I am often asked how much to reveal when pitching for venture or angel capital. The rationale varies: “ I’m not quite ready for a big investment until I get more early traction” or “Will I weaken my position by showing how much I need and how soon I need it?” or “Will what I’m looking for move around the community to everyone and shouldn’t I be selective in what I say?”
The answer is to stand up and lay out your plans and your rationale. You must treat all investors as if they will become your partners, starting immediately. If you are taking a pitch meeting, you might as well pitch.
You will not see an investment without the interested investor (private, angel or venture capitalist) conducting enough due diligence to know your basic position and condition in the market. So, there isn’t much to hide.
You may not get a second meeting, especially if you are not forthcoming in the first meeting. It is so difficult to get a first meeting that clarity is to your advantage.
It is acceptable to take a short meeting (20 minutes maximum) or two with potential investors, to get on their radar about your idea, even before you are ready to approach them for an investment. You can report back on your progress of reaching your benchmarks. This establishes an early relationship with them, and allows them to watch you deliver the benchmarks you promised.
Suppose you are looking for angel capital now, and you are presenting to an early stage boutique venture capitalist, who invests in revenue-generating companies, but who sometimes will step down to a seed round of a few hundred thousand dollars.
Pitch what you want now: say $250,000, and show what you will use the funds for, and what benchmark you will reach with that seed round. Your potential investor might provide it and add a deal structure to his position for the next round, giving him right of first look, or protecting his investment in certain ways, even setting aside all or part of your next round.
Next you say you want to raise a Series A round after some specified consecutive months of growth. You say when you expect that moment to arrive (what Quarter of what year), and what benchmark you will reach in what Quarter of what year with that Series A round.
You can say that you will look for a growth round following Series A, once you can track the speed of your growth, and can assess competition and market conditions at that time.
This shows you are thinking all the way out to scalability and ROI. If you look to your investors as long-term partners, this early truth telling and planning sets your relationship on the right path. If you are beginning your company with Other People’s Money, it is good to have a strong relationship with the Other People and their Money.