; The Direct-
You need to be able to
Byron Ling is
a principal at
a firm notable for
investment team and early
willingness to invest in
consumer companies that
are reinventing commerce,
education, and entertain-
ment, including Cuyana, the
RealReal, and Bird.
explain your business in
10 words, in 10 seconds.
You’d be surprised how
often I find myself five
minutes into a pitch thinking, “This seems like a great
person, but I don’t know
what they’re doing.”
A follow-up note that’s
concise and clear, and can
convince me of a point that
we’d debated during the
pitch, is a really good signal.
; The Early-Stage
Brett Berson is a
partner at First Round
Capital, which makes
ments in tech compa-
nies and was the first
institutional investor in Uber. Based in
San Francisco, Berson is also a founder
of Pitch Assist, a program to help First
Round’s portfolio companies prepare
to ask for their next round of funding.
We love it when people open spread-
sheets and dashboards in meetings.
Early-stage operators should be
grounded in the minutiae.
Most breakout startups have a sound
core business. If you’re pitching nine
streams in addition
to your core business, that is concerning. It implies
you may not think
the core business
is that strong.
Ask for other help.
At the end of your
ask, “How can I
help?” Ask for
portfolio companies that could
; “Your authentic founding story is important— but 15 minutes on your whole history is a waste.”
; The Woman Funding Women
Ita Ekpoudom is a New York City–based
partner at GingerBread Capital, a growth-stage VC firm that invests in women-led
businesses. Its portfolio companies
include Brandless, the Riveter, Zola,
Put your credentials front and center. If
you can start a sentence with, “When I was
getting my PhD at MIT,” it’s not bragging.
People know that took a long time and a
lot of work.
Have up to three asks. If someone says,
“Maybe I’m not going to write a check, but
what could I do that would be helpful?”
you should have three key things in mind.
A pitch deck shouldn’t be more than
15 slides, and it should be as visual as
possible. Sometimes, you’ll see these
beautifully done 40-slide decks. No one
is going to read all that.
; The Social Environmentalist
Victoria Fram is co-founder and
managing director of VilCap
Investments. VilCap makes seed-stage bets on companies that
address social and environmental
challenges, such as Landit, Neighborly, and Rimidi Diabetes.
Practice answering questions you
have the biggest insecurities with,
either because of your business
model or your ability to present it.
You don’t need to eliminate all risks
or uncertainties, but you do need to
know how to talk about them.
Sweat the financial details. You
need to show an awareness that
one of your jobs is to not run out
of cash. You need to speak intelligently on dilution and valuation.
Say why you’re raising a given
amount, what milestones that
money will allow you to achieve,
and what milestones come next.
; The Cloud-Company Investor
Arif Janmohamed is a Silicon Valley–based
partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. He
focuses on cloud and data-center technologies,
enterprise mobile, and SaaS firms, like Nutanix,
which is now a $6 billion public company.
Don’t tell me about your exit strategy. I’m not
interested. If you’re thinking about the exit strategy,
you’re not building a company for the long term. I
want people who are missionaries, not mercenaries.
If a question is asked, answer it. In many cases,
the entrepreneur says, “I have a slide for that in six
or seven slides,” and we never get to it. Treat the
meeting like a conversation, not a pitch.
Be snappy. Entrepreneurs often spend way too
long on their demo. Five minutes, tops.