Thursday, August 04, 2016

How to pitch to me - a guide for founders

I get lots of emails from founders who would like to meet me, so that I can mentor them or provide them guidance about their business plan. They know I'm an angel investor , and that I'm happy to help founders to succeed. However, what they fail to realize that my time is my most precious asset because I'm a full-time practicing doctor. I already have multiple startups in my portfolio, which is why I need to be picky and choosy as to which startup I'm going to invest in . I prefer being a mentor only to those companies I have invested in because I don't have the bandwidth to meaningfully advice others - useful mentoring can be time consuming !

The trouble is that founders don't look at the world through my lens - they look at it only through their prism. They believe that I should be happy to mentor them, because they've come up with this cool idea which they're sure is going to succeed. The trouble is that I'm inundated with lots of cool ideas from lots of smart founders and it's hard for me to select whom to back. I'd love to be able to talk to everyone, but won't be able to do this until I retire !

It would help both of us if the founder were a little more insightful  when emailing me. Just sending a pitch deck doesn't help, because most decks are very similar. They all seem to be derived from a similar template, and they don't do a good job of selling ( which is what the purpose of the email should be - to sell their idea to me).

This means I don't feel guilty when I move the email into my junk mail. I try to be polite and say, I'm sorry, I'm not interested, but this means the founder has lost his opportunity . I feel bad, because I don't like saying No, but this is my default answer .  A No helps me to reduce my load and conserve my bandwidth, and it's much easier for me to say No than to say Yes ( and this is true for most investors).

Here's the secret to pitching successfully, and it's in two parts.

First, show me that you've done your homework about me, and show me why you think I am the right angel investor for you. This is not just to flatter my ego or make me feel important ( though I am sure that helps !) You should show that you understand what my sweet spot is and prove to me that you fit into it. If we aren't right for each other, then I am sure you have more productive ways  of investing your time !

The next step is to show me why you are the right startup for me to back.
Try to share a little-known nugget of wisdom or counter-intuitive insight that you've acquired while running  your startup. This should signal that you are smarter than other people in the same field , and should demonstrate  your real-life domain expertise.  If you can do this, then I'm much more likely to want to engage with you, because you have shown me that you think differently and can learn from the school of hard knocks. Only founders who have a contrarian approach are likely to succeed , and I'm happy to talk to them , because I can learn more from them.

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