Naked, Pitching to Angels

Naked, Pitching to angels

Why should you, young startup founder, read this book?


You should read this book because much of what you’ve read about giving pitches is wrong for you. It does not apply to you now. Not yet. If your startup is like most startups — and most startups are — don't base your approach on what Uber, or Airbnb, or LinkedIn, or whatever company did in their pitch on Sand Hill Road. Most likely, you won't be presenting your early ideas to a VC in a posh conference room. You'll be talking to a dentist in a Starbucks. You need funding and she wants to take a crack at being an angel investor. 

Do not develop your pitch from others that were successful with VCs. At least not when pitching to most angels. It is an unfortunate fact that you are unlikely to get serious attention from a legitimate VC or a high-profile angel when you’re in your early stages with little to show. Because there was some guy in “the Valley” who was able to meet with VCs when he had only an idea, it does not follow that you should expect a meeting with VCs to discuss your idea. The guy who was employee number seven at Instagram can get that meeting. You’re not that guy. I’m not trying to insult you, and I still think you’re a good person. 

All I’m trying to say is you should not base your approach on what some other now-famous guy did when he raised money. People do not generally write about normal, everyday, boring situations — meeting a dentist at a Starbucks, for example. Not if they want people to read what they’ve written. You hear about the unusual, the exceptional — the unlikely: unicorns. Don't act like you're a unicorn.  

It's costly to act like like you're something you're not. Again, you might become a unicorn, but it’s unlikely. That’s a fact. Another fact is that, if you really need early-stage funding to get this thing going, you are almost surely going to get money from non-VCs before you pitch to legit VCs. You will need to pitch to angels. 

There are angel investors who think and operate like VCs. But most so-called angel investors don’t. A pediatrician with some extra cash may want to invest in a startup. She may be interested in your startup. But if you think you should talk to her the way you believe you should talk to a professional VC, you need to read this book. Do not pitch to a pediatrician like she’s a VC — and vice versa. Unfortunately, though, most of what you've read won't help you when you're talking to pediatricians. A lot of it would be bad advice. Don’t riff about "churn" and "burn" with a pediatrician looking to make her first angel investment. Save that for the VCs and sophisticated, experienced angels. Don't base yours on Reid Hoffman's Series B pitch to Greylock. Not if you're talking to a pediatrician in a McDonald's. 

You must adapt your message and your communication to your audience.  

Repeat that to yourself. 

Don’t get caught up in playing startup and talking startup-ese all the time. That’s fun. That’s cool. But it might not be the most effective way to get a check from an art dealer. Your objective is not to sound hip. Your objectives are to get her interested in you, to get her interested in your idea, to get her talk about your idea with others, and to get her to write you a check. Her funding may provide the runway you need to get the traction needed to get a meeting with a real VC type. Until then you will talk to normal people and ask them for checks. You will talk to people like me.

So why should you care what I have to say? Not because I am a famous angel investor who’s been massively successful. I am not famous — you’ve never heard of me — and I have not been massively successful. I have heard a lot of pitches and written a few checks. In the early stages, it is much more likely that you will get a chance to pitch to someone like me than to a sophisticated big-shot like Jason Calacanis. Folks like me are more plentiful and accessible. Do not talk to me like I’m a sophisticated angel or VC. I probably won’t understand you. You must adapt your message and your communication to your audience. Remember that. 

I will show you what works when you pitch to me, a normal person with some extra cash who likes the excitement of taking part in startups. I am a lot like most of the angel investors you will meet. What is effective with me will be effective with many of them. But what is effective with us may not work well with the VCs or sophisticated angels. You must adapt your message and your communication to your audience.

A very important skill for you right now is to explain yourself and your idea without relying on your pitch deck — what I call pitching naked. If you can get me excited when you’re naked, I will be much more attentive, engaged, and even forgiving later when you walk me through your deck.  I'll be more charitable when you try to wow me with your great facility with contemporary startup jargon. 

This book is deliberately narrow. It is not about how to pitch to VCs. It is not about what should or should not be in your deck. It is not about how sophisticated angel investors think. There are already good books on those subjects. I hope you've read some. 

I will show you some new ways to think about presenting your ideas to simple angels like myself. I hope to convince you that presenting naked is great opportunity to distinguish yourself and increase your chances of getting funded. You can do it well with a little guidance and a lot of practice. 

A Simple Truth About Pitches

Don't base yours on Reid Hoffman's Series B pitch to Greylock. Not if you're talking to a dentist in a Starbucks or a pediatrician in a McDonald's. 

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