Prospecting

How To Saddle Up With Us.

This page used to have a handy link at the bottom for you to speed your pitch our way posthaste. However, after a couple of years of raking through thousands and thousands of notions, proposals, hunches, and hypotheses eagerly cluttering our pitches inbox, we crunched some numbers. Actually, we crunched one number: zero.

Turns out we have never ended up backing a company that approached us via the email alias for pitches. We’ve followed up with many and there are certainly some high quality startups that come our way. But, after years of notching wins and losses in this business, we’ve realized that our best deals (1) have all come to us by way of introduction from a friend whose judgment we really trust, when 2) that friend is also investing in the company.

We don’t think that’s an accident. Put simply, no one in this business can succeed alone. We all need help. So it makes sense that the winning companies are usually those who have lined up the most helpful team members. In that light, we are no longer taking blind pitches. Instead, we are going to focus exclusively on deals that come to us through our trusted network of friends and colleagues whom we admire.

Nevertheless, as you do venture out to tell your story and round up the hands you need to get it all done, we think there are a few things worth keeping front of mind as you head out to run down and rope new investors, employees, partners, board members, customers, acquirers, etc.:

Email wins. Phones are very yesterday and voice mail is so broken. Until someone can make it easy for us to extract a number from a voice mail, file the message away for later, label it, quickly find it again, search through it, forward it, reply asynchronously, etc etc, we are going to stick to email. Tweets can be a good way to get noticed, and we have done deals that started with awareness on Twitter, but email still gets the hard work done.

Thesis statements. Lead with what it is you want. Please, put it in the first sentence or two. Just tell your target how you can work together. You can expand on it later, but please don’t make them wait too long. Thesis statements let everyone get everyone to the table bibs on.

What problem are you solving? Many times we’ve had conversations with folks who can’t answer that question. True entrepreneurs are obsessive about solving problems that enhance end-user experiences and investors are suckers for companies that have dramatic impact on users. So, tell your audience what about the user experience is broken now, and how you are going to fix it.

The URL is the pitch. We haven’t funded a mere business plan since our founding years ago. Instead, we work with teams that already have live sites. The world has changed and there is rarely an excuse for not having something up and running. Ideas are cheap and execution is the cat’s pajamas. If you don’t have a site, at least send your target a deck or an exec summary with some wire frames. Meandering paragraphs describing a notion won’t cut it.

Lead with product and engineering. We like to dive into the nuts and bolts of what is currently broken, how we will fix it together, and what that collaboration will look like, all with specificity. A deep technical understanding on both sides is a precursor to doing any business in this space. So, thanks in advance for bringing your geeks into the loop from day one.

Meetings aren’t always necessary. Often, entrepreneurs are in a rush to meet in person. We went along with this for a long time and soon saw our schedules descend into gridlock and we ended up generally unhealthy and unhappy and still not actually getting much done. We hear the same every day from investors and founders alike. Truth is, meetings are usually inefficient. Let’s start with email. Maybe next we can do a brief call after we’ve tried your stuff and we have something to chat about. We’ve confidently done business without ever having been in the same room as a few of our founders and partners.

NDAs don’t help. Prospective investors and advisors just can’t sign them. Asking them to do so will likely grind things to a halt. Share what you feel comfortable sharing and remember that most of the value is created by the execution, not the idea itself.

All told, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. So, go out, make a lot of bad decisions, and we’ll be sure to end up working together soon enough.