Preparing for investor meetings is all about communications. Most entrepreneurs think this means writing a pitch deck and practising its delivery. They are 50% correct. The other 50% involves planning to ensure the time with investors is extremely valuable. For the investor, you and your team.
In this post, I am going to share my method for preparing for investor meetings. However, before I do, I think it’s important for founders to stay focused on one part of our job that doesn’t get anywhere near enough air time. Most commentary about the primary role of a founder talks to the importance of hiring and keeping the business funded, either through revenue or financing.
The role that gets lost in startup hype (and I suspect de-prioritised by founders who are busy fire-fighting) is team communication.
For the most part, this is because founders assume that sitting next to each other or being constantly available on Slack means that their team (and board) are clear on what founders are thinking. What compounds this poor assumption is a founder’s belief that their cofounders should intuitively know what to say or how to act just because they have a solid relationship.
In the context of capital raising, the CEO is probably doing the groundwork to identify and set up meetings with investors. Then once an investor meeting is confirmed, the CEO rallies their co-founders around the pitch deck and they briefly discuss who will say what during the meeting.
You might consider this a ‘good case’ scenario for the founding team.
It’s what I used to do.
However, this approach creates only a fraction of the value that could come from 30-45 minutes of planning.
The one expectation I have going into investor meetings
I will walk out with value.
That is the one expectation I have for every one of my investor meetings. I plan and enter each investor meeting with this mindset because I value time above anything else. My time is finite and valuable. So is the time of investors and so is the time of your team.
Walking out with value means one of two things. Either you walk out with a commitment to proceed to the next investment stage (e.g. a next meeting request, due diligence, term sheet negotiation or deal close). Alternatively, you walk out with new insight and knowledge. Ideally, you walk out with both.
But here’s the thing; You can’t expect to walk out of an investor meeting with value without first creating value for the investor.
When I think about creating value for investors, I think about how investors play the information arbitrage game. They are continuously gathering information about industries, business models and how founders are thinking about solving big problems to help make decisions about which ventures to back. The more knowledge and experience they have partnering with and learning from founders, the more likely they are to make well-informed investment decisions.
The bottom line is that those founders who walk out of investor meetings without investment momentum and with no new knowledge or insights have failed to plan.
My template to plan and prepare for investor meetings
There are three steps to this approach. The time investment is 30-45 minutes (excluding time to draft pitch decks and the meeting time with the investor). I also want to stress that this approach is just as crucial for solo entrepreneurs pitching for investment as it is for those of us with teams.
It’s the discipline that matters. The more I do it, the more efficient I become.
Step 1: Research
This step intends to bring co-founders and board members to a common understanding about the investor you plan to meet. This research is delivered via email with as much time as possible before the pre-meeting call (step 2).
Here are the subheadings for the email:
Context (answer these questions)
- Whom are we meeting?
- What is their title and where are they (and their firm) based?
- How are we meeting (in-person or via Zoom)?
- How did the introduction arise?
About the investor
- Copy the blurb from their website that characterises their focus and mandate. Include the investors’ website URL
- List the companies in their portfolio that are in your industry (this provides clues on the stage and types of businesses they invest in)
- Describe why the meeting is taking place. There is typically more than one reason to engage with an investor (e.g. secure investment and get access to relationships and portfolio companies)
- List the key questions you want to ask (be specific, and have at least three questions read to ask)
Roles (to discuss on pre-call)
- Outline who is going to say what and who will ask each question
- The first pass of who will be saying what should be drafted by the CEO and then discussed during Step 2 (the pre-meeting call)
Step 2: Pre-Meeting Call
After I send the research email to the team, a 15-minute call is scheduled to discuss the plan and especially who will be saying what during the investor meeting.
Step 3: Followup
Following up is non-negotiable. After every meeting, send a ‘thank you for your time’ email. Moreover, there is always an action that accompanies this email. If the investor expressed interest, then you follow up with more detailed documentation and a suggested next meeting time. If your venture is too early, then you add them to a quarterly investor only mailing list.
Don’t pay lip service to this offer. As I wrote about recently, developing relationships takes time and not following up is a missed opportunity.
Gaining value from ‘thanks, but no thanks.’
Every founder will receive many more NO’s than they will YES’s. And while it is important to plan for when the answer is ‘YES’, as I wrote about last week, I always have two questions ready to ensure we walk out of the room with value even when the answer is ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
The first question: Have you come across any ventures who are trying to capture a similar opportunity to us?
This question demonstrates curiosity, and the answer can result in additional market intelligence.
The second question is: How would you encourage us to think differently about the problem we are trying to solve?
This question demonstrates adaptability, and the answer can help shape strategy.
One last thing …
Planning prevents poor performance. I learned the value of this as a soldier, and I apply it to much of what I do as a founder.
I think about meetings with investors as potently valuable learning opportunities. Value gets generated when you show up and come well-prepared to communicate ideas and your momentum in the context of the investors are of interest.
A small amount of planning not only helps you bring the full weight of your company to the conversation, but it also helps to keep your team and board informed and engaged which they will appreciate.