At the iCONIC conference in Denver on Wednesday, Techstars and Foundry Group co-founder Brad Feld shared his tips on how to survive in a real-world Shark Tank.
BY HELENA BALL
It may be exciting to get the attention of venture capitalists who can propel your company forward. But just getting in the room with them is far from a guarantee that they’ll write you a fat check. You need to be extremely well-prepared before you make your pitch.
Take it from someone who knows: Brad Feld, the co-founder of venture capital firm Foundry Group and startup accelerator Techstars, has heard thousands of pitches in his long career.
“I can tell within a minute whether I want to engage with something or not,” Feld said Wednesday at the iCONIC conference in Denver, an event sponsored by Inc. and CNBC. “I try to say no as fast as I possibly can because I don’t want to waste the founder’s time.”
In his remarks, Feld shared some of his best advice for entrepreneurs seeking to perfect their pitch. Here are five insights that will help you increase your odds of closing a deal–and what to do when you don’t.
- Passion is not enough
“Tell me what you’re doing and why I should give a shit,” Feld said. “Not why I should care, but really, really care.” The key is to be obsessed with your product and the problem you want to solve. “It’s very easy to be passionate about what you’re working on but it’s extremely difficult to fake obsession,” he added.
- Do your homework
Before presenting in front of potential investors, research companies and founders that have been successful in the past, Feld said. Become familiar with the firm’s investment process, what most matters to partners, and what types of companies they are looking for.
- Demonstrate good form, and even better substance
“If you have shitty [presentation] form, you can’t see past it,” Feld said. Don’t attempt to hide a lack of substance–even an exceptional pitch won’t make up for it. “Focus on what you have and what you’re going to develop with the capital you’re raising,” he added.
- Build a relationship
No matter how persuasive your pitch is, don’t expect to leave the VC’s office with a check. “The pitch is simply price of admission for the next meeting,” Feld said. And a failed pitch might still lead to a successful one later on if you handle the interaction correctly. Many of Foundry Group’s investments, including some of their most successful ones, such as Fitbit, have been in companies that pitched more than once. “You have to nurture the relationship even when it’s a ‘no.'”
- Raise the minimum amount
“Raise the least amount of money you need to get to the next place,” Feld said. “The mistake a lot of people make is they raise as much money as they can. They spend the money, but don’t think about what that place is.”