Lessons from Collision … (Collision is the Tech Conference in Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, Las Vegas. It took place at the World Market Center Pavilions May 5-6 2015)

If you can consider pitching a startup like a dance between a man (the investor) and a woman (you, the startup leader), then these tongue-in-cheek references to the pitching process may help you impress investors with your moves.

1) What stage are you (the startup) in?

Some investors like to come in when you’re young, at the Seed Round.

Some investors like to come in when you’re a bit more mature, at the B and C Rounds.

Some investors just dance with any startup at any stage, if they find you attractive.

2) Are you his type?

Some investors prefer to be experts and leaders of certain types of industries or niches within industries. So do not take it to heart if they reject you at first sight. You are just not their type.

3) Catch his eye on LinkedIn and he may ask you for a dance.

Investors can be reached on LinkedIn, and startups should use this platform to get their attention. Since some investors are considered highly eligible and have a lot of admirers, you can actually approach their other portfolio investments and businesses first, and then if you win them over, they can introduce you to the main man himself.

One “hot” investor said he only chooses 1 to 2 dances out of the 3,000 invites he had each month.

4) Dance with his best buddies as well – get to know his lawyers, his accountants, his partners, … – so they can see your moves and recommend you to him.

5) When you finally get to dance, make sure you are ready with a story.

Every investor wants to hear this. Your elevator pitch has to be tight so he can see all your assets at one go and will keep coming back for more.

6) When the investor gives feedback on how he likes to dance, even it is uncomfortable or difficult to hear, listen.

The startup that listens and makes the changes and pivots when needed, will keep the investor’s attention. They can see your commitment to working with their specific dance steps. One of the investors mentioned that only 10% of the startups he gave feedback to actually implemented the changes themselves. In fact, you should be able to take feedback (however hard to hear), show the changes you’ve made, and also be ready to answer the investor’s questions on those sore points.

7) You should teach the investor what the new moves are in your field.

Investors generally do not know the space as much as you do. Educate them as to why the space has value, what exciting things are happening there, and what you are doing to capture them.

8) You should show your authentic desire and that you plan to be in the dance for the long run.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

9) It’s all about the people.

Sometimes investors turn down a dance because they don’t like one of your girlfriends (business partners or leadership team) who rubs them the wrong way. Ditch her quick.

10) The dance actually starts off before the dancing.

You should be constantly updating the investors of your success and learnings.

11) Be confident.

Confidence is such an attractive quality.

12) You can let them lead.

Investors, particularly venture capitalists, like to add value. Some startups try too hard to optimize before asking for investments. You can find investors even when you are not 100% perfect at the dance steps. Just be upfront about where your dancing is at and then take their lead. They can then lead and show you the moves you need rather than you dancing on your own.

Follow ups?

If an investor likes you, he will follow up on the same day.

Learn to Hustle. If you sense the pitch went south, connect with a side partner and try to sell them on you again. Build rapport.

Talk to multiple venture capitalists and angel investors.

Take all feedback seriously.

I wish you the dance of wealth and abundance. Shake that booty!


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