It’s hard enough to get VC investment as a first-time founder—
in fact, only 3 percent of VC dollars went to solo female founders in the first quarter of 2018. As a woman in venture capital, I’m passionate about empowering entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and changing the startup ecosystem to one that is more inclusive and representative of the people that technology impacts.
At Scale Venture Partners, we’re dedicated to building a diverse community. Since our inception, there has always been female representation on the management investing team. Working at ScaleVP has helped me realize there isn’t a cookie-cutter version of success in venture capital—or any industry for that matter—and has helped shape the way I think about investing and entrepreneurship.
After sitting through hundreds of pitches and working with the partners at ScaleVP, I’ve learned there are things that every founder can do to increase her odds of getting funded. Here are five things to keep in mind when pitching investors:
Highlight your successes
Always put the things you're most proud of in the beginning of the deck. For example, if you know you had a killer quarter, put your finances up front. If you are most proud of your team because all your co-founders are PHD's, put your team page up front. Start with the things that are truly unique or outstanding about your company to grab the investors’ attention, and keep them engaged and intrigued throughout the pitch.
Establish a level of trust:
At the end of the day, we’re all in it together and we all want the startup to succeed. It’s imperative that you and your investors establish mutual trust and respect, which starts with openness and honesty from the very first conversation. When you’re pitching investors, be realistic about the market size and opportunity. I’ve seen entrepreneurs excited about their company's potential, which leads them to exaggerate or inflate their numbers without much substantiation, ultimately leaving investors skeptical. If you want to establish credibility with investors, be open and honest.
Show me the data:
It doesn’t matter to me what you look like, where you’re from or where you went to school. If you have a unique idea and a great product with product-market fit, you’ll do well. Make it impossible for investors to turn you away; If you have healthy growth, solid customer traction and numbers that demonstrate your market leadership, VCs will pay attention.
Tell me why you’re the right person for this job:
It helps to tell a story about why you’re passionate about the product you’re building, because that highlights why you feel emotionally connected to the project, thus why you’re the right person to make it happen. Outlining your commitment lets me know you’ll be able to stick with the project when things inevitably get tough and you have to iterate, pivot, or start from scratch.
Commit to diversity from the get-go:
It’s become commonly understood that diverse teams are more successful: They build better products, make better decisions, and better anticipate and solve the needs of global customers. Diversity isn’t just the right thing to implement, but also the smartest thing a business could do. Given that a company’s culture is established by its first 10 hires, it’s crucial for founders to build diversity in from the start. Show investors that your team is committed to diversity from the get-go.
Susan Liu is the principal of Scale Venture Partners and since she joined in 2012, she has since helped the firm get into some of its most promising SaaS portfolio companies. Read more about her and her story by clicking here!