Making a Lasting First Impression!

Sanjay Swamy

Nov. 26, 2019, 4:15 p.m.

Making a Lasting First Impression!

How to have a high-quality first meeting with a VC!

I meet new entrepreneurs daily. Unfortunately most meetings are terrible — poorly structured, poorly managed and often do the brilliance of the startup a disservice!

Quite often I find myself having to look for the diamond in the rough, when it really should be the entrepreneur who should be doing a great job articulating their labour of love!

Let’s start with the GOAL of the first meeting with a VC — this in itself is where things go wrong and often expectations are wrong.

The goal of the first meeting is simple — to do just enough to get the 2nd meeting quickly!

So what does one need to do to make the first meeting effective. Here are my tips that hopefully will help entrepreneurs have an effective first meeting — even if its only 20–30 minutes long — hope you find them useful.

1) Start your meeting ON time. Arrive 15 minutes earlier and ask the admin to give you some help in setting up the presentation/WiFi/Demo etc.

2) In today’s day and age it’s best to be ready to project via ChromeCast. Don’t make statements like “I’ve never used ChromeCast” and expect to pitch an AI startup!

3) Please figure out how to project your mobile demo — I used to do it 10+ years ago on Nokia phones and it was “wow” then — not its just “ugh” when you don’t do it!

4) Please control the meeting. Set expectations on how you plan to use the time. Remember — VC’s see this meeting as a proxy for how you are going to lead a team and customers/partners. A VC pitch is a sales meeting!

5) Basic rules of presentation flow (true for a VC meeting or a customer salesmeeting and most other meetings too):

5.1 Start with questions — get to know your audience. Ask VC’s why they are different from others. Ask VC’s if they’re familiar with this space and what they like and don’t like about it. Try and understand who is your friend in the room and who is the one you need to convince.

5.2 Do the basic things right

5.2.1 Tell a story about your background — don’t ramble, but a crisp story helps

5.2.2 Talk about the rest of the team’s background

5.2.3 We like to know your motivations and your prior experience with each other, how and why you came together

5.2.4 We want to know your motivations for doing this — not just what you are doing — please incorporate that into your discussions

5.2.5 On some days we are more chatty than others — be ready for a conversation, a discussion, a debate — and enjoy it, don’t get defensive

5.3 — Dive into your key topic — tell a logical story — show your excitement and passion for what you are doing, its contagious!

5.3.1 If you have a live demo, show a KISS demo first that illustrates something very fundamental that you solve

5.3.2 Finish your presentation in 20 minutes flat — leave plenty of time for discussions. Do not take 50 minutes for presentation — in the first meeting, nobody needs the details, just the highlights.

5.3.3 Take notes, and summarise key takeaways before you leave the room. Then send an email with this summary by EOD — not the next day, the SAME day! If there is any data or additional information requested, please mention them and send an ETA for when you can furnish the information — and please don’t miss the expectations you set.

5.3.4 At some point, stop pitching. 

This is typically when you have got the VC so excited that they keep asking “can we do this and that, etc.”. At that point, you need to ask questions — ask about how they can help? Have they worked with similar companies or opportunities before? Examples? Effectively now its your turn to be the buyer and the VC’s turn to explain/justify why they are the right partner for you.

If the VC is excited about you, they will follow-up — there is no need to keep playing new cards, once someone is convinced, keep the positive surprises for later. In other words, Do NOT sell beyond the close.

5.3.6 — Never BLUFF — it has a weird way of biting you in the butt, it’s not funny how people get caught bluffing!

Very few VC’S are concerned about FOMO and unlike what people sometimes like to believe, very few VC’s succumb to deal pressure or can be hustled into giving you better terms. Sure if you genuinely have a timeline you are working toward, let them know, but never try to bluff your way to a funding round or commercials — it rarely happens! The scars and reputation risks to you as a founder are far higher.

6. Most importantly, cover the answers to all the key questions:

  • What Problem you are Solving?
  • Who is the customer?
  • Who is the beneficiary of your service?
  • How big is the problem?
  • Why you are well/best suited to address this?
  • Why are you passionate about addressing the problem?
  • Why is your solution 10x better than the state-of-the-art?
  • How will you distribute the solution?
  • How you will monetise your solution?
  • What stage are you at?
  • Who else is doing this or could do this?
  • Why you think you will win?
  • What will it take to get to the next stage?
  • What will it take to get to 10x from that point on?

This may sound like a LONG list, but they are all important to articulate in a short presentation and when you are clear in your flow, it can happen in under 10 minutes.

Remember that the Goal of the first meeting ISN’T to convince them to fund you then and there — the Goal of the first meeting with a VC firm is ONLY for them to immediately send an email or WhatsApp message to their partners saying:
“Just met this amazing entrepreneur and company doing XYZ — I’d like one of you to meet them soon, this could be hot!”

Many of these are common sense — but I’ve rarely met an entrepreneur who does this well — and as an entrepreneur-turned-VC, I hope these tips will be useful.

The fact of the matter is you only get one chance to make a first impression — do it right!

What are some of the techniques that you’ve used to ensure a great first meeting — whether with a VC or otherwise? Do share…

About the Author - 

sanjay swamy prime venture partners

Sanjay Swamy is an Entrepreneur & Early-Stage Fintech Investor! #DigitalPayments & #Financial Services Fanatic! #IndiaStack_Evangelist!

This article was originally published on Linkedin

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