What should we not say in a meeting with Venture Capital?

The Worst Things You Can Say When Pitching For Venture Capital (in no particular order)

  1. Please sign our NDA
    1. VCs and related folks such as myself never sign these things. We hear pitches all the time (dozens PER DAY) and can’t be exposed to risk of someone claiming his idea was similar to the one where we’re involved. Do your homework first… if we shouldn’t talk, don’t ask. Our reputation is on the line by playing an honest and ethical role in our work… there are no original ideas (which you’ll note in one of my other Worst Things To Say) and we’re not in the business of building your idea, we’re in our business.
    2. Also see derivatives of that… “we’d have to get an NDA in place before we can share that,” “that’s confidential”
  2. We have no competitors
    1. Sure you don’t. You’ve just conveyed that you have no idea what you’re doing.
    2. YOU HAVE COMPETITORS. Period. They may be old and out of date… they may be major companies that aren’t likely to actually compete… they may be other startups you don’t know. Share the landscape of your market.
  3. I’ll have to get back to you on that
    1. Why are you exploring with us or sharing something with which you aren’t capable of clarity? Your goal in a meeting is to prompt questions and engagement from VCs. If you aren’t prepared to get into detail, be up front about what you DO know and why you’re sharing the point you’re trying to make.
  4. This is conservative (or this is aggressive)
    1. Meaning you really have no idea.
    2. Granted, we all KNOW the numbers are rather fabricated and unlikely! We’re not going to invest in a founder or startup that isn’t pragmatic and realistic. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver nor under-promise and hope you can over-deliver – we’re partners and putting money to work, start the conversation with realistic plans.

Each of those considerations reinforces one overarching point which is that while YOU may not know the circumstances underlying any of these points, someone does.

Someone knows your competitors. Someone knows how to communicate what matters and how to avoid implying we need an NDA. Someone knows how to get your data and answers, and someone knows how to model and plan realistically.

And as a startup founder, your job ONE is working that out so that YOU (forget even talking to us) KNOW.

Are you going to proceed without knowing your competitors?? Are you going to proceed under a false premise that your patent or confidential IP is what matters?? Are you going to go forward with a conservative plan or lacking information to ensure you plan is accurate?

No. Rather, I’d hope not. So why would investors get involved if YOU don’t even know??

This is the work of marketing (NOT a CMO or Advertising; I mean just plain old marketing). Studying the market before you do things so that you have better insight to the right answers with which to proceed. Your job is to make that paramount… perhaps you have to do it, perhaps you need a cofounder that knows how, or perhaps you get advisors or into an incubator that knows how…. we’re investing together (you and VCs) in enough risk as it is, you don’t move forward without knowing your market so that you aren’t flying blind into making mistakes that could have been avoided.

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