Request short meetings, and invest in high-quality video + audio
The way to get meetings hasn’t changed — the best still manage to get warm intros. It does seem, though, that with more time at home and more research time, the quality of the cold emails I am getting has improved. They are more researched and personalized, which is good.
A new tactic I’ve seen is to request very short meetings. I now often get requests like ‘give me 15 min to demo the product and I am sure you would love it’. Before, that would have sounded like a strange request in a physical meeting world (why would the Founder settle for 15 min if they are making their way to find me?). But it’s a valid suggestion today. And, as it’s a smaller request, I say yes to more such requests than I did before.
Pitches essentially remain the same, but this new presentation arena has forced them to be more effective and more concise. The video medium gives more control to Founders and allows them to better control their pitch — which I think is a plus.
On the flip side, they can’t demonstrate their energy, jump to the whiteboard, or read my body language — all these are bad both for me as an investor and for them as they “normalize” everyone to a similar energy level and body language.
Top Founders are coming ready with many more backup slides (as it’s tough to draw on the whiteboard), are demonstrating their energy on the pace of speech, and are moving between different presentation modes.
Many Founders are also becoming more aware of the importance of their video and audio quality and are investing in tools to make sure it’s high quality. This makes a big difference.
Running through a full deck is not easy on video, so more smart founders are sending the deck ahead of time and asking what I would like to discuss in the call. That’s very helpful too.
Last thing: in many first meetings it used to be just the CEO. Now with the low burden of the video (not having to travel to the investor’s office), many teams are showing up 2 or 3 Founders to the call and are much better coordinated on who is presenting what. When executed well, it’s a great improvement to a solo meeting.
5 tells I look for in video calls
As I am not able to read as many tells from the people I meet remotely vs. in person (such as how they walk in, how they say hello to the other people in the office, do they take their glass at the end of the meeting, etc.), I use a few methods to try and fill in the gaps:
- I check how well they prepared for the video meeting and look at the quality of preparation as a tell sign — including video and audio quality, backup slides, etc.
- While the Founder will be trying to control the flow, I will be asking questions and taking the discussion in the directions I care about more, not just to get the replies I need but also to see how the Founder is dealing with the changes.
- When a team is showing up, I will pay a lot of attention to the team dynamic when hard questions are asked. The way the team handles the stress is very important and is very visible over video.
- I would take the time to do further video meetings with other team members who I might not have met in person. Even if it’s for 5 minutes each. In a way, I’m going wider (meeting more people) where it’s tougher to go deeper (having intimate discussions face-to-face).
- Last but not least — I continue having small talk before the meeting (the first few minutes) as if it’s a face-to-face meeting. Many founders are surprised that I don’t just jump into the discussion — but the small talk tells me as much as the actual discussion does.
The 3 Types of Pitch Emails
- There are 3 types of pitch emails I get: Generic, Superficially Personalized, and Truly Personalized
a. Generic emails: It’s very clear when the Founder sent the same email to 50 or even 500 different investors. When I get something like this, I’m unlikely to be interested. It shows a lack of understanding of the fundraising process, which hints at broader ineptitude with sales.
b. Superficially Personalized emails: The first sentence or so may be personalized to me. This gets me across the line to at least read the email.
c. Truly Personalized emails: These are the types of emails that get the most attention from investors. It shows the Founder has put the work in to find out what I’m investing in, what I value, and embed this into the email they’re sending me.
- An email that worked for getting the meeting: A Founder once wrote me a full analysis of my investments which were adjacent to their startup, and explained why it made sense for me to invest in them as a result. This really made me want to meet them, even though I ultimately didn’t invest.
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