- The Zoom pitch is on the rise and presents another challenge for entrepreneurs to get their point across to investors using only their screens.
- Russ Wilcox is a partner at Pillar VC and knows his way around a pitch both as an investor and a founder of 20 years for venture-backed startups, including one that secured nearly $125 million in capital.
- He gave seven tips for a winning pitch over Zoom, starting with a bio that convinces investors you’re a founder worth betting on.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As a startup founder, pitching investors can be nerve-wracking. But now that fewer VC firms are meeting in person, the Zoom pitch is on the rise and presents another challenge for entrepreneurs to get their point across using only their screens.
Russ Wilcox is a partner at Pillar VC in Boston, Massachusetts. He knows his way around a pitch not only as an investor, but as founder of 20 years for venture-backed startups, including one that secured $124.9 million in capital, according to Crunchbase.
“I have given hundreds and hundreds of pitches,” he told Business Insider. “I’ve seen which ones worked and did not.”
Pillar VC focuses on seed-stage companies and has invested in 30 so far. Wilcox said a lot of myths and legends surround pitching, but founders must remember first and foremost that they are asking investors to make a financial decision.
“You can’t just talk about the product and the customer,” he said. “You have to show the investor why your company will make money.”
He gave his seven tips for pitching investors remotely over Zoom.
1. Convince investors that you’re a person worth backing
Since investors often listen to multiple pitches in a day, Wilcox said it’s important to “wake them up” and open your pitch with something that will grab their attention.
Before investors decide that your business is worth their money, they want to know you’re an individual they can bet on. Part of this depends on personal chemistry, said Wilcox, which is difficult to control, but it also depends on how you present yourself.
He recommends introducing yourself with a bio that explains why you are qualified to lead your company. “The bio only takes two minutes, but in fact, it’s like half the decision,” he said.
2. Include more information in your slides
When a founder pitches in person, investors can rely on body language and nuances, but those don’t translate as easily on a webcam or with internet lag. Your slides become the main visual focus over your expressions and movements, so you may need to over communicate when pitching remotely.
“It’s not easy to pitch over Zoom,” Wilcox said. “A substantial portion of communication really is about body language and micro-expressions, and you really only get that when you’re face-to-face with someone.”
He recommends including 50% more information on your slides than you would normally. Using a dynamic presentation with animations and bullets can help unfold the added information in a digestible format.
3. The small details build trust
Ultimately, Wilcox said the pitch comes down to building trust through your execution. Remote pitches can rely on the smallest details, like clear audio, good lighting, and high-resolution video. For that reason, he suggests investing in your setup with a high-quality camera and external microphone. Slides should be simple, clear, and edited.
“People are judging whether you took the time to treat the conversation seriously,” he said. “If you’ve taken the time and effort to present a polished experience for them, they can infer that you’re probably going to be polished and professional at running the company.”
4. Manage your time well
Time management is another reflection of your character and leadership skills. Did you arrive on time for your meeting? Whether you have 60 minutes or just 15, did you use your time efficiently to communicate your point? Wilcox said your ability to manage scarce resources will make a difference to earn investors’ trust in your capabilities.
“Before I give you $2 million, I would like to see how well you spend 60 minutes of my time,” he said.
5. Practice for interruptions
If your kid walks into the middle of your pitch or your dog barks in the background, people won’t likely hold it against you. But practicing what you can control will help you to adapt on the fly when interruptions do happen.
“You wouldn’t put on a Broadway play without rehearsals, so why would you ever pitch for millions of dollars without having rehearsed,” Wilcox said.
He recommends asking your friends or family to dial into a Zoom meeting for you to practice your pitch. This will help you get used to connection issues and audio lags, as well as get more comfortable with how your expressions come off in a video call.
6. Develop a rapport to seal the deal
Securing a funding round often comes down to what happens after the pitch. If investors liked what they saw in your first presentation, they may ask for another meeting or another round of pitches to their partners. Wilcox said pitching remotely can lengthen the process and may require more phone calls and meetings to make up for the lack of in-person contact.
“Propose some extra meetings where you might just have dinner together online,” he said. “If you’re local, you can meet up and go for a socially distant walk, but try to find ways to build rapport and trust.”
7. Add recurring questions to your appendix
You should always be improving on the last pitch you made. Wilcox suggests having another member of your team on the call to take notes, specifically to record any issues that came up and the questions investors asked.
If the same questions keep coming up about your business plan, customer base, or product, it could be pointing to a weakness or blind spot in your presentation and it’s worth adding slides to address them. The appendix is a good place to add these slides, which could add up with the more meetings you take.
“With future investors, you’ll be able to smoothly answer their questions and someone can catch up very quickly to the other investors,” Wilcox said. This can be especially helpful later in a funding round when you need multiple investments within the same week to choose the best offer.
“Once you know that you’ve got a rough spot in your presentation,” he said, “you keep polishing and polishing until finally you’ve got a winning presentation.”
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