Okay, so here’s a topic I’ve gone back and forth about over the years and I’ve finally come to a conclusion. When an investor asks for a deck, whether it’s before you’ve met with them or after, just send it.
Rewind about three years ago and I would have said the opposite. I hated it when investors would ask us for decks before we had the chance to pitch them. I just knew that if we were there in-person we could do such a better job of presenting our company and walking through the deck.
As time has passed, and I’ve started Angel Investing myself, I had an interesting realization. Investors also know that you’re going to do a much better job walking through your deck than they will skimming it on their iPhone. At the same time, investors are super busy so sometimes they do need to skim through a deck, and get a taste of what you do, to decide if they want to take a meeting or continue the conversation.
If an investor asks you for a deck before you meet with them and you respond with “I’d rather not, we prefer to walk through our deck in-person” you are creating friction and some negative signaling before you’ve had the chance to meet…which isn’t ideal.
Now all this being said, I do think you can have two versions of your deck. One version can be a reading deck, one you send to an investor to get a high-level overview of what you do. You should be a-okay knowing that this deck could end up in the hands of your competitors. Now for your deep dive, the deck that you can walk through in all of its brilliance, sure – that can be a different deck with more slides and maybe even some proprietary data that you’d love to show investors, but not your competitors.
Okay, now I know what you’re going to say. What about the Executive Summary? Can you send this instead of a deck. Eh, not really. Executive Summaries require a lot of reading and people often stuff way too much information on one page. Investors are really used to looking at decks, there’s a common structure they follow, they’re more visual, and it really is a great way to get a quick look at a company.
Of course like most things in life, there is a caveat here, which is why the title of my post has “(most of the time)” at the end of this. There is an exception where I think you don’t have to send a deck before a meeting and can instead take another approach.
One person in the VC world that I look up to a lot is Alex Iskold – Alex is a serial entrepreneur who became the MD of Techstars New York and now runs 2048 Ventures. Alex has some pretty solid advice when it comes to sending a deck that goes a bit deeper than the advice I’m giving here.
Alex does not recommend sending a deck before a meeting, at the same time, he also doesn’t suggest taking a meeting until you have some meaningful traction and a warm intro. Here’s his two cents, and I’d recommend reading the whole article linked below to really understand his advice here.
Don’t go after investors until you have traction. Get a warm intro from someone who knows you / can attest to your progress, and who knows the investors. Someone who investors actually trust and respect – most likely another founder they backed or someone they worked closely with in the past.
Instead of the deck, send a 2-paragraph intro. Read this post for full details on what should be in those two paragraphs. Most importantly, include traction, how you are different, and why you are working on this business.
Ask to get feedback via a 15-minute Google Hangout. Not a meeting. A Google Hangout. Why? Because you can still make a connection with the investor, because in the worst case you will get a call, and in the best case, the investor will actually be impressed and ask you to come in for a meeting.
Two paragraphs written correctly should be easy enough for an investor to decide if it makes sense to engage. Two paragraphs are A LOT EASIER to understand than the deck. You are actually saving the investor a lot of time. You are also making sure your deck is not parading around the Internet.
If you want to up the game, shoot a 60-second (not longer) introductory video to give more background on you and the business. I love seeing those included in Techstars applications. The video is WAY better than the deck. The investors can actually tell a little bit about you as a person. An awesome video increases the chance of investors saying YES to a meeting.(Source – AlexIskold.net)
While I do agree with Alex, I also think that sometimes (okay, maybe more than sometimes) founders end up approaching investors before they have meaningful traction and also often can’t get a warm intro to every investor. If you can check both of these boxes then I think you’re in a place where you can get away without sending a deck beforehand, but without some interesting traction and a warm intro – you’re probably going to need to send a deck.
To Alex’s point – if you can wait until you have traction and network like crazy to get warm intros, you’re going to put yourself in a much better situation overall. This is also why accelerators like Techstars and Y Combinator are so valuable, they help both with traction and investor connections – the two critical elements in raising a round.
So what’s the moral of the story?
Well you know yourself and your company better than anyone. Do you have meaningful traction? If not, are you close? Do you have good connections that can make warm intros for you? If not, what can you do to make those?
What Alex lays out in his post that I linked to above is the best-case scenario. If that’s not describing you, but you still feel like now is the time to raise money, know that you’re not alone, there are a lot of people just like you that have successfully raised a round…just know that you might have to send that deck beforehand.
The reality is, when it comes to meeting with investors, anything you can do to reduce friction and make it easier for them, is probably worth doing.
Of course, this is just my opinion – I’d love to hear from you. What do you think? Comment and let your voice be heard!