Pitch Deck Alternatives

I was going through my email this morning and opening pitch decks, skimming them, and responding to indicate if they are a fit with our thesis and of interest to me and my colleagues at USV.

Everyone who works in VC or does angel investing does this daily. I probably open and skim 10-20 pitch decks a day and sometimes a lot more.

So on the way to yoga, after making a dent in my inbox, I was thinking if there was an alternative to pitch decks that would be as efficient at communicating the idea (pitch decks really are great at this) that would serve the entrepreneur as well.

I came up with three ideas in my seven minute walk to the gym:

1/ Record a short video (less than three minutes) in which you communicate who you are (or who the team is), what the idea is, and why you are doing it. Post it to Vimeo behind a password and share it via email. We use a technique like this in our analyst interview process and you can convey a lot of information this way but, importantly, you can also communicate who you are and why you are doing it.

2/ Have a friend or colleague interview you in podcast format. Keep it to three to five minutes max. Then post it to a streaming platform like SoundCloud behind a password and share it via email. I like the interview format a lot. It allows you to script the Q&A but provide a lot of personality in the answers.

3/ Write a letter, like the letters some founders and CEOs put at the start of their IPO filings, that explains your vision and why you are doing this. A well written letter can be an incredible sales tool.

The key is finding a format that suits you and that you are comfortable with. The pitch deck is efficient and powerful but everyone uses it and it does not allow you to stand out and be noticed in a sea of pitch decks.

Whatever you do, keep it short. If someone is going through 10-20 pitches every morning in their email routine, you have to get your story across simply and crisply or it won’t get the attention it deserves.

Finally, please don’t punish my good deed of sharing these ideas by flooding my inbox with videos, podcasts, and letters this week. I have a very busy week and am already behind before the week gets started.

And don’t take this blog post as a message to stop sending me pitch decks and replace with one of these alternatives. Pitch decks work fine for me. I like them.

I’m just staying that you can and should be creative and play to your strengths when pitching your company. You have to get noticed somehow.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Is it still true Fred that you recognize names that comment and give them a shot of your time when they send a pitch?I know this is an ‘ancient’ method but nothing works like familiarity for giving someone a shot at your attention.(I”m just a die hard for the power of long-form blogging and the connections through comments and responses it makes.)

    1. fredwilson

      i try and generally am good at doing that.

    2. johndodds

      Amen to that – even though I rarely participate here (or on my own blog) these days.

  2. jason wright

    the second half of this post is very ‘mixed message’.we are each reading this as individuals. we are not a ‘collective consciousness’. each to our own.

    1. fredwilson

      how so?

      1. jason wright

        “Finally, please don’t punish my good deed of sharing these ideas by flooding my inbox with videos, podcasts, and letters this week. I have a very busy week and am already behind before the week gets started.And don’t take this blog post as a message to stop sending me pitch decks and replace with one of these alternatives. Pitch decks work fine for me. I like them.”you want these new formats, or not?you prefer decks, or not?”inbox” – i wonder why it was given that name, the “box” bit? starting with a different word might just begin to open up the possibility of a new way of seeing the problem, a different angle, and the beginnings of a solution may then start to show itself. dunno what that might be.’Secrets are not yet evenly distributed’ is my evolving thesis title. Gibson + Thiel.

  3. William Mougayar

    An unsolicited pitch is just a hook. If it doesn’t hook you, it won’t move you.

    1. awaldstein

      an unsolicited hook is an exercise in a lack of imagination honestly. There is always a way to make something unsolicited identified.

      1. PhilipSugar

        You are very right, spend the time, and do something other than throw it over the wall.I worry that people want things just too brief, but I see Fred’s point, it’s a volume issue. I’ve thought about this.Let’s say you can process X amount of info. If you increase the incoming number by a order of magnitude, you have to reduce the amount of info by an order of magnitude.

        1. awaldstein

          Old school strategic sales and marketer.You want something do the hard work to figure out how to give yourself a chance at getting it. An email unsolicited is hardly ever that especially in the tech world where it is possible to get to anyone with a warm touch.

          1. PhilipSugar

            That is something that will never go away. I have only worked for three companies, and I can remember getting each job.First: Delaware Valley Financial Systems as a VAX programmer for 401k tracking. I literally went into the lobby handed the receptionist my resume, told her that I learned programming at Penn, they were close to my house, and I’d love to intern there. Unbeknownst to me the owner was coming back from lunch and heard my pitch. Hired on the spot.Second: Otis. Told the CIO I loved construction and had pictures of them installing elevators at Penn. Hired on the spot.Third: Mitsubishi. Said I loved international business from Otis. But this is classic. VP of HR takes me to lunch. She is wearing a fur coat in NYC. This guy comes up yelling and trying to tear the coat. I throw him to the ground. I thought well there goes that opportunity. Job before I left. I later found out she was married to a starting offensive lineman of the Giants, I would have never guessed, she was a very petite, proper, jewish woman.

          2. Pointsandfigures

            Last resort is throw it over a wall. Sometimes it works. Jason Mendelsohn was talking about it at a thing I was at in Detroit. As long as the entrepreneur does their homework and clearly assesses if the VC invests in that or not. (Which is why it’s important for a VC to put their thesis in a very explicit clear manner out there)

          3. PhilipSugar

            That defines not throwing over the wall.

          4. Lawrence Brass

            100% job hunting performance!Swear you did’t pay that guy. :)I don’t recall the exact terminal model but I loved working on the VAX 780 and scroll through the pascal code. It was so smooth, continuous and fluid, not line by line and jerky. I have never found an editor in a PC or Mac with the same feeling.

          5. Vasudev Ram

            Smooth scrolling is cool. I’ve only seen in it in a few software packages or terminals, most of them older, IIRC. And and worked a bit on amber monitors much earlier – those are great too.

          6. PhilipSugar

            Do you remember the “vampire taps” on the really thick Ethernet cable?It was really strange, he was attacking her. My sister (a very premature twin) does not weigh 100lbs, she was about the same size. I am close to three times that. I just reacted. She was not put off on big men throwing people. Her husband did it for a living.

          7. Lawrence Brass

            I administered a departamental novell network over 10Base2 back then, the one with the T connectors. My segment connected to the bank’s backbone up in the ceiling that was thick coaxial, almost sure with a tap. I saw it a few times when the maintenance guys used to come to check for ‘network splits’. Oh man, that was almost.. 30 years ago.. geez.Didn’t have to punch anybody to get that job though. 🙂

          8. LE

            I literally went into the lobby handed the receptionist my resume, told her that I learned programming at Penn, they were close to my house, and I’d love to intern there.I have given this type of advice to people many times. Stop competing with others for a job that you probably aren’t as qualified on paper to do. Position yourself with no competition. Walk into an industrial park and hit up companies that aren’t looking or hiring or don’t even know what they need. This advice has not only worked for me (where I got a job I was not qualified for on paper but had no competition so it didn’t matter) but also for others in fields as high up as medicine. [1] In medicine for example ‘don’t ask a recruiter just write to all the hospitals department’s directly’ (resulted in offers from 3 out of the 6 places contacted for this particular person). It works because nobody typically does this at least not enough to make it a normal strategy.[1] I marvel at the people filing out resumes at Walmart when there are offices and industrial parks on the same block. I have had offices in three locations and not a single time over many years did anyone who wanted to do office work ever knock on my door. Amazing to me. Yet they take shit jobs in retail when I have work that I would pay them to do here.

  4. William Mougayar

    Also seeing some white papers in crypto land as the long form pitch deck.

    1. fredwilson

      white papers are great but they are too long for the initial pitch delivery

      1. karen_e

        What an opportunity for a communications person. Office hours held here! Let me help you turn your white paper into an intelligible pitch!

    2. awaldstein

      I believe in the one pager.A side expertise of mine.

      1. Joe Cardillo

        Same here, the one-pager also tests something that experienced investors + partners really need to know: can you boil the idea / execution down to the core.Nice for marketing, nice for team-building/leadership…critical for positioning and growth. Also a solid one-pager should map directly to a 10-15 pitch deck.

        1. awaldstein

          If you can’t do it on a one pager you can’t do it in a 5 minute video or in a 40 page white paper.It is about the story more than the craft of writing.The storyteller is always the most powerful person in the room.

          1. Jose Paul Martin

            Bingo – The storyteller is always the most powerful person in the room.

    3. Jose Paul Martin

      William, was sharing this same point on another comment…”Have a friend who works for Amazon, at a very senior level. He was sharing with me how they have a no-ppt policy. Jeff believes that everything should be in a whitepaper/written memo. Reason being that ppts make it easy for people to be passive viewers, whereas reading a note/memo is an active process. Imagine which gets more results :)”

  5. Ruhinda Ruganda

    I think the audio pitch decks are a great suggestion. I tend to prefer consuming information via audio. Great way to multi task.

  6. Albert Tai

    Interesting…some of these formats make it even easier to consume on the go (mobile). Is that something you do or just purely review decks/companies over computer?

  7. Marissa_NYx

    You once blogged about about entrepreneurs – and folks in the AVS community – who by serendipity, land a seat next to you on a flight. But then again, you may prefer your privacy:)

  8. Shane Johnson

    Is it about standing out, or communicating quickly and clearly? Often they are one in the same, because many decks are not clear. How do you feel about a well crafted executive summary.

  9. JimHirshfield

    Like a resumé, you need to capture the VC, buyer, or employer within 15 seconds. I’m not sure the slide deck is best at that, but it is the expected format for VC pitches. So…what gets your attention within a short attention span when innundated with so many pitches? There must be something concise and to the point – like 1 or 2 sentences at the top of an email before you ever are motivated to open an attached PPT. Right?

    1. Joe Cardillo

      To a point that Arnold + William made, unsolicited hooks are only becoming harder to work. And with social media and other platforms disintegrating communication, that will continue.But, most of it in my experience is about a) messaging match and b) creating the feeling of inevitability combined with a peek into the future.If you can quickly show that you understand an investor’s world, and that you are working on something that extends to the far end of it or opens the door into whatever comes next…and then when they arrive at your actual product (resume, IP, etc) and it matches the message, that’s where the power is.

      1. Joe Cardillo

        Which I guess is my way of agreeing w/you=) 1-2 sentences describing the relevancy is usually what works. (apologies for the mansplain, was absorbing)

        1. JimHirshfield

          Yes…re 1 to 2 sentences. But I don’t agree that hooks are becoming harder to work. That’s only the case if you or your product are not differentiated.

          1. Joe Cardillo

            You don’t think that it’s harder to get people to pay attention to a hook, differentiated or not?(not being rhetorical, I just am watching the way tech platforms designed for under 35, under 25, under 18 etc. are changing how older generations receive info, and the volume obviously)

          2. JimHirshfield

            I’m not talking about capturing a young consumer audience en mass with a hook. I’m referring to one-to-one communication in a business context (enterprise sales pitch, VC pitch, employment appeal/cover letter).

          3. Joe Cardillo

            I understand. But in my experience 1:1 content and UX/UI/data conventions from those platforms are seeping into those business contexts more rapidly than people think.

          4. JimHirshfield

            I agree that people in professional contexts have shorter attention spans as a result of the way tech and platforms have evolved. But getting someone’s attention has always been about being short and to the point – equivalent of 140 characters? We’ve always had to capture attention with limitations – but it’s not the mechanics of attention (limited characters, format, medium) that I refer to as much as the message – You’ve got to have something differentiated to offer that is truly of value to the person you’re pitching.Do I ignore all the pitches I get for email marketing automation and sales leads services? Yes. I do. They are not unique and they don’t understand my business. So they don’t get my attention.

          5. Joe Cardillo

            Makes sense, totally agree on that.

          6. Albert


    2. LE

      I have found in cold emails (for sales or similar) that putting the name of a person that is respected or known by the person you are sending the email to in the subject line gets people to read an email a nice percentage of the time. Also starting out the first paragraph doing a version of the same has worked well for me.And I don’t mean some cheezy type mention either. And the name in the subject line can’t be ‘spam grade’. Meaning even if you knew or were actually referred by Marc Zuckerberg you wouldn’t use his name.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Well, knowing Marc Zuckerberg is something. But knowing Mark Zuckerberg – that could make all the difference!

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Good advice Tim. 🙂

        2. sigmaalgebra

          I can absolutely, positively rock solidly guarantee you that using the name of the founder, COB, CEO of FedEx or of the President of one of the world’s best research universities with some of the best concentration on technology means not even as much as zip, zilch, or zero, not even nichts, nil, nada.When rule out everything else, what’s left must be the answer, and that’s EARNINGS in dollars, significant and growing rapidly. For information technology VCs, they will often accept a substitute, “traction” significant and growing rapidly. That will get a VC at least to read the “foil deck”.I gave up: After enough nice movie, dinner dates she still doesn’t much act like she wants to build a good life with me, I give up. After enough e-mails, pitch decks, phone calls VCs still don’t act like they want to build a $100 billion business with me, I give up.So, by the time I have the traction the VCs want even to read my pitch deck, I will, as a sole, solo founder, have enough revenue and earnings that no way will I accept their term sheet terms, founder vesting schedule, Delaware C corp., huge stack of legal documents, huge lawyer fees, BoD, onerous BoD preparations and follow ups, huge BoD travel expenses, pressure to exit, horrendous, risky burden of giving technical education to BoD history majors, risk of being fired before vesting, etc. No way. Net, the table is just too wide with no way for us to reach across.Net, a successful information technology VC investment is a rare thing for both sides of the table and nothing like a usual or general path for entrepreneurs to build good businesses. Where the entrepreneur can get VC funding but still want to take it is a rare, narrow, delicate situation and not at all general. It’s easy enough for an entrepreneur to strain to reach across the table; in some cases it’s easy for the VC to do that; for both to reach in total far enough is really rare. This does not have to be the case, but it is solidly the case for Silicon Valley style VCs now.

    3. Jose Paul Martin

      I have a friend who works for Amazon, at a very senior level. He was sharing with me how they have a no-ppt policy. Jeff believes that everything should be in a whitepaper/written memo. Reason being that ppts make it easy for people to be passive viewers, whereas reading a note/memo is an active process. Imagine which gets more results 🙂

      1. JimHirshfield

        Might be more valuable to the author than the audience. One has to think things through more fully when writing about it in a paper versus bullet points in a PowerPoint.

  10. LIAD

    understandable why, but remains paradoxical how entrepreneurs have had the pitch deck format beaten into them for years, down to the number of slides, order, format and even frigging font-size.Conform conform conform!Whilst simultaneously being expected to be free-thinkers, contrarian and unique.If you rub off too many of an entrepreneur’s edges to fit inside the acceptable box. you end up with a slug – and aint no one wanna invest in no slug.

    1. LE

      You speak the truth with this.And it relates to the inability of the ‘newly hatched’ to have enough experience to even know when they can push boundaries or deviate from an accepted practice.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      After a while an entrepreneur should figure out that, bluntly, (A) nearly no information technology VC has any serious background in technology, (B) many VCs take great pride in just ignoring contacts from entrepreneurs, e.g., say that the contacts are from “over the transom”. So the entrepreneurs are being expected to prostrate themselves, grovel, be insulted and humiliated, laughed at, ignored, denigrated, have their time, effort, energy wasted, before people who rarely have serious qualifications in anything relevant.Soon the US entrepreneurs should notice:(1) Border to border in villages to the largest cities, entrepreneurs, literally by the many thousands each year, maybe the millions, start and run successful businesses of wide variety, commonly as sole, solo founders, without equity funding. Indeed, IMHO, nearly all the full tuition at Ivy League universities comes from such entrepreneurs that are good providers for their families. I used to go to yacht clubs: There I found lots of people successful in business, but I never found one who had information technology VC equity funding.(2) For such a business, computing is an historically rich opportunity: E.g., I recall at the IBM Watson lab there were about six mainframe VM/CMS systems. Since IIRC that was before the then fastest water heater mainframe with a processor clock of 153 MHz, each of the six had clocks of ballpark 100 MHz. Well, for the processor in the case on the table just behind me as I type this, it is an AMD FX-8350 with 8 cores and a clock of 4 GHz. So, let’s divide:8 * 4 * 10**9 / ( 6 * 100 * 10**6) = 53.3So, reasonably accurately, the little AMD thingy behind me is 53 times faster than all six of those IBM mainframes combined. And the AMD thing is about $115 at Amazon. The mainframes? Millions. Historic. A step up in civilization. Similarly for main memory, disk memory, now solid state disk memory, communications data rates and costs, operating system software, infrastructure software, software development tools, applications software, algorithms, data structures, etc. Historic — beats wood, flint, stone, copper, bronze, sailing ships, iron, printing, coal, steam, steel, chemical engineering, railroads, oil, airplanes, radio, plastics, TV, …. The startup capex is much less than for a pizza carryout, auto repair shop, auto body shop, McDonald’s franchise, dentist’s office, independent insurance agent office, grass mowing service, truck of an electrician or plumber, etc. Historic.(3) Broadly this story is old, was in “The Little Red Hen” in Mother Goose.So, an entrepreneur might just find a problem where this new, powerful, cheap computing can provide a powerful, valuable solution, develop the software, go live on the Internet, get publicity, users, and ad revenue, and smile on the way to the bank like the many thousands of other successful entrepreneurs do.

    3. cavepainting

      Truth: The vast majority of investors are clueless and make consensus decisions (stereotypical founder backgrounds, “hot” themes) while claiming to make non-consensus choices. They do not reason independently from first principles. Firms like USV are more the exception than the rule.

    4. Jose Paul Martin

      Yes, I’ve seen many focus on form over content. While standardization is good for the investor, it’s not going to help the entrepreneur standout. It’s like the standard resume (only that talks about what you’ve done, and not what you’re going to do).I’m working on a flexible framework, that allows you to adapt accordingly. Not thrust down the entrepreneur’s throat something they can’t accept.In the end, if the entrepreneur has traction, and can prove his model – that will be his pitch!

  11. Nik Bonaddio

    Back in the Turntable days, we’d set up a DJ that would play a looped version of the three-minute podcast you’re describing in a private channel for our business. Someone could come in, listen to the pitch, and then we’d follow up if they gave it a thumbs up.

  12. Raisa Berger

    Fascinating! Genuinely trying to contribute to doing the best job an entrepreneur can at building a presentation and failing to even comment – ironic (this format is new to me). Take 2:Stakeholder perspectives/potential opportunity for something entirely new:Entrepreneur: Working with entrepreneurs, I see a tendency to lack access to creative ‘muscle’. Learning how to use a camera, edit a video (same with sound) can be a project in itself and most deep tech entrepreneurs simply don’t have the time to branch out there. Hiring someone (to keep quality at least acceptable) costs and capital allocation to creativity is usually minimal.Creative (designer/videographer/sound producer): On the other side, designers/creatives don’t seem to recognize the “pitch stage” as a creative opportunity. So much so, that even having a rich network of creative talent I work with, I don’t know anyone who knows how to help design and tell a story in a deck format and enjoy doing it. Most designers look at it as a doomed, ‘unsexy’ project left to Jr talent and designer wannabes, let-alone someone willing to go the extra mile with a video/podcast (specially in the constraint budget).Investor: Remembering and referencing key take aways from a video or a podcast adds work. If a pitch is done via these channels, the email and any description text (SoundCloud doesn’t allow for much description) should help summarize the content quickly, otherwise it becomes a drag (having to take notes etc).New Ideas: 1. A Google Survey entrepreneurs fill out to submit a deck etc to USV answering basic criteria of “fit/not a fit”. This way you don’t have to simmer through a stream of decks, looking for key factors in an array of formats.2. Tinder for Investor/Startup anyone? https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. sigmaalgebra


  13. Ronnie Rendel

    I would love to see a post on alternatives to VC investment. With seed rounds at $4M+ the pre-seed chasm has become an abyss.

  14. Yam Regev

    That’s a healthy discussion and right on time.In contrast to the standard format used in the start-up world, we decided to share intimate information in order to reach the right eyes and to open a new channel that is transparent and authentic with investors, while documenting the growth process and receiving ongoing feedback.We created an “open for all” Investor Dashboard, launched it last week and got many relevant (and irrelevant) investors contacting us.We actually flipped the regular “pitch me” model on its face.Now we need to wait and see whether or not it will help to finalize our Seed round.Here is the Investor Dashboard we created (you need to connect with your Gmail in order to see the data): https://investor.zest.is/P.SFred and the other readers here, I’d love to get your feedback about the whole thing

    1. Raisa Berger

      I was drawn in from your description initially, but having the only option to log in with my most sacred account (Google) is a red flag. I would not log in for that reason and because the description on the pop up does not deliver the same message as your comment here (makes me feel like a ‘bate and switch’ happened and/or I was spammed).

      1. Yam Regev

        That’s a great feedback, Raisa :)Thanks a ton for that.We can definitely ungate the dashboard and we might do it if we will get more constructive feedback like yours.For us, the decision to gate it came from the understating that relevant investors will be willing to put their email address in order to show a certain level of seriousness.Bottom line: Noted and I’m so thankful for your feedback. Same goes for the micro-copy on the sign-in popup.Good vibes

      2. Yam Regev

        We decided to ungate our Investor Dashboard, Raisa.Following your and other’s feedback, it only felt naturally for us to undertake it.Feel free to take it for a spin: https://investor.zest.is/

    2. Ronnie Rendel

      I like your dashboard page, and I didn’t mind giving my email address

      1. Ronnie Rendel

        I’m also in your space of “distilling content”, in our case business communications. We are using Google’s ML tools to learn to classify & visually display an organization’s business context directly from their Gmail (and later Slack) conversation streams. We’re in Tel Aviv – right next to you. We should talk some time.

        1. Yam Regev

          Cool x2 ;)Feel free to connect with me: [email protected] vibes 🙂

          1. Ronnie Rendel

            Speaking of email promiscuity…

          2. Yam Regev

            Ha! I really believe in openness. Personally, I don’t mind to publicly sharing it…

          3. Ronnie Rendel

            just need to have good spam filters

      2. Yam Regev

        Cool, Ronnie and thanks for your feedback.I assume that it changes between different individuals, right?

        1. Ronnie Rendel

          Dude, looking more into your page – it’s the best presentation I have ever seen a startup make for itself. I just graduated from KamaTech’s Accelerator so we’ve been through making 1 pagers, decks, and storytelling but you guys really did an amazing job.I would love your help marketing and user boarding for my product.

          1. Yam Regev

            Yayyyyyyy!!!1Thank you so much for your kind words <3I’ll help with [email protected]

    3. Lawrence Brass

      In these times of unscrupulous data scavenging you really need a free landing page to give some introductory info about your team and the project, no need to reveal the secret juice. Give some then ask for some. A blog with disqus would be great, for instance. Looks interesting through the login blur though. :)https://zest.is <— THIS

      1. Yam Regev

        We decided to ungate our Investor Dashboard, Lawrence.Following your and other’s feedback, it only felt naturally for us to undertake it.Feel free to take it for a spin: https://investor.zest.is/And thanks again for your smart advice.

    4. Jose Paul Martin

      Yam, love the idea! Something I hope to follow your progress on this pitching approach…Couple of thoughts, can you track your deck with Google Docs? Why not use DocSend or something similar (check resource out – https://pitchprocess.com/re… )Besides the approach, I follow content curation closely, as its a pressing problem, especially with triple info overload. But was surprized to find you (without doubt) push Refind and Quuu in the lower quadrant. What makes Zest better than them? May good for discussion elsewhere, but just a thought.I use both Refind (like their find algo and idea of rewarding with blockchain tokens) and Quuu (bridging the gap between those who want to publish / share good content i.e. Quuu vs. Quuu Promote.(Also, may I suggest being careful with this -> http://eqor.is/Eqjo8qP – I clicked it, but don’t know what you sent using my gmail!)

      1. Yam Regev

        Thanks for your warm words, Jose :)Can you better explain what do you mean by “track your deck”? Pitch Process looks COOL!As for the differences between Zest and Refind/Quuu, I’ll try to keep it short:Zest fights information overload and biased algorithms by creating tribes of experts who share their wisdom in regards to what is added-valued content and what’s junk, fluff or manipulated content.I’ll quote Fred himself in one of his recent articles here [https://avc.com/2018/02/pri…]:”I have several dozen friends who are always sending me things to read or watch or listen to….They are my most valuable source of content and inspiration and I have cultivated these relationships over my entire adult life.Most importantly, I do not allow technology to drive what content I consume. I use Twitter but drop in and out of it occasionally to get a taste. I don’t drink from it’s fire hose. I let Google Now send me alerts but I understand they are filter bubbling me and mainly use it to make sure I see certain things. I have a Facebook account but have not actively used it since they went hostile on Twitter almost ten years ago.Maybe some day technology will be able to do for me what humans can do, but today it is the exact opposite. Technology shows me things I already know about. Humans show me things I don’t know about.”The way Zest works is what Fred described above, but on a much bigger scale.We created a platform in which thousands of professionals like yourself, are suggesting, filtering and recommending content you should consume in order to improve yourself in your own vertical.We then use ML & AI to individualize the content per user.Zest is creating a whole new continues learning experience for professionals.I assume that Refind are after relevant content, but I dont think that relevancy is the pain us professionals are feeling these days. Added value is what’s missing in the content we consume.Hence, the problem (as we, at Zest, see it), is not information overload, but filter failure.This is why we belie that there is no effective and trusted way for professionals to consume professional knowledge, and this is what we are trying to solve.OK, it feels very pitchy… :)We might have took this discussion a little bit off subject, Jose :)I’d love to continue it on LinkedIn or over email. Me: [email protected] for your time, good man.

  15. Seine

    Love the idea of a short Video or an Audio recording. Nevertheless I have always found out, listening and viewing take me too much time compare to reading….So I know I would skip it. As a second step for sure… At least for me

    1. PhilipSugar

      I agree with you. But that is just me. Some people love listening while doing something else.The courses my mother (teacher) made me take that I appreciate were speed reading and typing.I’ll show my age: When I took typing, it was called: Home Ec Secretarial Skills. I was literally the only male. At first I was embarrassed but I learned to very much enjoy.

      1. LE

        Typing. Single most important thing I ever learned to do. From a book in three weeks when I was iirc in middle school. Was my idea. Life changing. I hated to write by hand and it seemed to make a great deal of sense to me. I later taught myself to use a calculator without looking by following the same formula as the typing book but w/o a book. Was great in business before spreadsheets and databases were widely available.Can’t imagine where I’d be without learning to type. It helps in so many ways. Amazing when I see people who hunt and peck. In college way back as I recall I was the only one who turned in papers that were typed on the school computers and printed out by word processor. [1] I managed to get the ladies who ran that office to let me use the equipment there. I bought my own printwheels and ribbons. I actually got a prof to let me sit in a room with a typewriter I brought to school to type some final exams. Wasn’t an easy sell (nobody else was doing that) but I managed to pull it off.For a job since I was able to type I sat in the air conditioned office at my Dad’s place and typed invoices (where I saw the potential for computers first) instead of in the hot warehouse like my cousin (who thought he was doing the ‘man’s’ work). From that exposure and listening to what was going on I learned a great deal. At first I was embarrassed but I learned to very much enjoy.See and you didn’t even need to take that course to learn. A book would have been fine. 3 weeks that is all it took with daily practice.[1] This actually led to the first business that I started out of college (computer supplies) which led to the actual one that I did (variation of the same name actually).

        1. PhilipSugar

          Course was interesting because the typewriters. They were typewriters had no letters or numbers on the keys. Only one chart at front of class. And you had to fix mistakes with that white paper stuff and were graded on speed and accuracy.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        For speed reading, there’s no way to do that on W. Rudin, Real and Complex Analysis. Instead, on average on each page there are about three places where the argument claims “clearly” and needs only about two hours to see that, yes, it was clear! E.g., clearly there are no countably infinite sigma algebras!But, I was told that I should take typing, and I did! The course was in the spring in Memphis and HOT. I often wore a heavy ROTC uniform! Did I mention it was HOT!My reasonable manual dexterity didn’t come until some years later! So, right, too often my fingers went between the keys!Eventually I did get some manual dexterity, e.g., enough for, say,https://www.youtube.com/wat…with a good candidate for musically the best performance of that piece so far since Bach. Bach put it all right there on the page, and we can all hear it if some violinist can see it and play it. Sure, the performer is Arthur Grumiaux. I’ve played nearly all of that piece but not like Grumiaux! For some video of this piece there ishttps://www.youtube.com/wat…She’s a better musician than this example suggests.I learned a big lesson about gender equality! The whole idea was total BS! NO WAY was there any, even tiny, chance for gender equality! Instead the girls sat there, cool, neat, smiling, happy, pretty, sometimes world class pretty, nice concave curve to their backs, typing away, easily, effortlessly, quickly, flawlessly, like they were born expert typists!!!! They were much, MUCH, MUCH better than I was! I didn’t have a chance! And, yes, the class was nearly all girls. But, most of them were pretty, really pretty!!!! Did I mention they were pretty? What I recall is, they were really pretty! Pretty girls.So, I got to see what it was like for the girls in math and physics classes with me! Poor, pretty little things!I DID learn “touch typing”, that is, how to use all eight fingers on all the keys A-Z. And that was about all I learned. To be generous, my accuracy was awful.The final exam was unique! My paper was awful, historically awful! As I removed it from the typewriter, I tore it in half then asked the teacher for tape to put it back together. I got the grade, I’m sure the “feminist” teacher was thrilled to give me but I deserved, flat F.But, since then I’ve done a LOT of typing, likely the most of anyone in the class. By now my typing is okay, but the keyboard makes a difference. So, the course was worthwhile!By chance I just discoveredhttps://www.youtube.com/wat…So, this is another Grumiaux performance, this time of Mozart’s third violin concerto. IIRC, Mozart traveled in Italy and when he got home wrote all five of his violin concerti — he was 19. The two favorites are the 3rd and 5th — I prefer the 5th. Here is the 3rd, and good Mozart and good music. The orchestra is at least good (not always the case), and Grumiaux is at least terrific.

    2. Jose Paul Martin

      Skipping is something that is not easy with Audio, but can be achieved with Video. Our brains can process a lot of information, Video (Including Audio) pipes more information in a few seconds than just a picture/slide. Audio on the other hand makes it difficult, as the mind now has to process the picture in the mind.To the idea of using video, instead of an 8 minute video, do 4 – 2 minute videos, each for a thought/slide/topic. And publish it as chapters (Wistia is good for bookmarking video chapters).

  16. DJL

    I am going to send a video of a friend interviewing me about my podcast pitch in letter format – and then embed it in a slide deck.

    1. JimHirshfield


    2. PrasannaKrishnamoorthy

      But are you going to fax in a printed deck? 😕 :/

  17. Cindy Gallop

    And consider using Susan Danziger and Oliver Friedman’s Ziggeo API to provide a platform/channel for those videos 🙂 https://ziggeo.com/

  18. Richard

    If Mark Zuckerberg would have done pitched you this way, would USV have invested? Have a theory about why VCs like articulate photogenic, founders. It gives them cover. People can disagree on the merits of an idea, size of market, completion and scalability but, but if a founder has the skills and presence of an actor, it gives the VC cover (particularly to his partners).

    1. JamesHRH

      Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page & Bill Gates were neiither articulate nor photogenic, when they were founding there companies ( Page & Zuck still aren’t either, Bill’s better on both counts).This is a comment on bad VC.Decks are great because they are Rick comtent but skimmable and discrete ( easy to select a ‘slice’ of a deck). Audio Video are rich but not skimmable and letters are skimmable but not rich.Porsche – there is no substitute.On an unrelated and tragic note, I would like to make a pitch for the AVC community to please help mend a town in Saskatchewan that has had a the social equivalent of an atom bomb go off in their community: https://www.gofundme.com/fu

  19. panterosa,

    I’m working on a blended model for our laterst thing, which is a blended keynote. Two version probably, both with sections you can expand for more info, one voiceover, one with “subtitles” to send by email. In person, in full, it would be 10 mins (hopefully lees, 8) for a 30-45 minute meeting. It’s primarily for meeting, but needs to sent across the globe to the other partners.Thoughts Fred, Arnold, William?

  20. BillMcNeely

    I love posts like these. I am one of the older folks (42) where 25-30 is the norm and I have been sharing posts like these to help the younger folks fill in the gaps. They love them.

  21. Pointsandfigures

    No pitching in Chicago today. Cubs Opening Day, except there is 2-3 inches of snow on the ground and it’s not letting up

    1. JLM


      1. Lawrence Brass

        Juliet Lima Mike, AVC Bar Center, radio check.. zzzt

        1. JLM

          .Lima Charlie, Lima BravoHotel Mike?TravelingJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Lawrence Brass

            Juliet Lima Mike, traveling. Roger. Godspeed.

  22. LE

    10-20 pitch decks a day and sometimes a lot moreThat quantity sounds like spray and pray as opposed to individual targeting (but then again how would I know that is just a guess).The advice I would give to anyone pitching for anything is to not ‘blow your load’ on your main prospects but instead take the time to try things out on people that you don’t care if you make mistakes with and learn from those experiences. [1] [2] In selling also (not VC pitching) there are people that will give you their time quicker if they feel you aren’t selling them and just want their thoughts on what they are doing. I remember one time where I setup an appointment with a purchasing agent for a product being sold by a company I was considering buying. The entire meeting purpose was simply to figure out ‘how hard it would be for me to actually get to pitch you IRL and what tips can you offer me’. He gladly took the meeting and gave me his thoughts on both the product and how hard it would be to actually pitch him if I hadn’t set up the meeting that way. (Which of course could have been a ruse on my part but wasn’t in this case. Not that I haven’t used ruses before..)[1] Of course this takes time and energy and most people want it to be easy and fast and quick success.[2] This runs true even in things like college interviews and job interviews obviously. Practice and get familiar where you are more relaxed.

  23. sigmaalgebra

    That’s a lot of emphasis on video. The video doesn’t easily yield text or, really, anything easy to keep. I’d have to believe that, really, a VC would prefer just text in e-mail. Video to interview for an on-camera TV job? Okay.Yes, I’d believe that VCs would prefer letters.For one more point, IMHO, both sides of the table need to get real: IMHO, if only from the VC limited partners, the VC wants to see TRACTION significantly high and growing rapidly that can reasonably result in a $1+ billion company quickly. So, the VC should have a little table the entrepreneur should fill in to show the traction and the promise of the $1+ billion.For the traction criterion, apparently some VCs have staff analysts looking at Comscore or other industry data sources for companies that meet the criterion and, then, contact the company directly. That’s the old Hollywood “Don’t call us. We’ll call you” situation! Maybe entrepreneurs should just wait for VCs to call and conclude that if no VC calls, then contacting a VC would be a waste of time anyway.Actually each year there are, in all of US information startups, only about, what, 20 projects that have much promise of $1+ billion quickly? So, one way or another, it should be possible for the VCs quite broadly to settle on this list of 20 or so.There is a problem: Entrepreneurs are deep into their project, see lots of details as crucial, and are reluctant to omit the crucial details. Result is too many words for a first contact of a VC.So, there is standard advice that the purpose of the first contact of a VC is to get the VC to respond and ask for more. But some VCs don’t like that extra step and, instead, want enough information on the first contact to permit more deal progress in case they do like the project. Soooooo, an entrepreneur could send a letter, a table on traction, and then a pitch deck of 50 foils and 2000 words with lots of detail as an appendix.For getting real, VCs long insisted that others do the filtering for them so wanted to take seriously, i.e., actually read, pitches only that came from mutually trusted sources. Other pitches were denigrated as “over the transom” and ignored. An excuse was that this criterion was a test of entrepreneur marketing skills! A problem is that an exceptionally good entrepreneur may have some good references from some high end people, presidents of high end, famous universities, founding CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, etc. but no buddies at the low level, self-taught C++ programmers who got lucky, of the people the VC knows! Also, an entrepreneur does not want to send names of high end references on first contacts to dozens of VCs they don’t know.It would appear that each VC partner should have about four analysts with some criteria from the VC and do first filtering of the pitches.A fundamental problem is that a VC is necessarily looking for something exceptional, and routine thinking, opinions, criteria, etc. are not a good way to do that! E.g., we don’t expect a history major and MBA to do a good job teaching graduate courses, reviewing research papers, and supervising Ph.D. research in computer science or applied math; so, such people are not good at evaluating the technology in new, advanced, powerful, valuable information technology!! Tough universe!! But, but, but, I’m sure that the history major knows all about the Council of Trent and will be able to make good use of that SOMEWHERE!With some high irony, another problem in information technology (IT) VC, the technology part is not taken seriously. In strong contrast, the US DoD, NSF, and NIH take the science or technology very seriously and end up with fantastically powerful projects with batting averages much, much higher than IT VCs. Of course, for such projects, the problem sponsors get expert peer-reviews of the projects.

  24. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:How about the alternative to seeking VC funding? Just don’t!Seeking and accepting VC funding becomes a distraction to Entrepreneurs with a real vision, product or service.Takes away from your focus on your business with the staged (you don’t even know these people, really) meetings, foods you don’t eat, (especially if your team is health conscious) suggestions that worked for companies that don’t share your companies culture.The majority of time funding is accepted from a VC your company is basically up for sale and the only way the returns sought are via public offering or private sales. You lose control 90% of the time. VC ‘s position BOD that serve their own purposes and not the founders and business.Our suggestion is to stay lean and grow the product or service. There are hundreds of companies that have done this successfully.Captain Obvious!#UnequivocallyUnapologeticallyIndependent

    1. Adam Sher

      There are some companies who are capital intensive and unless you’re independently wealthy or had a prior exit, may need to raise money. It’s hard to have friends/family to contribute $1M+.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        I believe you will find that nearly all US information technology (IT) VCs want traction significant and growing rapidly before the first Series A, seed, pre-seed, tin cup contribution check.So, if the business is capital intensive, then likely it is also capital intensive just to get the first customer.If the business is not capital intensive and the entrepreneur, from his own checkbook, friends, family, and fools (3F), coins found on the sidewalk or between the seat cushions of the sofa, etc. can get traction, then he has good shot at revenue. Then keeping opex down, down, way down, and with the traction growing rapidly, the entrepreneur should soon have revenue and earnings enough to, right, attract VC but not need it!So, where are the IT VC deals? Apparently they are delicate situations where the entrepreneur is far enough along to attract VC funding, no longer really needs it, but still wants it and will put up with what comes with it — term sheet conditions, founder vesting, a Delaware C corporation, a BoD, etc.My joke is that for a deal there should be a really promising business, five co-founders, each in a one room apartment with all credit cards maxed out and a pregnant wife. There can be other reasons:Use the equity to do lots of hiring quickly and then hope to sell the company to a large company. The large company can want to buy for any of several reasons, one of which is just to shutdown a potential competitive disrupter.

  25. Michael

    I think all your suggestions are a great way to get to know the entrepreneur and her team. What is missing from these modes is a more rigorous, yet simple and accessible way to understand what problem the entrepreneur is solving for and how they are approaching the business models and all the related elements in order to build traction.Perhaps including with the video/letter/podcast conversation the entrepreneur could include a one page lean canvas model as refined by Ash Maurya (leanstack.com)

  26. Vinish Garg

    Unless the way they pitch their pitch deck to you (the email itself) is an absolute delight to your mind.As for pitching, I am loving how Andy Raskin has talked about it, for instance in the teardown of David Cancel’s (of Drift) deck: https://medium.com/the-miss

  27. Pradeep Rathi

    Very unconventional and much needed thought. Finally it’s the founder who matters more than the thought.

  28. Jan Schultink

    All good suggestions. These 3 options are as hard to get right (maybe even harder) as a traditional pitch deck though :-).

  29. Mark Gavagan

    Consider having this one question on a form where pitch submissions are uploaded:”How does your startup fit USV’s investment thesis? (max 80 chars if written or 30 seconds if audio/video)”You’ll immediately learn whether or not (1) the startup fits your thesis; and (2) the submitter can communicate clearly and succinctly.

  30. Victor Izmaylov

    Fred -You are not alone in your quest for more efficient communication. A department head at a local Fortune 500 company recently asked me to streamline how their staff communicate with company leadership. Staff used to send long emails, attaching one or more lengthy PowerPoint decks. My client wanted to change the format to something leadership could quickly review on their mobile phones.I ran a workshop for this team to teach them my method for Hijack-Proof Presentations. It primarily forces communicators to boil down and structure their power messages on a single page, with physical or conceptual links to additional information in the on-demand reference section. You can see an example of this approach in the links below.A few months after the engagement, my client reported that the approach leads to richer discussions and faster decisions. I believe this method could be useful for VC pitch books as well as for regular updates from portfolio companies.https://www.linkedin.com/puhttps://static1.squarespace

  31. Yusuf Roso

    An alternative is writing a Working Backwards Press Release + FAQ document, this is how every single Amazon product was presented/discussed in infancy before a single line of code was written (which can be thought of as a startup). This approach forces one to focus on the customer. Writing a narrative also pushes one to articulate ideas in a much clearer way and helps the founder (the Product Manager in Amazon’s case) identify logical gaps in thinking that rarely comes up in a pitch-deck or presentation. A pitchdeck may be more effective because of the speed of information delivery (so perhaps better to pique the interest of a VC) but it is not even comparable to a Press Release + FAQ in terms of rigor and depth of thinking.

  32. Jose Paul Martin

    Fred, while I think standing out is essential – that should not be just through the pitchdeck. In fact, I suggest three versions of pitches, one for each situation you’ll face.Today, 80% of our communication is done through email, over the internet – so ideas like video recording/screencast recording are better imho.I attend pitch sessions, just to see what is on the table – but as you rightly said, it can be information overload.Getting to the point, and fast is essential. This what I’m teaching my students at https://pitchprocess.com/ – I’m going to be dedicating the next few months and sit on the other side of the table and try to help them present better. This is a selfish idea, hopefully, I’ll get to see some good companies, but it will also help other VCs, with better pitches.Would appreciate your thoughts on this idea, if you can find some time 🙂