Simple tips for seeking out venture capitalists for software and internet inventions

After you’ve spent countless hours developing your product, you’re finally in position to reach out to venture capitalists via executive summary or in-person presentation. What you say is critical – the key is keeping it short and straightforward, but engaging. Below are tips for making the pitch that can help you land the deal.

Precision with substance. VCs are busy. They sit through hundreds of pitches that are filled with buzzwords but are so vague and complex that they aren’t even sure what you are trying to get them to fund. If they can’t understand it, why would they invest? You are the expert for your product, not them. VCs are looking for a product that sells, so they’ve got to imagine that consumers will be able to “get” your product, too. You’ve got to find that delicate balance of providing enough information to show that your product is well-developed but in words that your 10-year-old nephew can understand.

Think conversation, not lecture. The last thing you want to do is bore the VCs. Make your meeting a dialogue. Deliver your points quickly and then give time for questions. You should also be prepared to ask questions. Show curiosity in your investors – they are going to be a big part of this venture and so deserve some of your attention, too.

Defend, but not defensive. When you lay out your goals and anticipated results, be ready to defend your assumptions and to explain how you plan on getting there. Know what the challenges are and be forthright about them. All projects have challenges; the good ones can be set up to overcome them. Make sure yours is one of the good ones by doing your homework about the market you are targeting. Never fake an answer, though. It is far better to admit to not knowing an answer (and maybe having to go back the drawing board) than to damage your reputation by trying to bluff.

Show and tell. If possible, demonstrate your product. Keep it simple by highlighting the key features that you are using to solve the problem. Use the demonstration to show how well built it is and intuitive (consumers must be able to use it easily!).

Show some passion!  If you want the VCs to get excited enough about your product to invest in it, then you’ve got to show you’re excited about it, too. Entrepreneurs are creative risk-takers. It can’t be all about money – show them how you’re going to make the world a better place such that they want to be a part of it, too. (And another hint: you can demonstrate just how useful consumers will find your product with results from the many in-depth interviews you have conducted as you were creating your business concept.) Have fun and be yourself. Laughter is a great way to break through the emotional barrier separating you from the VCs. All of these will go a long way toward setting yourself apart from other drab presentations.

Questions to answer in your presentation:

  • What problem are you aiming to solve? Why is it important?
  • What sets your product apart from what is already offered in the market today? (Knowing who your competitors are is key to proving you truly understand your business and have done the necessary background research.)
  • What is the target market? How big is it? What is your market strategy?
  • How do you intend to build up more users?
  • How will you accomplish your goals? (Talk about your team and how their expertise – domain, product insight, etc. – make them the best team for this opportunity.)
  • What are your revenue projections? What will it take (consumers, products, pricing, etc.) to get to $50M or $100M of revenue?
  • How much do you want to raise? (Giving a range is best. The minimum amount should be able to significantly reduce the risks in the business. Highlight the risks you will remove and your anticipated momentum about six months before you run out of funds.)