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


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.


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)

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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)

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You can read a full transcript of this session here. 

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

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