Knowing when to throw the right pitch: Marketing Your Startup

Alex and I have been doing a lot of meetings for Path 101 and one of the most difficult things has been adjusting the flow and content of the meeting for the audience.

So, for example, we took a meeting with a VC that we knew well and whose demeanor is usually pretty fun and casual (not Fred, just fyi).  So, we decided not to run through our slide deck and instead stayed at a high level, conceptual, throw some ideas about the space around, kind of thing...  conversation was kind of all over the place, admittedly, and today we got the "sorry, not for us" e-mail.  I'm not sure I would have invested in us either, because we probably seemed a lot more all over the place on product than we really are at this point.  It's unfortunate, b/c we really didn't feel like we put our best foot forward.... basically got fooled on a pitch and looked bad for it. 

Conversely, we tried to walk through the slide deck with another VC and it was 45 minutes before we got past slide two and that conversation was excellent...  and it was our attempts at herding the cats back into the slide deck that actually made the conversation less interesting.   

Predicting what someone needs to see is incredibly difficult.  If you've ever pitched at USV, you know that you should just walk in and show them the product, throw some ideas around, etc...  It will become more like a hack-a-thon than a pitch meeting... and you need to be able to roll with that flow... b/c that's how they like to get to know businesses.  They want to poke and be imaginative about what you could become, who you run into... what is the scope of possibilities for this business and how flexible are you and your model.  Not all VCs are like this...and if you bet wrong, you might not get another meeting.  I like to think that we never held slide deck dependency against any entrepreneurs at USV, but it sure does make it difficult to get in an engaging conversation with someone.

What we've found incredibly useful has been meetings with other entrepreneurs... not for funding or biz dev, but just to see what others think, and also learn a lot about how partnerships and teams function.  We met with Paul and Rony from Indeed the other day.  They have an incredibly focused strategy and clear vision on what they want to be.  We're quite a bit wider and perhaps a little amorphous at this point and so it was an incredibly valuable conversation to have... not just to help us think about focus, but to help marketing our focus.  We know we'll be building something comprehensive, but we don't need to overwhelm the audience with the comprehensive vision before establishing the viability of the first thing we want to build. 

Yesterday, we met with Pete and Josh from Reprise Media (and got to meet the infamous Kate from Searchviews).   As we did with Paul and Rony, we tried to gain a little insight into their working style, which would be hard to match since they were childhood friends.  Still, hearing about the process of hiring, collaborating, product management from people who've done it successfully is invaluable.   Josh finished up our long diatribe on what we were doing with, "You need an elevator pitch", and Pete responded, "So do we."  That's our next step, in addition to all the product strategy work/research we're doing now...  culling the message down to its basic points and tailoring that to investors, schools, the public, etc.

Alex and I were talking about opening this whole company creation process up...  like doing some kind of a regular open meeting where people can just show up and essentially give feedback and here about our progress so far.  I don't know what the right venue for that would be... we'd certainly like to make it as casual as possible, but also somewhat functional.   Perhaps once we wrap up this funding, we can do it in our own tiny little cramped office.  In addition, we'll be adding a wiki to our site and a blog of course to further expose ourselves in public.  :)