Skip to main content

From First Impressions To the First Fund-Raise

Are you pitching how you have used the pandemic to build, learn, and survive?
By Ajay Batra
These are challenging times. Startup founders are dealing with reduced demand and depleting cash reserves as customers re-evaluate their purchase decisions, or simply defer them. A recent TiE Delhi/Zinnov report states that due to COVID-19, 15 per cent of startups have halted operations while 44 per cent have cash runway for less than six months. It has been a specially difficult time for startups who were about to commence their fund-raising phase just as the pandemic hit.

As startups’ focus shifts to issues of survival and cautious growth, they need to modify their fund-raising strategies. The competition for angel and venture capital has only increased. The downturn has resulted in extended funding decision cycles and a general squeeze on funds. As the narrative shifts back to the fundamentals of building robust and viable ventures, and attention spans on Zoom calls diminish, it becomes even more essential to pique investors’ interest as early as possible.

Some learnings to make a stellar (virtual) pitch that takes you closer to your fund-raise.

Founders’ personal story

The potential of a business is greatly dependent on the founders and hence, investors care a lot about the background of the founder(s). While it is imperative to describe your motivation for choosing to work in a specific domain/sector, it is equally important to present (in short!) any personal reasons for doing so. Investors want to hear how the founders will translate their knowledge and passion into a game-changing venture. Past incidents reflecting fortitude, strength, innovation, and character is of immense relevance to someone who is looking to invest in you and your ideas. Of special interest would also be an account of how you have used the pandemic to build, learn, and survive.

Vocabulary matters

While the language used during a pitch session is irrelevant, it is often a window into the founders’ minds. Investors pay close attention to how phrases like “I vs. us”, “product vs. customer experience”, “money vs a world-changing-idea” are used. It is not an elitist statement on the choice of one language over another during a pitch; rather it is about how well-tuned are the founders to being coached, collaborating with others, and thinking outside-in. You can kill a winning pitch by using the wrong words to convey the opposite to what your intent is.

Clear and succinct messages