An even weirder than usual episode of Why Is This News this week ending up with Mike Arrington heckling us through the wall of the studio. But before he did, we sat down with Vineet Devaiah from “social streetview” startup, Phototour.in.
Vineet hails from India but, having come to the Valley to collect an “Emerging company” award from Nvidia, he decided to stick around for a while to meet with VCs and other investors in the valley. We were hoping to ask him for his take-away advice for other entrepreneurs, particularly from India, visiting the valley – but circumstances (Mike) got in the way. Instead Vineet was kind enough to email us his top ten tips. Here they are (and video below).
1) Refine your pitch. what this means is that there are certain terminologies and buzzwords that VC’s here like to listen to and understand. Try to get your pitch deck/pitch refined multiple times from someone in the Valley before you can go raise any capital.
2) Angels will not invest in a foreign entity however good you are.
3) Select your top 10 firms and network like crazy to get introductions into these places. No VC will give you too much importance if you don’t come with a strong reference. Till then try to get meetings with non-top tier firms to get some practice in the pitch and possible questions you may get.
4) At the risk of contradicting my previous statement, the first term sheet I got was from a top VC firm that I cold called- make sure your cold call is appealing enough that they take the meeting.
5) Traction is king, until you are someone they recognize or have a decent track record.
6) Be prepared to create a US corporation – i.e a US entity – if you do get any interest. Most VC’s will not invest in non-US focused products, mostly because they cannot see the need for such a service/product.
7) Drop names: dropping names doesn’t come naturally for someone from India but its ok to drop names if you have talked to them or if you have got some good mentors and what they have done. Be careful not to lie because this is a very small and tight knit community you WILL get caught. eg. If you have met KPCB you should say it, the whole point is that KPCB gave you a chance to pitch to them is compelling enough for a VC to listen to you for another 5 minutes. Then it is upto you to make it worth their 5 minutes to a 30 minute pitch.
8) Dont shop your IP/company too much. Its good to meet a LOT of VC’s but you must only go into detail of your IP and business plan to the people who you want to invest in your company. Most VC’s are not going to invest in your company and its very evident in the first 2-3 minutes of the conversation. At that time just ask for feedback from them on your product and business plan.
9) Stay somewhere in the Stanford/Palo alto area. If you are an entrepreneur you will know someone from your country in this region who can hook you up. This is important from a travel perspective, you can end up spending close to $30 every trip you make to SandHill road which otherwise is a free ride from stanford. That will save you at least $500.
10) Know what kind of VC you want to take your money from. Some VC’s invest in teams, some invest in markets. If you are a company that has a good idea of where you are heading from a business plan perspective try to seek VC’s that invest in those particular markets.
Vineet is also happy to give advice directly – @VineetDevaiah