This Thursday in Seattle, 60 female founders will meet with 15 female investors in the biggest event of its kind that this city has seen, maybe ever. Inspired by the efforts of a group of Bay Area venture capitalists, the Female Founders Alliance partnered with every single female VC investor based in Seattle (and then some), to provide 1-1 coaching, feedback and access to female founders in the region. The result is Meet The VCs.
Applications for this event were open to the public, and they ran the gamut. For FFA, this huge effort is integral to our mission of accelerating female founder success. It follows our strategy of matching legitimate entrepreneurs with access to people who can move their business forward, without draining resources from cash-strapped companies. (Thanks to our amazing corporate partners, we’re able to keep this event – and membership in our community – totally free).
Now that the date is near, many of these participants are getting ready to pitch. In the spirit of women helping women, we asked a few VCs and some of the more experienced members of the Female Founders Alliance for tips on how to prepare for a first meeting with a VC. Read on to learn what they had to say.
What the VCs had to say.
Don’t forget the basics
“Show up on time and come prepared. Have your deck or presentation materials ready, have a notebook to write down questions and follows ups, etc.”
Lisa Nelson, Microsoft Ventures
Know your pitch
“Be able to articulate succinctly in plain English (meaning, not techno speak or vertical industry acronyms), (1) what is the big opportunity they are going after, (2) what is the specific problem they are solving for a business or consumer, and (3) how they plan to solve it. I find with really early entrepreneurs it often takes a while to figure out exactly what they are doing. Its very hard to give advice on details of a business, or even the idea itself, if you don’t have a clear picture of what they are going after to start with.” Serena Glover
“Know the details about your company. I’ve had too many meetings where I’ve asked the CEO about revenue, growth, or burn rate, and the CEO says, “I don’t know – ask my CFO” – it’s your company, own it!” – Lisa Nelson, Microsoft Ventures
Pick our brains.
“There are a couple of ways to approach your 1:1 with a VC. The typical approach is to give the investor an overview of your business and ask for feedback. However, I recommend using the time to get as much information from the investor as possible. Instead of telling them about your business, ask for their take on your market. What do investors think about your market? What do they look for in companies like yours? What makes a company in your market venture-backable? What are the milestones investors expect to see at each stage? Use the time to get as much insight as possible into the VC decision making process for your market.” – Judy Loehr
“Going into these 1:1 meetings, VCs and entrepreneurs have a goal in common: that the VC is going to be able to be of use in some way to the entrepreneur. As a VC, one of the most rewarding experiences in the job is the feeling that I’ve been useful to an entrepreneur. That is, whether I write a check or not, it is a “goal realized" when something I have experienced is tangibly helpful to share with the entrepreneur, or someone I have worked with can become an employee, a customer, investor, board member, co-founder, a press lead… you name it. With that in mind, if an entrepreneur comes into the meeting prepared with specific questions or asks that I am able to satisfactorily deliver on, it’s a huge win for everyone.” – Julie Sandler, Pioneer Square Ventures
What the founders had to say.
Get to know the investor.
“VC raising is more about relationship building and 2-way evaluation. If you do end up being funded by them, chances are the partner will have a seat on your board – they’re going to be a close partner whether you like it or not so better that it’s someone that you have deep respect for and believe will be improving your chances of success. So then use your meetings to be equally curious and evaluative of them, of how they think, of what they think of your mission, the challenges and how they’d tackle them. Will tell you a lot.” – Avni Patel Thompson, Poppy
“Do your homework on her portfolio, understand their investment thesis and business model, figure out common connections ahead of the meeting and ask those people to put a word in.” – Kristen Hamilton, Koru
“Make sure they have a core initiative in your space and are looking to make an investment, not just doing research and tire kicking. Figure out where they are in their cycle. Make sure there’s alignment on your view of the market. Ensure the partner is a great resource and someone you want in the foxhole with you. Do blind reference checks with their existing portfolio.” – Kristina Bergman, Integris
Ask for what you need.
“I always made an ask – if an informational meeting, I’d ask for connections to other people. If I was pitching, I said: I am raising X and I will close the round by X. I’d love for you to lead. Something along those lines.” – Amy Nelson, The Riveter
“If you are not fundraising, your goals could be to (1) build a relationship, and (2) have a specific ask. Perhaps your ask is to give you feedback on your pitch or your go to market plan or x, or for ideas of people to talk to to help you do x.” – Sarah Daniels, Blue Canoe
“One pattern I’ve noticed in helping women prepare for fundraising meetings is they are too apt to cut their vision down to size rather than making it as BIG as possible. No one wants to invest in something whose growth is limited by founder ambition. If you think your vision is already big enough, make it bigger.” – Kieran Snyder, Textio
What are your best tips to prepare for a VC meeting? Let us know in the comments!