On the other side of pitching

I recently gave a bunch of pitches to VC’s from the valley/NY/Boston on behalf of one of our partner companies.  If it sounds non-traditional, it is.  Long story short, when I first joined Arthur Ventures I spent about a year as CFO for one of our partner companies as we raised our second fund (AV II).  While I haven’t served in that role for close to a year now as I’ve been focused on investing AV II, I’ve maintained a lot of the venture relationships that were established during my stint at the company.  A few weeks ago James and I were in San Fran for the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference and since just about every healthcare-focused VC attends the conference we decided it would be good meet with a group of them to give an update on the business.  PowerPoint slides and all, we ended up meeting with about 20+ growth-stage VC’s (check size of $10M – $30M).

Going in, we knew most of the meetings would probably go well as a number of the firms had been tracking the company for a while (cuts out the ‘what do you do’ piece) and due to the company’s performance raising capital is more of an optional vs. required thing (which always helps, a lot), but we still had several meetings with ‘new’ firms.

The meetings with the new firms were my first (and probably last) time back in the saddle giving a pitch for the company since we closed AV II so I spent a lot of the time observing how the firms represented themselves and interacted with us to make sure I could bring back some learnings to how we operate on the receiving end of pitches at Arthur Ventures.

Reflecting back, there were a few common characteristics of what made a meeting bad, mediocre or good and I’ve tried to summarize them below.  This isn’t ground-breaking stuff, but the experience served as a great reminder for us at Arthur Ventures to make sure we are doing as much of the good as we can.

The Bad 

  • Most common trait was the VC spending up to 30 mins of the 60 minute meeting giving their intro/background and talking about all of the great companies in their portfolio.  Understanding someone’s background and investing experience is important, but as soon as it went past about 7 or 8 minutes we lost interest, rapidly.  Meetings where this happened were hands down the most brutal.
  • Constant interruptions
  • Comments about the flaws in your strategy vs. being constructive
  • Their phone was priority #1
  • While it was only 1 or 2 firms who did this – going down the whole ‘why are you building this in the Midwest’ thing is the easiest way to lose our interest

The Mediocre

  • Most often characterized by a pure lack of emotion from the VC.  To be fair, it was our job to get them excited and we clearly didn’t.  That said, at least the bad meetings were entertaining, these ones felt like they lasted 3x longer than they actually did.

The Good

  • Limited intros unless we asked questions.  They assumed we did our homework on them, and we did.
  • Patient – They avoided jumping to conclusions, only asked questions during the pitch if it was fundamental to their understanding of the business and asked most of their questions once we got through our material.  Ironically, these were the meetings where we had the most Q&A as their questions were well informed and led to strong discussions.
  • Eye contact
  • Made constructive suggestions on areas they may have disagreed with us vs. telling us things we were doing wrong
  • Offered to make introductions to their portfolio that they thought would help
  • Were very specific in their desired next steps

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