Getting the Most from a 30-Minute Investor Meeting

21 May

By Michael Quigley, Director of Research, LSN

mike-2As a fundraising entrepreneur, you will likely find yourself engaging in initial face-to-face meetings with investors, whether at a conference, coffee shop, or in an office. Given the time constraints inherent in these kinds of meetings, it is crucial that you have a plan in place in order to get as much as possible out of them. What follows are suggestions for how best to manage one of these conversations.

In terms of what to bring for materials, a simple, cogent pitch deck made up of 10–12 slides can be a fantastic tool. However, before you even begin to present the first slides, you need to validate a fit between the investor and your company. This should be done in two steps:

  1. Deliver a three- to five-sentence elevator pitch that addresses who you are, the space you are working in, and what differentiates you from your competitors.
  1. Ask the investor to return the favor, so you can gain an understanding of their firm and what they are looking for in potential investments.

With this information both of you will be able to determine whether further dialogue would be of value within the first few minutes of the meeting. Additionally, you will be able to determine what specifically the investor might find interesting about your opportunity, which you can then emphasize later in your conversation.

Once you have both introduced yourselves and your goals (and hopefully identified fit), you can begin to walk the investor through your pitch deck. Particularly in this time-pressed type of scenario, you should keep the slides very simple. View them as a visual prompt for spontaneous conversation, rather than a script to read word for word. Remember that you can always send the investor more information via email, and that if they are interested, they will likely be asking for additional materials.

However, the slides should definitely address:

  • The market need for your product
  • The technology you are developing, and its origin and differentiating factors (provide a clear description)
  • Your strongest supporting data
  • The management team
  • Current partnerships
  • The status of IP
  • Financials, including historic spending, current needs, and future use of funds
  • Exit environment/strategy

Do not simply rattle off all of these details as the investor stares and nods. It is crucial for you to foster a dialogue to ensure that the investor is able to follow what you are saying and grasp your value proposition. By allowing for back-and-forth communication, you can identify and address any potential objections. Hopefully, if the investor is genuinely interested, they will ask you questions that will help direct the conversation. You should be comfortable enough with your slides that you can jump from one to another as the dialogue branches out.

After you have gone through the basic introductions and elaborated on your opportunity using your pitch deck, you should directly gauge the investor’s interest. The best way to do this is to be up front and ask whether your opportunity is something they would be interested in pursuing further. If the answer is yes, ask about the investor’s process and timeline for moving forward. Determine a firm follow-up date and whether there are any additional materials they would like to receive. If the answer is no, try to understand why. Is it too early in the development process? Perhaps they would be worth contacting later down the line. Aggregating a list of negative and positive responses can help you better understand your company’s inherent strengths and weaknesses and plan for the future.

Ideally you should close the meeting with a reminder of your main differentiating factor: that which makes your opportunity stand out from those of your competitors. Repeating your core value proposition at the end of the dialogue helps to solidify that message with the investor, so that when they think back on the conversation, it is what they will remember. Successfully navigating investor meetings, especially when they are brief or occur spontaneously, may take practice, but if you stay the course and follow these tips, you can become nimble and flexible, and have a higher chance of developing meaningful relationships.

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