Wait, what? Don’t pitch your startup?
Yup, you read right.
You’re probably thinking that goes against everything you’ve ever been told. As a CEO you’re in a pitch, pitch, pitch mindset. Pitch your startup here, pitch your startup there, pitch all the time. Pitch until you’ve raised your round!
Well actually, no. Forget it. For-get-it all!
You should absolutely not be pitching your startup all the time. You don’t actually have the right to pitch your startup all the time.
You’re attending the FounderFuel Demo Day, AccelerateMTL, Startup Drinks or any other equivalent event that draws Angels and VCs. You’re attending strictly to meet investors. You’re thinking you may just meet the one person or group of people who want to invest in your business.
In preparation you’ve managed to find the RSVPs list and identified the investors attending that are most likely to invest in your business because they know your space and you think you compliment one of their portfolio companies. You know what they look like, know their names, their most recent investments, the size of their typical investments. You know everything there is to know about them. You’re borderline a stalker at this point! (JOKE)
So far so good, you’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, you’re well prepared and you have a great plan. Good stuff!
But here’s where things breakdown…
You’re set. You have everything you need and you’re feeling confident. You walk into the room and one of your targeted investors having a beer with a group of people. You drum up your courage, march right up to him, introduce yourself and give him you’re 90 second pitch as soon as you have a chance.
BAM. You’re done. It’s an epic fail.
Think of what you’ve done:
1) You interrupted a group conversation;
2) You disrupted the group dynamic;
3) You pulled the investor out of the discussion;
4) You shifted the focus of the discussion on to you.
Most importantly, you’ve surprised an investor with your pitch at a moment where they were not receptive to being pitched. As a result, you’ve likely irritated them more than impressed them, and obviously that’s not where you want to be.
Are you thinking this is absurd? Are you wondering what kind of entrepreneur would do this?
I’m telling you this happens over, and over, and over again. It’s happened to me personally and it happens to investor friends around me all the time.
And don’t lie: You’ve done this at least once!
There’s a couple of fundamental things that led to your failure:
1) First, you forgot that every entrepreneur in the room is there because they think they’ll find the right investors at the event.
2) Second, you failed to understand the real objective of attending the event.
Check this out.
Let’s assume you’re equally well prepared for your event as you were scenario #1 because you’ve done the same research and prep.
Here’s how a smart entrepreneur would tackle the same event:
1) They show up to the event and find the investors they researched ahead of time.
2) They look for the one that isn’t in a discussion because they know that person is the easiest to approach.
3) They find the courage to introduce themselves with their name and their company name.
4) THEY DON’T PITCH!
5) They have a discussion with the investor about whatever the investor wants to talk about to build the relationship.
6) THEY STILL DON’T PITCH!
7) They make sure to get the investors business card so they can follow-up with them. Not the other way around.
8) THEY RESIST THE URGE TO PITCH!
9) They understand the investor isn’t in the right state of mind to be receptive to a pitch.
10) They spend just enough time with the investor so they are memorable, but not so much that they can’t get more business cards.
The goal of the entrepreneur in the first scenario was to pitch their business, but the goal of the entrepreneur in the second scenario is to start the relationship, get their business card and setup a follow-up discussion.
If you have their card, it’s up to you to setup the meeting. This is ideal because you want to pitch them in an environment where you have their undivided attention and focus.
It’s as simple as that. Your goal when meeting an investor at an event is is to get their card. Period. It’s simple. And more importantly it’s a formal invitation to pitch.
I’m not saying don’t ever pitch at an event…
I’m saying pitch an investor at an event if they ask you what you do, but give them just enough to capture their attention, catch their curiosity and get a card.
As an entrepreneur you want the investors in the room to remember you, just you! And you want them to remember you for the right reasons, not because you bored them with your pitch while they were having a good time with friends or colleagues.
Give it shot and let me know how it works out.