Startups

Founder and investor Melissa Bradley outlines how to nail your virtual pitch meeting

Comment

Image Credits: Ureeka

Melissa Bradley wears many hats. She’s the co-founder of a startup called Ureeka, an investor at 1863 Ventures, and a professor at Georgetown’s business school. So it’s not an understatement to say that she understands the fundraising process from every angle. And moreover, she has both invested and fundraised for her own startup during this last year, where the landscape has shifted drastically. At TechCrunch Early Stage, she led a session on how to nail your virtual pitch meeting.

Bradley covered how to allocate your time during the meeting, how to prepare, how to close out the meetings with a clear list of action items, and what to avoid.

You can watch the session or check out the full transcript below, but I’ve also pulled out a few highlights from the talk just for you.

Enjoy!

Conversation > Pitching

One of the greatest shifts in the pitch landscape during the pandemic was the nature of meetings themselves. Because investors and founders can take 30 meetings a day from the comfort of their home, it means that conversation has been prioritized over presentation. Adding to the need for conversation is the fact that investors aren’t ‘getting to know you’ IRL as they would in the past, and so how you interact (not just the content of your pitch) is critically important.

Bradley explained that planning for extra time to answer questions and go deep on strategy is more important now than ever.

Now is the time to really have a conversation and deeply engage the investor in your story and your vision. You want to be conversational in nature, but still formal in tone. So you want to be respectful; you want to avoid jargon; you want to make sure it’s clear what you’re talking about. But it’s really much more of a two-way conversation than we’ve probably seen before. I think again, pace yourself, be really clear in advance how much time you have. One-third of the time should be spent on your pitch, and the other two-thirds, you should be prepared to field questions and really have that conversation. Pace yourself. Don’t rush through. If you only have 30 minutes, it’s probably not the best time to do a demo. You might want to follow up with a recorded demo or make an offer to do a demo afterwards. (Timestamp – 6:03)

Justworks’ Series B pitch deck may be the most wonderfully simple deck I’ve ever seen

Strategy > Projections

An investor once told me that the only thing they know for sure about your financial projections are that they’re wrong. What’s far more important are the underlying premises that inform your strategy and the strategy itself.

This is really the core of any pitch meeting with an investor. Strategy is the business. It’s everything. It incorporates a deep understanding of the market, the customer, the competitive landscape, and the shift in customer behavior. Focusing on your strategy over big numbers and billions with a ‘B’ builds confidence in the investor to be willing to bet on you, according to Bradley.

The other thing is, focus on what investors really care about. It’s not just the money we’re making, but how do we make it? What are the things that we have learned post-COVID that allow us to have confidence in what our projections are? The beauty about financials is that they’re nothing but a set of projections. You want to make sure to build confidence in the investors’ mind that you understand how to get to those projections. More than likely, all of us at some point in time are going to fall short on those projections. So the investor wants to make sure that you have a really good handle on the strategy. How can you pivot quickly? How can you recover? Those are going to be really important things. (Timestamp – 7:05)

Know Your Numbers

This next point is something Bradley hit hard on during her talk, and it emphasizes the idea that strategy is king. Investors, according to Bradley, are interested in the levers you can pull and how clearly you understand the cause and effect of pulling those levers.

As a finance major, I consistently say know your numbers. Not just the numbers, but know the inputs. Know how you get there and know how they can change if you begin to pull levers. I always say that a company should think about the three to five key levers that it has to pull on a regular basis to generate growth and scale. Some of that could be customer acquisition. Some of that could be infrastructure. Some of that could be team. Some of that could be your marketing plan. Whatever it is, really know that when you pull each of those levers, what effect does that have? If I pull the marketing lever and put more in Facebook ads, or Instagram, or Twitter, what does that do to my infrastructure? What does that do to my team? And so it’s knowing your numbers, but not in a static sense. It’s knowing that, based on strategies, how do they change? How do they fluctuate? What do they look like before COVID? What does it look like post COVID? And more importantly, what are you projecting or predicting for the next six to eighteen months? And why? What are the assumptions you’re making both about the customer and about the market opportunity? (Timestamp – 10:00)

Learning > Knowing

At a time where investors can’t have five or six in-person meetings with you, transparency is the key to building trust. If a firm is actually going to invest in your company, they’ll eventually learn just about everything about your company. So it doesn’t make sense to hide the ball.

You can turn a startup’s weaknesses or past failures into a trust-building moment with investors by showing them what you’ve learned.

This is a time where investors are much more understanding. None of us are walking around with the perfect COVID pivot plan. I think we’re learning from each other. Be honest about what worked and about what didn’t work. Be honest around the impetus for your underlying assumptions. How did you know you went wrong? The reality is, we’re all gonna make mistakes once we raise money. The critical thing is whether we’re able to demonstrate and build faith and confidence in the investors that we have a mechanism by which we’re checking in. We have a mechanism where we’re transparent around what’s working and what’s not working. We have a systemic process, whether it’s with staff, or with partners, or with our boards, to say this didn’t work and I sure welcome some help. (Timestamp – 16:20)

General Catalyst’s Katherine Boyle and Peter Boyce are looking for ‘obsessive’ founders

You can read a full transcript of this session here. 

You can also check out other sessions from Early Stage here. 

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo