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PITCH MASTER: The ultimate founder's guide to convincing an investor to fund your startup over Zoom

Nov 13, 2020

Business Insider An icon in the shape of a person's head and shoulders. It often indicates a user profile. Login US Edition Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Close icon Two crossed lines that form an 'X'. It indicates a way to close an interaction, or dismiss a notification. Good It indicates a confirmed selection. Icon of check mark inside circle It indicates a confirmed selection. Donald Trump0 It indicates a confirmed selection. Icon of check mark inside circle It indicates a confirmed selection. Rep0 It indicates a confirmed selection. Icon of check mark inside circle It indicates a confirmed selection. Rep0 Russ Wilcox This story is available exclusively to Business Insider subscribers. Become an Insider and start reading now. The Zoom pitch is on the rise and presents another challenge for entrepreneurs to get their point across to investors using only their screens. Russ Wilcox is a partner at Pillar VC and knows his way around a pitch both as an investor and a founder of 20 years for venture-backed startups, including one that secured nearly $125 million in capital. Edlyft cofounders Erika Hairston and Arnelle Ansong managed to beat the odds and raise over $1 million for their startup by using tough questions to talk up their strengths. Wilcox, Hairston and Ansong gave eight tips for a winning pitch over Zoom, starting with a bio that convinces investors you're a founder worth betting on. As a startup founder, pitching investors can be nerve-wracking. But now that fewer VC firms are meeting in person, the Zoom pitch is on the rise and presents another challenge for entrepreneurs to get their point across using only their screens. Russ Wilcox is a partner at Pillar VC in Boston, Massachusetts. He knows his way around a pitch not only as an investor, but as founder of 20 years for venture-backed startups, including one that secured $124.9 million in capital, according to Crunchbase . "I have given hundreds and hundreds of pitches," he told Business Insider. "I've seen which ones worked and did not." Pillar VC focuses on seed-stage companies and has invested in 30 so far. Wilcox said a lot of myths and legends surround pitching, but founders must remember first and foremost that they are asking investors to make a financial decision. "You can't just talk about the product and the customer," he said. "You have to show the investor why your company will make money." He gave his seven tips for pitching investors remotely over Zoom. 1. Convince investors that you're a person worth backing Since investors often listen to multiple pitches in a day, Wilcox said it's important to "wake them up" and open your pitch with something that will grab their attention. Before investors decide that your business is worth their money, they want to know you're an individual they can bet on. Part of this depends on personal chemistry, said Wilcox, which is difficult to control, but it also depends on how you present yourself. He recommends introducing yourself with a bio that explains why you are qualified to lead your company. "The bio only takes two minutes, but in fact, it's like half the decision," he said. 2. Include more information in your slides  When a founder pitches in person, investors can rely on body language and nuances, but those don't translate as easily on a webcam or with internet lag. Your slides become the main visual focus over your expressions and movements, so you may need to over communicate when pitching remotely. "It's not easy to pitch over Zoom," Wilcox said. "A substantial portion of communication really is about body language and micro-expressions, and you really only get that when you're face-to-face with someone. "  He recommends including 50% more information on your slides than you would normally. Using a dynamic presentation with animations and bullets can help unfold the added information in a digestible format. 3. The small details build trust Ultimately, Wilcox said the pitch comes down to building trust through your execution. Remote pitches can rely on the smallest details, like clear audio, good lighting, and high-resolution video. For that reason, he suggests investing in your setup with a high-quality camera and external microphone. Slides should be simple, clear, and edited. "People are judging whether you took the time to treat the conversation seriously," he said. "If you've taken the time and effort to present a polished experience for them, they can infer that you're probably going to be polished and professional at running the company." 4. Manage your time well Time management is another reflection of your character and leadership skills. Did you arrive on time for your meeting? Whether you have 60 minutes or just 15, did you use your time efficiently to communicate your point? Wilcox said your ability to manage scarce resources will make a difference to earn investors' trust in your capabilities. "Before I give you $2 million, I would like to see how well you spend 60 minutes of my time," he said. 5. Practice for interruptions If your kid walks into the middle of your pitch or your dog barks in the background, people won't likely hold it against you. But practicing what you can control will help you to adapt on the fly when interruptions do happen. "You wouldn't put on a Broadway play without rehearsals, so why would you ever pitch for millions of dollars without having rehearsed," Wilcox said. He recommends asking your friends or family to dial into a Zoom meeting for you to practice your pitch. This will help you get used to connection issues and audio lags, as well as get more comfortable with how your expressions come off in a video call. 6. Develop a rapport to seal the deal Securing a funding round often comes down to what happens after the pitch. If investors liked what they saw in your first presentation, they may ask for another meeting or another round of pitches to their partners. Wilcox said pitching remotely can lengthen the process and may require more phone calls and meetings to make up for the lack of in-person contact. "Propose some extra meetings where you might just have dinner together online," he said. "If you're local, you can meet up and go for a socially distant walk, but try to find ways to build rapport and trust." 7. Add recurring questions to your appendix You should always be improving on the last pitch you made. Wilcox suggests having another member of your team on the call to take notes, specifically to record any issues that came up and the questions investors asked. If the same questions keep coming up about your business plan, customer base, or product, it could be pointing to a weakness or blind spot in your presentation and it's worth adding slides to address them. The appendix is a good place to add these slides, which could add up with the more meetings you take. "With future investors, you'll be able to smoothly answer their questions and someone can catch up very quickly to the other investors," Wilcox said. This can be especially helpful later in a funding round when you need multiple investments within the same week to choose the best offer. "Once you know that you've got a rough spot in your presentation," he said, "you keep polishing and polishing until finally you've got a winning presentation." 8. Turn tough questions into a chances to promote your startup Research indicates that investors ask different kinds of people different kinds of questions. A study from researchers at Harvard and Columbia analyzed over 189 TechCrunch Disrupt pitch meetings and found that some questions were "prevention-based," forcing founders to defend their ideas, and some were "promotion-based," allowing them to focus on what their company was capable of doing. A prevention question might be "Why can't larger company just do what you're doing? "  whereas a promotion question might ask "What's your competitive advantage?" The study found that two thirds of questions directed at women are preventative, and that two thirds of questions directed at men are promotional, signaling implicit bias. But any investor can use this knowledge to beat the odds, regardless of their gender. The key is answering prevention questions as though they are promotional. Erika Hairston and Arnelle Ansong recently raised $1.4 million for their tutoring startup Edlyft over video calls by figuring out which was which. Hairston trained herself to recognize prevention questions and answer them like they were promotion questions. She went so far as to create a list of common prevention questions and their translated promotional cousins, which she shared with Business Insider. When an investor asked, "How will you be able to build this?" Hairston answered them as though they had asked, "Why is your team the best team to execute this?" And when they asked "Is this market big enough?" she answered them as though they had asked "How does this turn into a big business?" Hairston said that comprehending this phenomenon helped make all the difference. Newsletter A look into the tech transformations underway at the world's largest companies. Sign up for Innovation Inc. Loading

Russ Wilcox Investments

1 Investments

Russ Wilcox has made 1 investments. Their latest investment was in PowerInbox as part of their Seed VC - II on October 10, 2011.

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Russ Wilcox Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

10/5/2011

Seed VC - II

PowerInbox

$0.8M

Yes

Date

10/5/2011

Round

Seed VC - II

Company

PowerInbox

Amount

$0.8M

New?

Yes

Co-Investors

Sources

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