Don't Send the Deck

Pitching is all about telling a story. You've practiced long and hard on how you tell your story.

So why would you allow someone to play it on mute--or, worse, tell themselves your story based on a misunderstanding of your deck. You also won't get feedback on whether the deck works because you won't see them going through it.

The very fact that someone is asking for a deck before they decide whether or not to meet with you is a fail in many ways.  Do you think when the founder of Spanx wants to raise money for her next consumer product, investors are going to ask her for a PDF?  They'll just be thrilled to meet with her--unless perhaps they don't do consumer products.  Even then, they'd probably still meet with her.

 How can you build your credentials and your branch such that you're an obvious person for someone to want to meet with, regardless of what the deck says.  Are you accomplished?  Interesting?  Thought provoking?  Well connected?  

Partners generally don't ask for decks if you check off this criteria because, honestly, we rarely read them ahead of time. Who has time to waste when you're going to see the team anyway, and they're going to go through it with lots of color and interaction?

You know who asks for decks? Analysts--and analysts can't write you a check. Their job is to analyze and you'll never have nearly enough data to satisfy them.  They'll pick apart your story and your deck before you have a chance to answer questions in real time.

So how do you get a meeting without a deck?

Well, first. do you think getting a meeting is a very high bar? Think about it. The average partner at a VC firm probably meets with at least two or three companies a day. That's like 40-60 companies a month.

Do you think you're one of the top 40 companies raising money this month?

Come, on, seriously...

You've been to demo days and pitch meetups and read Techcrunch and Mashable about product launches. Most of these companies are crap. You're better than these clowns, right?

If you're not obviously better on the face of what you're doing, or at least in the top 40, than what are your chances of getting an actual investment?  Founders are often convinced if they just got a little face time, they'd be able to impress or explain better.

Nope.

Because if your product can't be simply explained via simple, human language, how the hell are you ever going to market it.

What the hell are you pitching?  The Matrix?  I can't be told what the product is?  I have to see it by myself?

First of all, that totally wasn't necessary for the Matrix, either.

"Yeah, so, um, machines control the world and you're actually sleeping in a vat of pink snot with a plug in the back of your head that is feeding you data making you think you're experiencing stuff that you're not.  They're doing that so you pump out heat energy to power their machine ways."

How hard is that?

I'd suggest three or four bullet points and/or a very brief description of who you are should be all you need to get someone psyched to meet you.

If someone wrote me:

"I worked in the best ice cream shop in the country, helping them grow to become the #1 rated by Zagats. I was there from day one, churning the cream by hand.

That gave me the insight into a new workout tool to give you jacked forearms--and it works. I've won arm wrestling competitions in 45 different New York counties. The product was designed by the award winning makers of the Flowbee, the Magic Jack and the Amish Oven.

- We have a signed LOI to appear on QVC.

-Our Kickstarter did 40x it's target.

- If we raise, the head of marketing from the Ab Rollee has agreed to come on board."

At this point, unless I'm not a consumer products investor, I'm in for at least a meeting.  It's certainly interesting.  I really want to meet the guy to talk about the arm wrestling circuit.  

He told me that he not only has a qualified team, he has a GREAT, HARD TO GET team. I wouldn't assume that Flowbee designer works with just anyone.

He's derisked the product with channel partners and customers--which I would have done anyway. Better that he's talked to potential buyers and distributors before I had the chance.

Plus, he built something. I'm sure it's crap and falling apart but that's ok. He proved resourceful.  I'm in for that meeting.

This is also where the networking and warm intro thing comes into play.  If people who know their stuff have spent time with you and I trust their opinion, how crappy and boring would you need to sound before I turned down that meeting?

The truth is, I don't even need to know the person.  If the head of ESPN digital e-mailed me and said, "You have to meet this great technology for engaging fans--and if he can get funded to finish a few things, we're totally rolling this out and paying for it" then I'm taking that meeting, deck or no deck.

Bullet points, a bio, a link to a working app, a personal brand that I can look into--all of these things are compelling things that should get you a meeting--but the deck?   The deck is your tool to tell your story.  Don't let an investor seperate you from it.

It would be like getting the feel of a Lady Gaga concert by just seeing the big egg she hatches out of at the opening.