May 17, 2013
I didn't think starting this company would be like producing a movie, but it's REALLY similar if not basically the same. It's my job to hold the vision, to keep us moving forward, to respond to feedback, and to iterate, iterate, iterate our strategy for the product. It's like re-writing your film's business plan even as you're sending a script back for rewrites, all the while remembering the story you're trying to tell in the first place. And there's never enough money.
Someone please find us one o' these...
You actually have to go out and convince people to give you their hard earned money on a promise. Startup financing isn't any different: pitching Venture Capital firms is a lot like pitching Studios. Your chances of getting a meeting let alone funded are about as good. But the pitch process is incredibly important for two reasons:
Keep sight of the vision!
1. You have to spend time thinking about how to clearly articulate the vision of your project, to OFFER something so enticing, others will want to get involved with you. It takes either a lot of confidence or a deep belief in what you're doing that supercedes the nerves.
2. Pitching is a VERY important part of how your project gets better because investors will ask you hard questions. They're probably hard because you hadn't thought about them yet. Don't worry, you can always say "That's really interesting, I want to think more about that. I'll get back to you." But the more you pitch, the more you will get feedback, the better your idea will get. Thinking through the difficult scenarios a potential funder offers is a GOOD thing for the health and longevity of the project! Better idea, better pitch and so on.
These two points are just as true for crowdfunding as for equity financing. In crowd-funding people are voting with their dollars to support you, and often sending incredibly helpful feedback, ideas, and often most importantly, encouragement!
Why is this on my mind?
I had the fortunate (if utterly terrifying) opportunity to be on BetaBeat's webseries The Pitch: 10 startups competing for $10,000 by pitching to two well-respected VC guys. It's always nerve-wrecking to pitch because you want to balance your excitement about the project against your profound desperation to get the funding proess over with already. Then, you might get a really TOUGH investor. If an investor starts a conversation with "Lemme just tell you I'm known as a devil's advocate" (or something like that) they're issuing a warning - so be prepared, stay calm, and keep reminding yourself that the point is to execute on your vision, not make friends.
So I'm always nervous going in to a meeting. Add to all these nerves the idea that it's going on camera, and well... All I could think of was the time during an extemporaneous speech competition in high school I tried to be funny and ended up, if memory serves (and I wish it wouldn't), I think mentioning that bad breath may have been the cause of nuclear war. Note to self: DO NOT TRY TO BE FUNNY.
So I asked for a lot of help, and one of my advisors kindly offered to let me do a dry run of my pitch in front of him. I wrote and re-wrote the deck. And here's what happened:
Well, a lot more happened than that, but that's what made it in the episode. And to be fair, I think Steve and Nikhil went easy on me for the cameras (I imagine they were nervous because of the cameras, too).
How do you think I did? What would you do differently? What did I miss? (Well, maybe I covered it in the stuff that's on the cutting room floor, but you don't get credit for that.)
Next Thursday, May 23rd, we'll find out how I did against the competition. I would recommend watching all the pitches, figuring out what you liked and didn't, and thinking about how to apply those lessons to your next project. I was inspired to dig even deeper in to what's working and not working about our idea and come up with some new ideas about how to improve, how to get your feedback, and how to build our audience. More on that next week...