Similarly, as an entrepreneur, NO WAY would I bet on my project, or nearly any project, with just the information in a six slide deck. NOT a chance.In particular, if mostly all a VC is seeing is a demo or just some rapidly growing, early ‘traction’, then maybe all there is is an egg or a chick that won’t ever amount to much. Is this egg even fertile? The chick, is it for a gooney bird or an eagle? Where is the information on planning, secret sauce unfair advantage, Buffett moat, etc., helping to show that the project has a good chance of growing into a major company?The process you are describing looks like: See airplane. See airplane taxi. Now lets get aboard for a non-stop flight from NYC to, say, London. No lift, drag, or thrust calculations, FAA air worthiness certification, pre-flight check list, flight planning, alternate destination, reserve fuel arithmetic, weather reports, weather radar, or air traffic control. I wouldn’t get aboard as either the pilot or the paying passenger. Splash down on that route and it can get darned cold. There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots.Somehow I have to suspect that, when there are good returns, except for blind luck, CEO to VC or VC to LP, there has to be much more information exchanged than a six slide deck.
Sig – not many people get married the night of their first date. Its a process (see below).Many people who get married can tell you, in intimate detail, what they remember about their first date – my wife does this all the time to me – or the first time that they looked at the other person from the ‘I need to be married to you’ perspective – I tell this story all the time when answering the ‘how did you meet’ query .Work on that feeling. reinforce that feeling with logical proof later.
Good grief! In college I was studying math and physics but dated a girl a little younger than I was. We started taking walks in the afternoons timidly holding hands, but, as Mother Nature had in mind, in the time we were dating she ‘grew up’ FAST! I was supposed to get a ‘well rounded’ education, right? :-)!So, you are saying that a VC pitch should draw more from what I learned from her about romance and passion than from math and physics? Hmm …! Can learn new, unexpected things at AVC.com! :-)!It has been said that the Greeks recognized a dichotomy between passion and reason!Gee, in college and grad school I sat through a LOT of lectures, usually taking notes furiously, and not once did I see the content in <= 6 sparse slides! Have never seen such a presentation of von Neumann’s proof of the Radon-Nikodym theorem and its application to the Hahn decomposition, conditional expectation, and martingales and application of martingales to the strong law of large numbers in just six slides!Or just have a one slide pitch: Put up a slide with just “$200 BILLION” in the largest font that will fit and play:Tchaikovsky, ‘The Nutcracker’, “Pas De Deux”http://www.youtube.com/watc…Tchaikovsky – Symphony Number 6, “Pathétique”, Adagio, especially starting at 5:12http://www.youtube.com/watc…Tchaikovsky, ‘Romeo and Juliet’,http://www.youtube.com/watc…Wagner, ‘Tristan und Isolde’, duet,http://www.youtube.com/watc…Note: The harmonies take getting used to; only use on investors who really like classical music!Chopin, ‘Les Sylphides’http://www.youtube.com/watc…Kreisler, ‘Liebesleid’http://www.youtube.com/watc…Note: This is played by G. Kramer, who does not look very healthy but gives an excellent performance.Liszt, ‘Liebestraum’http://www.youtube.com/watc…R. Strauss, ‘Der Rosenkavalier’http://www.youtube.com/watc…Note: The one with the rose, Anne Sophie von Otter, is playing Octavian, a man! For the other one, Barbara Bonney, there’s no question about gender! It’s good music until get to the duet, and then it’s excellent. There are remarks that Strauss knew how to write for the female voice! My view is that this performance is one of the most elegant pieces of art in the history of the planet (yes, Strauss wrote it much in the style of Mozart), but the YouTube appended content ‘recommendation’ also suggests something about a rose with Bette Midler — Google still hasn’t figured out that their keywords make hash out of meaning and don’t know how to ‘get at’ meaning (did I mention $200 billion?)http://www.youtube.com/watc…One of the best musical ‘analogies’, with the ‘hero’, winning the girl with her long resisting (a NICE violin solo), the ‘adversary’, the battle defeating the adversary, and after victory with the girl, would be the R. Strauss ‘Ein Heldenleben’. Strauss understood women! Some of the music is famous, e.g., was used as theme music for one of the TV network news shows!Maybe we should omit Stravinsky ‘Le sacre du printemps’http://www.youtube.com/watc…To save time (want to continue on the progress made last night on Visual Basic .NET code for manipulating, parsing, ‘canonicalizing’, en/decoding URLs), I’ve omitted romantic music by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, etc.That should be sufficient for ‘Romancing the Deal’? :-)!If not, maybe it’s sufficient as a DJ at turntable.fm?As much as I like the music above and much more in music, maybe I should question if I would want on my Board someone who needed ‘romancing’? :-)!
Your classes in school were there to teach you “how” to do physics. That is not the point of a pitch.One does not need to see the sheet music or know which instruments are being used in a concert to feel the emotion from a world class piece. In fact, as a music lover, I am much better at determining if a piece is excellent by listening to it (the demo) then by reviewing the composer’s pedigree and reading over the sheet music. (the pitch deck)
Alex – nice analogy extension. Bartender!
On music, sure. I first listen to it. I’m not a good enough musician to be able to ‘hear’ the music just from the score; maybe some day I will be. Still, playing over some of the parts does help at the next listening. And for the Bach ‘Chaconne’, getting to where I could play about half of it helped a LOT! When I get my software done, I’ll return to music but likely based on a computer instead of a violin!Music is ‘art’ much as in ‘communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion’. So, on the Greek dichotomy between passion and reason, music is nearly all about passion (emotion, experience).In a ‘pitch’, sure, can try to use this definition of ‘art’ and make the audience ‘passionate’ about the project. Can try. I can put in a little of that. Get them excited, up on their hind legs, etc.I gave a list of some of the most ‘love-romantic’ music there is; my intention was a joke, to exaggerate and say that it would be a bit much to pitch a project for $200 billion using a Tchaikovsky ‘Pas De Deux’!If I were the investor, then I’d want the pitch to be at least as rational as a physics lecture and would prefer a math lecture — I’d want to see rock solid rationalism that will carry all the way to the bank.Right, should pitch what the audience wants to hear.But I have to wonder if I should have on my Board someone who invested based on passion instead of reason: In continuing to be positive about the business through ‘exit’ or whatever, in fact, just through the next morning, I trust reason but not passion. I don’t want to wake up to a message from a Board Member saying, “Yesterday was yesterday, and that’s all there is going to be.” or some such! Mother Nature has her reasons for passion, and I have my passion for reason!
As always, JLM is drinking on my tab: know your audience is a time tested maxim and the best one sentence piece of advice you can get. Unlike Fred, most VCs go out of their way to hide who they are and what they look for in a deal (likely because they do not know).And even the best VC’s have not thought out every investment thesis that might light their lamp, I bet. You took the romance angle a bit more literally than intended, my point was that when the light goes on for someone, a classic symptom of that moment is vivid recollections. And your goal in the process of presentation / conversation / demonstration of your opportunity is for the investor say to themselves, at some point:’I have to be in this deal.’Just like I said to myself ‘I have to marry her.’There are polygamist jokes here, but I’ll let someone else craft them.This isn’t a pick up trick. Its knowing yourself, your opportunity and your requirements in a lead investor. The goal is an alignment so strong that it makes an audible click when it snaps together.And it still may not come together, but if it doesn’t click it likely will end badly or never get going.
“You took the romance angle a bit more literally than intended, my point was that when the light goes on for someone, a classic symptom of that moment is vivid recollections.”Yes. Partly I was making a joke about evaluating a project from a Tchaikovsky ‘Pas De Deux’! But also I took your statement as saying to give investors passion instead of reason. Apparently your intention was just the “vivid recollections” and not necessarily or solely the passion. Okay.Then maybe another way to describe your point would be a eureka moment.Yes, “know your audience” is good advice. Learn from Lady Gaga!”Unlike Fred, most VCs go out of their way to hide who they are and what they look for in a deal (likely because they do not know).”My guess: For a seed round, they want to play with the software and estimate how well people will like it, etc. For a Series A, they want to see ‘traction’ significant and growing rapidly.”This isn’t a pick up trick. Its knowing yourself, your opportunity and your requirements in a lead investor. The goal is an alignment so strong that it makes an audible click when it snaps together.”The lead investor issue can be a challenge. Fundamentally only a tiny fraction of people, including VCs, can be very successful. I suspect that getting a “click” is more difficult than just bootstrapping to success.”And it still may not come together, but if it doesn’t click it likely will end badly or never get going.”Yes, the main reason my project got “going” was that I have everything I need to type in code and didn’t need a “click”.Yes, my version of your “end badly” is that I’m terrified of having a Board: It’s the story of the goose that laid the golden egg or The Little Red Hen.
I see it as 6 slides = 6 topics. If you can’t explain the essence of your business/firm in just six ideas or thoughts, you haven’t spent enough time thinking it through.The kneejerk is to show 40 slides to prove you have thought everything through, but sometimes ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?
I can explain it in two words: “$200 billion”.The question then is, can the investor understand it, and believe it, or even take it at all seriously, in just two words, or six slides? Generally not even a weak little hollow hint of a meager chance.Make it short, and it’s tough for them to understand it or believe it.Make it long and provide good, detailed support for all the claims, and they won’t read it at all.Since a Board that doesn’t understand my business could easily kill it, I am afraid of a Board and want to be careful who is on it or not have one at all.
The point of the demo is that by seeing how it works, while it is working, in an attempt to actually use it, you get an immediate sense for whether or not the product solves a problem (the market) is easy to use (will gain traction) and is engineered well (product risk) which is significantly more than you could ever know by looking at slides.”Show don’t tell” as the saying goes.
It’s also an example of what you/your team are capable of.
VC INVEST IN TEAM, NOT PRODUCT.SLIDES SHOW NOTHING ABOUT TEAM.
To be clear, for my project, I want and expect to write all my own software, really insist on it because I want to be fully in control of my business, and certainly won’t object to giving demos.But I’ve long since, without difficulty, written high quality, successful software. So, writing the software can be tedious when working through bad documentation but otherwise is fast, fun, and easy. Net, it’s all just routine.If I were an information technology (IT) investor considering some entrepreneurs, then I would confirm that, of course, they were good at writing software, routine and more, but then would not be impressed at all. They can walk, talk, type, drive a car, ride a bicycle, make scrambled eggs, and do simple arithmetic, too, right?And if I saw a demo of a beta, then I’d look at it as something between an egg and a chick with little indication of its potential to be a mature eagle.To evaluate the eagle potential, I’d want to see a technical document — in good English, well written, with all important points supported, with nearly all the support mathematical or numerical, with thorough references to primary sources, etc. — I could read carefully. I’ve both written and reviewed peer-reviewed papers: To me, content is crucial and is presented in well written papers. Period.If investors want to put more weight than I would on demos of running software, then better for me.For me, venture capital has been a big surprise because it evaluates projects nothing like I learned to do working on DoD projects, working in industry, and doing ‘academic’ research; we’re not even in the same solar system. To me, VCs ignore nearly everything that is important and emphasize nearly only trivia. Sorry ’bout that. To me, no wonder the average VC returns are poor; I’m surprised that the averages are not much worse.My work, as it continues, will be able to satisfy the VC evaluation criteria, but to me their criteria are from weak to trivial to silly. As an investor, I would ask for quite different and much more.At one time, some venture funding might have helped my project: E.g., at times I could have called some Microsoft experts, that I would have had to have paid for, on some topics in system administration and management and saved some time.But if my planning is close to correct, then the time for venture funding is rapidly drawing to an end; my train should be leaving the station under its own power and gaining speed rapidly just from ‘organic growth’.My planning doesn’t mean that there are no good projects for VCs, but it is quite clear to me that VCs and I think about projects in very different, and largely incompatible, ways. For nearly all the VCs, even if they wanted to write me a check, I would be terrified to have them on my Board.I am getting a nice feeling of security from the fact that coast to coast the US has many millions successful Main Street entrepreneurs who start and run successful businesses, never get equity funding, and need much more capital equipment than I do where my margins should be much higher than theirs. If the Main Street entrepreneurs can do it, then I should be able to also.
next stage will be random events thrown by startups to show VCs how they work. as a team. Nothing can beat that imo.
Okay, good for an entrepreneur, and yes about what can be learned from a demo.But a demo is quite limiting: It’s a very old story of the challenge of discovering what is inside a black box. Can’t check the potential of an airplane, bridge, program, or server farm just by a demo or looking at it from the outside. Instead, the internal math, science, engineering, technology, and design details are important.As an entrepreneur, I needed means to evaluate the potential of my project long before a demo. The US DoD saw the potential of the SR-71, the Navy’s version of GPS, a uranium gun barrel A-bomb, etc. long before a demo.Of course, if the technical internals of a project are just routine software, the Buffett ‘moat’ is not from technology, and don’t yet care about the software being scalable or reliable in production, then maybe a demo is nearly all of the evaluation.
Big difference depending on the sector, I think.In consumer web, so much of the biz and its potential adoption depends on that immediate, visceral joyful delight.That’s hard to achieve so if you have you’ve taken the leading X factor off the table.That said, I just spent yesterday w 5 CEOs two of whom are hard science — one in healthcare developing a silver bullet therapy for Alzheimer’s and the other a physicist with a killer fiber optic product. Often these types are a ‘technology looking for a problem’ and they are challenged by being so deep in their (amazing) science. So if they can crisply and persuasively define the problem and what it does (not what it is) then they’re 80% of the way there.
MORE WRITE IS LESS RIGHT.
“I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.” ― Blaise Pascal
I thought that was Mark Twain!Whoever wrote it, it’s evergreen.
It was in fact Pascal e.g http://www.goodreads.com/qu…I agree – one of my favorite quotes.
Then the writing that is the most “right” is the shortest, that is, write nothing at all!Gee, rush to tell Springer Verlag! Also tell Microsoft Press that keeps publishing books with over 1000 pages on parts of Microsoft’s software. Get a best seller by publishing a book with only blank pages!As a corollary, all written content is bad, and the longer it is the worse it is!In particular, for the new buildings at the 9/11 site, would be better to have no design documents at all and, instead, just “build it”! Call it ‘lean civil engineering’.For the Boeing 767, f’get the design documents and, instead, use ‘lean manufacturing’ and “just build it”! Wonder why Boeing never thought of that!Also, big, huge special case, close all the libraries and use the books for fuel!
“…to prove you have thought everything through” can also show a lack of regard for the intelligence of your audience, although it can be scary to leave too much to their imagination or deduction especially when funding is on the line…learning this as a writer (slowly)
six slides, and long conversations where lots of important things were discussed
So, the presentation was not just six slides but six and “long conversations where lots of important things were discussed”. Makes more sense.If just six slides and then a long conversation are what the LPs want, then, sure.I would have thought that another 20 slides could help by having well organized presentations of most of the information in the “long conversations where lots of important things were discussed”.So, maybe the six slides have what everyone should know, and the rest is ‘dynamic’ based on what more the audience wants to know. But if the oral discussion gets very deep, with lots of interruptions and side points, then the result can be a lot of confusion.If I were an LP, then I would want to walk out of the meeting with a paper copy of everything important without getting a transcript of a recording of the conversation, but I’m not an LP.
I’ll take the ‘over’ on sigmaalgebra ever having six slides in a deck. I might even take the ‘over’ on 60. 🙂
Things are sometimes not as they might first appear and can be more complicated than we suppose, maybe more complicated than we can suppose.For my current project, the slide deck is in a PDF file of a little less than 62 KB, has exactly six slides, five slides plus the title slide, and the five slides have exactly 260 words.The last contact I made with an information technology (IT) VC covered their list of 10 topics:Company PurposeProblemSolutionWhy NowMarket SizeCompetitionProductBusiness ModelTeamFinancialsin a total of exactly 365 words.Where can I collect on a bet?The 365 words? It was too long; the VC didn’t read it with even fourth grade reading comprehension. He concluded that I was trying to compete with a large company, but what I sent made it clear that I’m not. With a farming analogy, he concluded that a company growing corn in Iowa would be beaten by an established company growing cotton in Mississippi.At one level deeper, he just didn’t care and didn’t want to pay attention. Maybe his firm is out of money. I suspect that personally he has more money than he ever expected to have and just doesn’t want to try anymore. Or, his ‘utility function’ and mine are very different.No entrepreneur should want such a person on their Board. Good riddance.Generally, the IT VCs just ignore such communications. Can say the goal is to build a company worth $200 billion: If give a short explanation, then they won’t have any belief at all in the number; if give a long explanation, then they just, with great self-satisfaction, won’t read it. These two points are true even if their Web site prominently proclaims that they want “big ideas” and “to swing for the fences”.Actually, nearly all the IT VCs are very afraid of both big ideas and the fences. They have two fundamental problems: (1) They can’t believe that there could be anyway at all for a startup to have any idea at all about ever being worth $200 billion. (2) They are just totally unable to evaluate projects that try to “swing for the fences”. Really, essentially none of the IT VCs can evaluate projects that are ‘swinging for the fences’; DARPA, NIH, and the NSF can evaluate such projects.Apparently nearly all IT VCs just want some base hits as an excuse to draw their 2%.Conclusion: To information technology VCs, slide decks, with a small, medium, or large number of slides, no matter how written or organized, are nearly irrelevant.So what might be relevant? To me, necessary for me for my investment of time and money, of overwhelming relevance is some carefully written planning papers that provide solid, rational support that my egg has a good chance of becoming a big eagle. The DARPA and NSF problem sponsors could evaluate such papers, but there’s hardly an IT VC in the country that could. Even if they could, they won’t. And even if they did and liked what they read, they wouldn’t make an investment on that basis.Nearly every major project in our civilization, military equipment, airplanes, tall buildings, long bridges, large ships, oil rigs over miles of water and miles of rock, etc. is done with planning just on paper, but not VC funded IT startups. The founders can’t write such papers and/or the VCs can’t use them.So, for the IT VCs, likely what’s relevant? (1) Running software they can play with and estimate how well millions of users might like it, etc. (2) Numerical data on ‘traction’ that shows significant traction growing rapidly. Apparently the VCs implicitly believe in a Markov assumption: Given such traction, for predicting the future of the company, everything else is nearly irrelevant.Likely, if the IT VCs read about the company on TC, then they might call the entrepreneur and explain how their great background being an Ivy League history major, getting a Harvard MBA, working at McKinsey in ‘IT consulting’ (without learning how to write code!), sales, marketing, C-level recruiting via their Rolodex, and ‘biz dev’ would really help. Tough to find founders smart enough to build such a valuable company and still dumb enough to believe such cow pats. But what else is an Ivy League history major going to do to meet the expectations of their proud, ambitious parents and the needs of their wife, children, dog, and cat?It’s important “not to be careless”. In a company, when something comes up, the founder has to “handle it”. Can’t do well being “a fool dancing on a string held by all those big shots”.Issue. For my project, I’m not writing prototype code — I don’t want to take the same ground twice. So, when my software is ready for a demo to others, it will be close to being ready to go live and, if my project is good, will also be close to enough revenue not to need equity funding soon or ever.Another issue. Maybe with enough low VC returns the LPs will look for different qualifications than an Ivy League history major with a Harvard MBA and/or LLB degree who never wrote much code and maybe learn some from the NSF, NIH, and DARPA.But, good advice is, don’t fight your problems; instead pursue your opportunities. So, I have a good opportunity, and the VCs are irrelevant to me. It is good to know that the VCs won’t fund anything to compete with me until I’m established with “engaged users” and the VCs want to try to copy my work. Then for copying my work, since the crucial core is not routine software, and likely much more effective than any readily available alternative, they won’t be able to do that either.
Slides suck. Let’s eliminate slides from the universe.
or just our universehow was contagion?saw you checked in on foursquare last night
Brad – how does that work? Conversation, demonstration, investigation, negotiation?
AGREE.NO SEND SLIDES TO GIRL WANT TO DATE. UNLESS YOU BIG LOSER.SEND CONVERSATION TO GIRL INSTEAD. DO SAME FOR VC.
you ones said: “you are looking at something, which is alive and breathing…”remember?Aristotle ones said : “Possibility means Credibility.”Have a nice day!
I think this approach may work better for consumer forward startups. At the stage and type you are talking about – a lot of this is dependent on usability and virality. Even when business oriented startups display “network of engaged users” there are still a different set of liabilities that should be talked about up front….
this is fred demoing disqus
THAT TOTALLY #DINOMODE.
I’m working on my InSITE application now. They require an investor deck slide presentation as a part of the application and suggest a 14 slide presentation. It’s been this way the last two semesters I have applied. I hope they change that in the future.
Agreed. We just raised a substantial Series A without a deck. “Connecting the dots” (from Mark Suster: http://www.bothsidesoftheta… is a lot more important than a deck.
What about a video like the ones we make at http://simplifilm.com/work ?
The most important thing is to KNOW your audience. Their learning style, their background, the way they process information. And, of course, the answer is to present the info in the manner that has the highest probability of success.And, to have a backup plan in place. Always a back up plan that anticipates the power goes off, the projector does not work, the connection goes down.Any pitch fits into a continuum of the elevator pitch (3 minutes), the hallway pitch (6 minutes) and the pitch (20 minutes).The style of the pitch — verbal, whiteboard, handwritten, PPT is more about style — the style you are comfortable with and the style that is most easily digested and consistent w/ the learning style of the audience.It is difficult to see how it is not “all of the above”.This fascination w/ brief pitches seems just a bit faddish to me. I personally want an opportunity to connect w/ the people. Before I even learn about what you want to pitch, I want to know who you are.In some ways, a pitch is an opportunity for an audience to put the pitcher at his ease and coax the very best performance out of him. That takes time. If you are an uber busy chap, like Fred Wilson, maybe the time is your big enemy. That’s OK and I find no fault w/ that but it is not my style.There is a jockey and horse and a race track at work here and I never, ever want to have a weak jockey. So I always start w/ the people.When the world goes fast, I go slow. When the world goes slow, I go fast.There is also a bit of the old fashioned fiduciary obligation at work here — the necessity to have checked, double checked and re-checked everything.While I believe greatly in instincts as a valuable indicator, I also think that you conduct due diligence to support your instincts.I have raised a lot of money — debt and equity — and I have always sensed that the final decision maker was always ME — did they trust me. I have raised $10MM in 10 minutes and many millions in a long, long campaign. There is almost no rhyme or reason as to why it happens in a certain way.So, I profess a bit of caution because the beginning of a bubble is almost always speed — undue speed?This is not an observation for all and I do not evangelize that there is a “right” way but one goes contrary to success with great caution. Fred’s track record speaks for itself but remember he has been at for a quarter of a century and his instincts are finely tuned and his antennae are minutely calibrated.I once pitched an idea to one of the founders of Teledyne, George Kozmetsky, and Dean of the UT Grad School of Business. He had told me — give me your complete thinking. I had 192 slides. The idea was quite mathematical and had to do w/ business cycles and valuations leading and lagging the business cycle and identifying the turn in valuations.When I was done he said: “That’s ALL you have?” He then went on to lecture me for an hour or so on how the math really flowed from my “rough hewn” logic. I had quite a work out just erasing his whiteboard musings.I left the room knowing — well maybe not really knowing but damn sure more confident in my hypothesis — that my inklings were right. I put it into practice and it was right.So, different ways to get at the same result. I am always cautious when someone comes up with a view that seems to indicate they have discovered sex. Pitching deals has been around for a long, long time and I think you should be very thoughtful about how you do it.One size does not fit all. Know your audience.
and one of the main reasons i posted this today is so entrepreneurs who come pitch me can “know their audience”well played JLM
Damn, Fred, volley at the net “well played” — stronger than an acre of garlic in the W Tx sun!And, that is pretty damn strong these days.
LOL – maybe his handle should be Novak.It did fell like he was waiting for you on this one.
I love garlic but that may be too strong for my senses.
JLM,For 20 years I worked seeking out acquisitions to grow our business. I realize that presentation is not only about what a presenter shows but also what the audience sees and I can name a couple ideas that we changed completely from what was initially discussed.I also know from experience that sometimes investments are made to acquire something, usually a person or a product/label, that will end up destroying the original idea.At the same time, I know I will never present to someone like Fred Wilson.You HAVE to know your audience and you have to also KNOW what your represent to your audience. When you are attempting to blend old economy product with new technology, you are never going to find the PERFECT audience, or the most receptive.Thus you have to realize that you have to educate and explain with your presentation. AVC is a community that shares a similar industry or background, and thus communication and sharing is easy. But I have presented to some easily recognized companies and the blank stares you get when you begin discussing things like “community” and “consumer centric” and or mention some successes in these areas, that everyone here would recognize, you realize, “Whoops, I just lost them!” :)Just last week I met with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in my industry and I knew from inside information that they had just created a technology/social media division and staffed it with 50 people and after the meeting I realized that the folks in that new division do not have a single person in upper management that has a clue what they do, and or who really thinks they can make a difference.Like you say, “I left the room knowing….” yes, I left the room knowing that I was on to something and that losing the audience was proof that my idea will be successful!
I personally think the most powerful combination of circumstances is old fashioned experience, wisdom acquired at full tuition and a bit of current knowledge.Sometimes it rises to the level of — if only I had known this in high school.
Each few months I think again about maybe there is a way to start a popular Web site that presents life lessons people well past high school WISH they had known in high school, especially lessons that would be easy to learn in high school and would be a BIG help for much of the rest of life.So far I’ve not thought of a good ‘design’ of the site.
” I personally want an opportunity to connect w/ the people. Before I even learn about what you want to pitch, I want to know who you are. “Love it!
DISAGREE.EITHER YOU FIT WITH VC, OR NOT. FAKE VERSION OF YOU NEVER FIT WITH VC.PRESENT SAME TO EVERY VC. IT BE PERFECT FOR ONES IT PERFECT FOR.
You’re getting ahead of yourself — no supper tonight, go to bed and no beer filled humans.You START w/ the freakin’ people. You do not even go pitch the deal unless you think there is a philosophical match.You do your research and find out what kind of guys you are dealing w BEFORE you put your jock on.Once you are sure you are in the right church, right pew — then and only then do you open the hymnal.Don’t waste time pitching to guys who are not already in the right pew.
IT LIKE LEAN STARTUP.BEST GUESS OF WHICH VC RIGHT IS PROBABLY WRONG, WASTE OF TIME.FOCUS ON BE SELF, BE AWESOME. PITCH TO EVERYONE THAT ASK FOR PITCH.
Must have eaten an Einstein or Gandalf-like human for breakfast today Grimmy. You’re on a roll with the wisdom — even more than usual. Love it!
I could not possibly disagree more as it relates to doing the research as to whom you are pitching the deal.This is basic raw intelligence work.Who they are. How they go into the business. Where they went to school. History of the firm. Other partners. Industries they have invested in. Size of investments. Biggest successes and failures. Sources of funds. Size of remaining funds. Investment philosophy. Website intel. Feedback from their existing portfolio companies and their failures. Check all Internet available info — LinkedIn, Facebook, campaign contributions, lawsuits, etc. Hermes v Jos A Bank. Hobbies. Charitable contributions. Boards serving on.I would not think about pitching a source of money until I knew him from top to bottom.Then I would try to engage him in a conversation before the pitch to feel him about what he was looking for and to get him to speak about himself.The difference between a whore and a courtesan is selectivity and pricing. Be very, very selective.It is really very easy stuff.
IT OKAY FOR YOU DO RESEARCH, BE CAREFUL.SOMEONE ELSE DO NONE AND STILL GET VC.ASK SELF: BETTER TO SPEND TIME TO GET 50% BETTER CHANCE OF GET INVESTMENT, OR SPEND SAME TIME LINE UP 5 MEETINGS, GET 100% BETTER CHANCE?
What a classic New School / Old School conundrum!GRIM say, when awesome, money bows to awesomeness.JLM says be awesome but act with care in case some of the less than awesomeness of your money rubs off your money & onto [email protected] break the tie?
I am with you – all VC not equal. Awesome + Bad$$ = pain
Promiscuity versus a careful courtship. To each their own.
Fred,It is true that most people use presentation software (Powerpoint or Keynote or anything else) in a not-so-powerful fashion. IMHO, this has nothing to do with the “number” of slides used. A person can use only six slides and tell a bad story or a person can use 100+ slides and tell a great story. Seth Godin uses a lot of slides, sometimes more than 100 but his presentations are captivating and you actually look forward to the slides.Ultimately it is a question of three things:1. whether you have a great story to tell (foundation)2. whether you are prepared well enough to tell a great story (preparation)3. whether you can tell a great story (execution)The number of slides does not matter as you will use as many slides as you really need to amplify your story.Best,Raj
I love that 6 slides has reduced no to 3 or none… today, here. Exactly when I am working on making 6 work, it may be best to make none, and less work for me!After my coach outed me as a closet diagrammer, I decided to go to the seminar given by one of the best visual informatics guys – Edward Tufte.Tufte, who thinks Powerpoint is the devil, and wrote a diatribe on it, teaches many formats of diagrams and visual informatics systems. To make sense of several large datasets merging, it’s the story which drives choosing the correct format/s to use/combine, and knowing all the formats gives you the ability to chose what’s right for your story and data.Tufte also believes in the paper ‘brain dump’ of a single folded 11×17 sheet (4pp) to begin a presentation saying you can read faster than he can talk. If you can’t fit it on 4pp, then you are overdoing it. For a pitch, that 4pp is a better leave as a behind.
Tufte blames PowerPoint for the Challenger disaster.The format, the structure, the cascading bullet points — all contributed to a culture that hid uncomfortable facts.A nice clear chart: risk/probability would have laid out the choices more starklyOf course hindsight is 20/20, but it’s a small point in a larger argument: clear thinking is the opposite of thick decks filled with bulleted listshttp://www.edwardtufte.com/…
Well I”m late to this party but i say no slides. actually i say no fund raising. pull vs. push strategy. Had coffee with a friend – female mobile start-up founder – we laughed at the idea of any woman run start up here in Canada getting money – she was already successful and tried for like, five minutes to get someone to help her grow to the next level. Impossible. She said f&ck this, i’m just going to invest my own money in it. She did. She sold it to the Toronto Star in the past six months and now she and I are talking about how we can support more women entrepreneurs bc it simply ain’t gonna happen any other way. not 25 slides.not 13 slides.not 6 slides.ps. anyone who wants to give me one, two or three examples of female founded only start ups who have gotten money – yes i know. there are exceptions. i’m ranting about the rule. And i had the coffee this morning so the rant is fresh in my head.
Leigh,Feisty … I like it. I will discuss this rant with my better half on our walk tonight and see if we cannot think of an example here in our small area of the world. Do not hold your breath. 🙂
One gets to be feisty when you run your own successful business. besides, my clients tell me it’s part of my quirky charm 🙂
You are the second “feisty” female small business owner with whom I have interacted today (and with whom I am impressed). Grrrrrr – go get’em
NO FLIRTING ON AVC.COM. THAT WHAT TWITTER FOR.
Actually, I think there has been one marriage from here already….
‘k *blush* you can all stop any time now (the real hubbie already gets annoyed at my early morning coffee AVC reading…..)ps. yeah you tell him @donna
that not flirting, that admiring…(see me speak grimlock)BTW, I was going to stay away from AVC today to try to get stuff done and saw your comments on my disqus feed and got lured over…that not flirting…
Having coffee and doing morning log routines and saw your Tweet. Now checked Disqus. Too funny Donna. I love the Grimlock tone too.
ME, GRIMLOCK, SAY BEST WAY TO STARTUP IS BOOTSTRAP UP.
There is absolutely nothing in the world to build your confidence like success in the face of skepticism.I cannot tell you the number of times in my life that rejection has powered my zeal and driven me to take revenge by being successful.The other thing is passing it along to others — the wisdom of the campfire.I say that women, if they agree with you and I think your hypothesis is perfectly correct, should band together and be particularly focused on making it work for them.I do know of a women (HBS & Duke) who bought a pedestrian and mundane business, got funding from some angels, took them out, built the business for 10 years and hit a long, long ball w/ men on base.I knew her from YPO and she was not just “good for a woman” — she was good for a Martian, guy or woman. She was a killer.
wisdom of the campfire – love that 🙂
“I cannot tell you the number of times in my life that rejection has powered my zeal and driven me to take revenge by being successful.”Well, there is DSL, with more than 360 million connections, which extended the life of supposedly some trillions dollars worth of buried copper wire.As at http://www.forbes.com/sites…apparently a leader in getting DSL going was John M. Cioffi, IEEE Fellow, and founder of Amati Communications sold to Texas Instruments for $450 million. At that URL he wrote:”My best recommendation is: don’t give up on something unless you’re convinced yourself that you’re wrong—that what you’re working on doesn’t make sense either technically or economically. Others surely felt that way about DSL technology, but I never did.”Sounds also for him “rejection has powered my zeal and driven me to take revenge by being successful.”.
Hi Leigh — Had no idea the climate was like this in Canada. You go girl — be the change!I made a Hashable intro between you and Natalia Oberti (Pipeline Fund) — she has an interesting project empowering women to become angels for other women. May be someone good to know at some point — for ideas or otherwise.
tnx Donna – that’s fantastic. Climate for money in Canada is generally a joke on a good day – best investments in Canadian companies are coming from US investors…..but of course that just becomes even worse when you are women.I just wouldn’t ever do a start-up with another woman again as sad as that is to say. Luckily I’ve found an amazing biz partner who is, as I like to call him, the girl in our working relationship 🙂
That is sad, Leigh, but I understand.Had to chuckle at your comment below about your husband. (Your “real” hubbie?) Mine keeps asking when I am going to get “paid” for my time invested in AVC. He doesn’t get it. 😉 Although I think that whether or not he admits it, he secretly realizes that AVC helps keep me sane.Although, I wonder how many other AVC’ers are reading and making comments in between checking on dinner in the oven!
I have a work husband and a few virtual ones too. Important to differentiate 😉 I wrote a presentation about what big brands can learn from start-ups – many of the insights were from pple here – it even has a @JLM:disqus quote in it. Invaluable. The social aspect, well that just makes the learning more fun.update:I have it on slideshare – alhtough I think my ecosystem marketing pressie is better (i am an environmental planner by training)http://www.slideshare.net/l…
I’d love to read this. Where? Marketing/brand fan and have quite a few marketers in my world.Haha — two of my last three (very neglected blog) posts were JLM re-posts and have the most traffic to date. Not surprising.
Wow, Leigh. Very impressive. Gem after gem after gem. I feel like I just went on an “aha” journey.
I check in between culinary experiments as well. And have even taken a quick break from mowing the lawn to check it once when there was some good discussion – I don’t recall that thread off hand at the moment.Donna. You. Are. Not. Alone. 🙂
I read AVC so that I can be as wise as JLM, as concise at Grimlock, and now I want to learn to have a kick ass attitude like Leigh….
me too, CarlYou go!
Donna, Thank you for the kind words! I really don’t consider that a marketing strategy (maybe because having always sold to retailers I do not know what marketing is?) I consider it more a “branding psychology” or “community psychology.”The reality is size is a negative attribute, and you cannot build a community on a negative; from a social media perspective its kind of like getting someone to “like” a leper colony. So you focus on cool things like music, art, creativity, sports and such and you just send a “message” that we only like folks that can wear our sizes….thats the bouncer.Thus your shirts become like letter jackets in high school; a badge of honor. If you study companies like Threadless, the reality is the psychology is not much different.Its the reverse of what The Gap decided to do a few years ago by making XXL only available online and removing that size from their stores…..or go to a department store and visit the Women’s section, watch how women shop in the “W” section (yes, I spend a lot of time lurking in department stores! 🙂 ). In retail you have to think “lifestyle” and it has to be positive. Target did a great job making cheap chic and that’s why porn will always come in unidentifiable brown wrappers.
I want a Pay Window tee shirt.
YES!!!!and also “Well Played” — but you get to decide who gets [email protected]:disqus are you listening? (except you may have to expand your sizing options)
Donna, all in due course! The key is to create a demand first, which is basically reversing the market forces (where big and tall / plus sized consumers are on the outside demanding access), then when you create enough hype you launch the regular sizes…….that way you create a margin situation that is not typical for a basic commodity.You create a really awesome community and social media platform then size acts as your bouncer, then you open it up to everyone. Kind of like what Studio 54 did, that way the big and tall/plus size consumer is loyal due to the sense of exclusivity and the regular sized folks slowly but surely will pay anything to get included!Otherwise you are nothing more than another tee shirt with ink on it……
Brilliant. Thank you, Carl, for the peek into a very interesting marketing strategy.Amazing professors here at AVC U! Appreciate the distinctiveness of the big/tall/plus sized customer being the baseline customer rather than the add-on! And “size as bouncer” — love it!
Sign me up!Kind of like ‘texts from last night’ t-shirts but Fave JLM Comments instead.Must include username and avatar.
CARL WILL BECOME NEW SUPER HERO WITH COMBINED POWER OF AVC.COM?
I can’t be a super hero, I am too big and too grumpy!
I like this approach and I think it is not only desirable but essential if the entrepreneur is building a product that is truly new. A new product category with a new product experience is extremely difficult to communicate precisely because it is so unfamiliar. Of course you can try to find points of similarity and adjacencies, but they are poor substitute for the real thing. IMHO – new product category = demo.
Anyone in job search mode, much of the wisdom in these comments is highly relevant! Especially take note of the Grimster aka @FakeGrimlock:disqus
ME ONLY HAVE ONE ADVICE: BE AWESOME. EVERYTHING ELSE DETAILS.
I need to internalize this. Great advice.
Okay, this is very interesting. Our ranking is changing real time. I was 13 when I started commenting and now I am 12. Whoa! I admit that I did check the first time (she says sheepishly) but the second time I accidentally scrolled over my “badge.”And @disqus:twitter guys, I like this new badge format. I think you’ve nailed the look.
PROBLEM WITH ADVICE FOR MAKE VC THINK YOU AWESOME?ONLY BE AWESOME MAKE YOU AWESOME.SOLVE THAT FIRST, AND NUMBER OF SLIDES NOT GOING TO BE PROBLEM.
Thats the best way to get clients too. Our demo was showing them how fast we could make this fake domain we bought ymcmb.net/home buy a subscription or sign in as [email protected] password ymcmb504 You can upload lil wayne’s follow up album to Carter IV on that with a picture of your face as the album cover
I found out that in fundraising (for Atlas Venture) I would do much much better if I left the presentation completely closed as I explained our strategy. Why ? Because the material got in the way of creating real engagement with the potential investor. Presentation material can be a crutch that makes you feel better about having substance but different people excel in different ways. Some are great using printed material and others, like me, are much better telling a flowing story and engaging people that way. I switched to a strategy of telling the story and using technical backup material once we got into deeper questions where visuals or data really helped. As usual, the method has to fit the presenter.
Traditional slides and presentations are so bad that people go for the extreme of avoiding them all. And rightfully so. 2 comments about that:1- The most important component of a presentation is the STORY you tell. The visuals should be there only to support that story, not to be the protagonist. The first and main mistake people make when preparing a presentation is to start with the slides. Start with a story, write it in Word, not PowerPoint.2- There are slides, and slides. Traditional slides, full of text and bullets, detract from the attention to the presenter. Good slides reinforce the message, create positive impact and retention.A good presentation works well without slides. And works much better with the right slides.
Tereza,For yourhttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…”In consumer web, so much of the biz and its potential adoption depends on that immediate, visceral joyful delight.”That sounds like an exceptionally good version of the delight of a child opening a much wanted birthday present. I can get that delight from some music, including some I listed here yesterday; so, yes, I can get the delight from some of those links I gave to YouTube. Otherwise I don’t get much ‘delight’ from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.In some cases, to me the delight can be high: All my life I’ve struggled to understand women. Maybe by now I could get a gentleman C- in Women 101. So, it can be a high delight for me when some parts of good art provide some good understanding of women. Such art can be, say, the two R. Strauss pieces I listed yesterday, more in music, e.g., “La donna e mobile” from Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’, some movies, some paintings, e.g., Renoir’s ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’, but not yet the ‘social Web’.So, net, I don’t yet see a lot of potential for ‘high delight’ from an “X factor” from the ‘social Web’.Generally I would be suspicious of the power of an unexplained “X factor”.My guess is that instead of “delight” and “X factor”, there can be some powerful reasons for people to use the social Web. My simplest, first-cut reason is E. Fromm’s emphasis on the importance of people joining groups. In simpler terms, drawing from D. Tannen, is the ‘delight’ of about half the population in gossip.Generally if I were an investor, I’d want a clear explanation of the problem being solved, why the problem is important, and why the solution is good. Sure, if enough entrepreneurs just try this and that, sometimes there will be a success with the problem being solved so far identified and articulated rarely or not at all. To me Twitter looks like an example: Maybe by now we are beginning to see what problem is solves. That Fred saw the value early on is impressive.As an entrepreneur, I am also an ‘investor’ of my time and effort so, again, want a clear understanding of the problem being solved, why the problem is important, and why the solution is good. That is, these considerations are fully meaningful to me and not just for some fantasy that I would be an investor. Also I’m not what Buffett calls a “2 and 20 guy”; instead I’m a “0 and 100” guy. So I want to know; I REALLY want to know. I can’t just blow smoke and get 2% for it; I only get my 100% when there is something solid, likely that accountants can see.I fear you are close to making some common but serious mistakes. I will try to make the situation clear via a few points:First, mostly scientific research does have a ‘problem’ it is trying to solve. E.g., in physics big problems include where is the Higgs boson, what is dark matter, what is dark energy, can quantum entanglement be used to build much faster computers, and more. In math there is the list of problems at Clay Mathematics Institute; solve one, collect a prize of $1 million. The problems are quite specific, and a solution has to be rock solid. For one of the problems, P versus NP, a hope is that we would learn how to program computers to get solutions to large ‘combinatorial’ problems quickly where now we cannot. Such combinatorial problems are important, e.g., in scheduling a fleet of airplanes or designing the core of a large IP network (e.g., as in an A. Goldman lecture at Johns Hopkins by T. Magnanti, Dean of Engineering, MIT, at least one startup near Dallas, a French company bought by Cisco, and more). In biology, likely the central problem is finding a molecule that will provide a safe, effective, inexpensive cure for any cancer, or even just one cancer. For more, there are numerous other diseases for which we would like powerful molecules.Second, for such problems, the challenge, essentially the only challenge, is finding a good solution. So finding a solution is what people doing such work concentrate on, and when talking with them they talk about the struggles of finding a solution and not the importance of the problem. But that doesn’t mean that they are not trying to solve a well identified and articulated problem. Indeed, the problem is all too clear; its importance is obvious and even overwhelming; so, there’s no reason to talk about it.Third, yes, much of research moves forward in small steps. Some of the best guidance a researcher has for what to work on to make progress is just trying to make sense out of the confusion. Such work when successful can look like ‘a solution looking for a problem’, but this view is unfair, shortsighted, uninformed, misinformed, wrong, an insult, and, really, a slander. Indeed, research in math and science are by wide margins the most productive activities ever. Yes, day by day the work can look like nonsense, but look back over nearly any 10 year period and can see some nice results would not want to be without. So, such research is just trying to make some progress and is not trying to solve a specific practical problem now. The small steps DO accumulate and DO have powerful consequences. On the way to getting a cure for cancer, there will be thousands of necessary small steps. Usually even the small steps are difficult to get; only a fool would dismiss them.Fourth, yes, in nearly all of entrepreneurship, we attack a specific, practical problem. For projects that are “swinging for the fences”, we concentrate on a problem where a new, much better solution would be very valuable.BELIEVE me: A bright guy from research in math or science really CAN understand this point about the importance of a specific, practical problem QUICKLY. This point is obviously crucial and just trivial to understand. Your suggestion that people with backgrounds in research have difficulty understanding this point is a slander, both common and foolish.Indeed, you have suggested a dichotomy, (1) people who understand the problem but ignore anything technical and (2) people who are deep into technical things but have only solutions looking for problems. This dichotomy is just a slander, uninformed, misinformed, just plain wrong, silly, and foolish although too common.E.g., here is an old photograph of three of the brightest guys ever to draw a breath:http://www-history.mcs.st-a…Extra credit for knowing their names.How do we know that they were bright? Because of the peer-reviewed original research they published.BELIEVE me, when that picture was taken, they knew in plain, stark terms JUST what PROBLEM they were solving. There was no doubt, none at all, not even for a milli, micro, nano, femto second. They wasted no significant time on solutions looking for problems. And they were successful, astoundingly, wildly, spectacularly successful. They made a massive change in the world, forever. At least the guys on the left and right contributed to the calculation of critical mass. The guy on the right contributed to explosive lenses used for high compression of a solid metal (need more than a shop vise for that!) to form a critical mass. The guy on the left contributed to a device that on the first trial yielded the energy of 15 million tons of TNT, the largest explosion ever by the US. The guy on the right created the key idea that reduced the size of such a device to something would fit on a tabletop, that is, so that several of them would fit into the nosecone of a missile launched from a submerged submarine. Altogether, the work is now generating a major fraction of the world’s electric power.I like these guys: One paper I wrote used a classic result of the guy on the left. For my present project, I strongly thank the guy on the right.
A deck is still useful to get the meeting, though.
Slides are boring.Imagine someone charming a woman with slides:)Anyone who joins a startup should feel it’s magic. If there is of course.
So, I had a little different view on the on the short slide deck or the great demo. The short slide decks is great for investors, but it is really great for the company. When you can explain what you are doing in a few slides, you understand your business and you can then really focus on the few key things you need to do to make the business a success. In the world of fast growth, agile software businesses, your demo shows the same clarity for the business. Really beautiful, clean software demos/products correlate well to companies and products poised for hyper-growth.Here are my thoughts on this topic: http://harkador.com/why-10-…
At some point, less really is less.Instead of sweeping generalizations about the exact quantity of slides, can’t we just agree that being as concise as possible is what really matters? That might take 3 slides and an demo. It might take 7 slides. It might take no slides and a couple backflips.