After listening to a series of fundraising pitches in the past few weeks — in an industry forum, at a closed-door investor session, at a crowdfunding platform, at a panel in an accelerator — I have been wondering why is there no sizzle or creativity in these pitches. 

Author : Venkat Raju (Angel Investor)
 
After listening to a series of fundraising pitches in the past few weeks — in an industry forum, at a closed-door investor session, at a crowdfunding platform, at a panel in an accelerator — I have been wondering why is there no sizzle or creativity in these pitches. These scrubbed and sanitized pitches, they all sound the same. Same tired old format regardless of stage, domain, session, geography.
 
Don’t get me wrong. These presentations are slick, with high quality content and well articulated. I understood every aspect of the businesses and their respective potential. Yet, I was mostly left with no clue about the Founders. What is their passion? Why did they start this venture? What drives them? Why will they be successful? I had no idea about them, no connection. Nothing.
 
This sorry state of affairs is not the entrepreneurs’ fault.  We as investors brought this upon ourselves. We wanted to turn pitching into a science. We not only told them what we needed, but how to structure them as well. So we could grasp everything: the value prop, the market opportunity (TAM, SAM, SOM), the product & positioning (USP), barrier to entry (IP), the business model & unit economics, the GTM and channels, financials etc. all in under 15 mins or so. Pity that few of the presentations don’t even have a team slide, and even if they do, in the haste to cover other aspects they hardly spend time talking about themselves.
 
Just as any investor, I have my investment thesis and philosophy. I seek product companies with disruptive business models, with deep IP and great technology (& products) with the potential to scale globally. I like to think I make rational investment decisions in alignment with my thesis and market opportunity. 
 
But if I am honest to myself, as I look back on my investments, the single determining factor has always been “betting on the Founders”. 
  • Do I sense a connection? 
  • Can I trust them (not just their integrity which should be a given) to execute well on what they intend to do?
  • Do they know what they don’t know and willing to learn?
  • How complete is the founding team, do they complement each other?
  • Have they worked together in the past?
  • How tenacious will they be and equally how flexible will they be when the market demands them to pivot  and so on…
I have invested in founders who have dropped out of college. I have invested in folks in their mid-forties who left well paying jobs to pursue a dream. It always has been based on their sense of purpose, commitment and willingness to risk everything in pursuit of their dreams. Most investors rank “the team” as the #1 criterion for decision making. If that is true….
 
Let’s bring back some art back into these sanitized pitching templates. Let there be room for some creativity for entrepreneurs to talk about themselves and their dreams. Let us give them 5 more minutes if needed. Let pitching sessions put more spotlight on the founders!
 
About the Author
Mr. Venkat Raju currently serves as a Strategy Consultant for the ANSR-Kyron group. He is an active angel investor and serves as a mentor & advisor to several companies (and also as a Director in some). His current portfolio covers a wide spectrum – spanning Cloud Computing & SaaS, Big Data & Analytics, Mobility & Payments, E-Commerce, IoT, Social Media & related Consumer Internet.