Startup Pitches

I have lost count of how many startup pitches I have seen in my life. It is definitively several thousand.

You have probably heard from dozens of VCs what they want to see in a pitch. You know what, they tell you what they are shown every day. But that is not what I want to see.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s suppose that of all the slides in your slide deck, you were only allowed to show one slide to potential investors. One. Single. Slide. Which one would that be?

What you do? Team? Product? Market? Projections?


The number one slide you would show is the ‘wow’ slide. The slide that shows how much traction you have. How high your conversion-rate it. How high your viral co-efficient. How much revenue you have. How fast you are growing. How sticky your product is, how low the churn rate is.

In essence, what you have achieved.

Here is what happens instead. I was at a pitch event last Friday. Not a single founder pitched me on their traction. I had to pull it out of them in Q&A. One founder said he had an idea and now he wanted me to invest. He had achieved nothing. Then there was another founder who had $10ks of revenue per month. Again, she didn’t tell me that. I had to pull it out of her.

The problem is that I can’t tell the difference, unless you tell me.

Here are two example pitches of the same company.

1) Typical pitch I hear:
We are an e-commerce company. The key thing about us is blab la bla and this is useful for our customers blab la bla and what we are currently working on is blab la bla. We are looking for money, do you want to invest?

2) Focussed on achievement :
We are an e-commerce company. We sell x to y and our special sauce is z. Last month we did $25k in turnover, our product margin is about 60%, so we made about $15k in revenue. Returns are low, so this is a net figure. We are currently growing at around 25% month on month. What I am trying to achieve right now is to improve our x and what I think I need to do is y. Do you think this is the right focus for us right now?

I would be super happy to talk to any entrepreneur who talks about their business in the second way. At length. Any time that works for you. Happy to help.

Billion Dollar Business Models

A little while ago, I grouped unicorns and other successful companies by business model. What emerged was fascinating. Over the last ten years or so, there were only 18 business model categories that have produced winning Internet companies.

Billions Dollar Business Models

I think these business models can produce scalable, defensible companies and that is why these categories win.

Apart from existing business models, I am also interested in entrepreneurs inventing new ones. Looking back, I think you tend to find that new business models are an evolution of existing ones. For example: classifieds -> search. content -> social interaction tools. software -> SAAS.


Vision transplant is a fatal operation

“I thought of you whilst in India visiting an incubator invested in by one of our backers..  the guy who was running the incubator used the phrase “vision transplant is a fatal operation” – and I remember you saying the same thing.”

I received this email from a buddy of mine. I totally agree to this. I have yet to see a situation where an early stage startup changed the CEO and did really well afterwards. This is very hard to get right. This is why we work with entrepreneurs from day one in Forward Labs.