Pitch Deck Success: Drip Campaign for Term Sheets

One of the most difficult parts of fundraising is getting your foot in the door with an investor. Grasping their attention is key and receiving an invite for a meeting has an extremely low success rate.

Anyone who has ever raised capital knows that it is not something you complete as a weekly sprint, and that it can take months from start, to term sheet, to finally spending that money on some well deserved office beers.

At Visible, our initial success has been with stakeholder and investor reporting; all the details and data after you received funding. As we continued to grow and build new features and tools, we built Visible to be used throughout the entire process of investor backed companies; from sending out initial pitches, full on pitch decks, and investor reporting after investment.

 

 

I want to share a few things that we have learned, both from Visible, founders, and investors about pitch decks and fundraising. We put this into an eBook so that you can always keep it with you and easily share with others. Here are a couple excerpts…

Pitch Decks Are Resumes: Make Yours Targeted

If your metrics are akin to a resume then what is your cover letter? How are you and your company effectively telling your story in a succinct way that matters?

Drip Your Way to Success

Every conversation you have with a stakeholder is your chance to plot a dot in time. Have enough dots, create a trend. Have a trend (ideally a good one) and your fundraising process will be tight, clean and efficient.

Interested in checking out the entire eBook from Visible.vc? Click below to get your own copy of how to easily and effectively start your next fundraise.

Download Your Copy of Visible’s Solution to Pitch Decks

Enjoy Your Day, Go Create Something, and Make Someone Smile

Nate

The Ultimate Guide to Your Startup Job Search

Before joining Visible here in Chicago, both Brett – who heads up Growth – and I had the opportunity to work with and hire at a number of different startups – from Sydney to San Francisco to Bangalore and back again.

  Nate hard at work during our team offsite in Copenhagen

Nate hard at work during our team offsite in Copenhagen

Recently, I returned to his alma mater, Marquette University, to participate in a panel discussion at the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship where he discussed his path in the startup world and shared some insight with students looking to get involved. Years ago, inspired by this post from Christine Tsai of 500 Startups, Brett jotted down some tips for people early in their careers looking to find a job at an early stage company.

We put our heads together on this post and would love to have you share it with young (or old!) people in your network who may be interested in what a career in the startup world has to offer.

1. Look Locally…or Not (Nate)

Most of the time, the best and most immediate way to build your network and learn more about how startups are built is by becoming a member of the community. How can you make that leap?

Learn about area accelerators and incubators

For many startups, the first step in their growth is to attend an accelerator. Here is a quick primer on accelerators.

When companies are at this stage, it is unlikely that they are in hiring mode since they are still so early in the development of their product and business model. If you are committed to taking a long term approach to building a career in the technology space, these can be great companies to get to know. Some will be successful. Most won’t. But if you start following their progress early and make a point to connect with the founders, you can learn a ton.

Check out startup meetups and events

We get into some more in depth tips on attending conferences and events a bit later but for now, know that rule #1 is to listen more than you speak. Soak everything in at first, ask questions and always remember to follow up with interesting people after the event (email is better than LinkedIn).

Treat it like a sales process

Most startup ecosystems are close knit, especially as you move outside of major markets like the Bay Area and New York. When working your way into your local ecosystem, treat it like a sales process.

Try to connect with as many interesting companies as you can. Some of that outreach will turn into an email exchange, some will turn into a phone call. Most will net you no response. When you don’t hear back (or when you hear ‘no’), don’t be discouraged. Work to nurture relationships over time by checking in, complimenting the company on their growth, or sharing some quick insight that you think might help them.

All that said, one of the most immediate ways you can make yourself valuable to an early-stage company is by offering to do the type of work that they are having trouble filling. For my first startup job, I joined Groupon’s launch team in Australia. Brett’s took him all the way to India.

 

2. Build the Right Network (Brett)

It may seem like this is overly broad, throwaway advice. Everyone knows building a network is important for any personal or professional pursuit! So if you are a driven person, it is inevitable that you will invest in building your network.

Making sure you are building the right network, the right way is where it can get tricky. Here are three actionable ways you can go about building your startup network.

Seek out those who have taken your path

When I began my first search years ago, I spent a lot of time digging through the websites and LinkedIn profiles of local startups to see if there was anyone on their management teams that I would be able to connect with (same initial profession, same college, etc.). I eventually found an individual working with a very cool Chicago-based company, called FeeFighters, that had started out his career in banking in a similar role. After a cold email, he agreed to meet up for coffee and offered me some extremely useful advice about making decisions based on what is essentially a regret minimization framework.

It can be daunting to try to gain entrance into a community that seems so exclusive and it may be difficult to find someone that has taken the exact same path as you, but with a little digging, you should be able to find someone whose lead you can follow.

Backchannel your way to the front of the line

There is a common quote about fundraising that goes something like:

“If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.”

Something similar rings true when looking for a way into the startup world. Since the success or failure of a young company lies in the hands of so few, trust is critical. Focus first on finding people to connect with and learn from, then ask who else they would be willing to connect you with. As you build a reputation as a thoughtful individual who asks good questions, the odds of having one of those intros turn into an interview begins to increase.

Contribute!

We will dive into how you can do this in a later section but for now, just know that relationships are never a one-way street. While you are out there looking to break into the right company, always ask yourself what you may be able to do to help the person on the other end of the discussion.

 

3. Time Your Outreach (Nate)

When talking to companies, understanding the market they are in and being able to articulate how you envision yourself contributing are table stakes. Showing that you understand when companies hire can set you apart. That often means being proactive and reaching out to interesting companies before they have posted a job you think you might be a fit for. Here are a couple good times to reach out.

When they are in hyper growth mode

Articles about the company and its founders can help form an initial filter for you as you search for companies in your area. Of course, press validation and fawning from industry insiders on Twitter doesn’t mean the company is a sure thing. In some cases, the PR push is done to distract people from real problems with the business. You have to determine a company’s trajectory for yourself by asking the right questions.

Usually though, press indicates that the business has found some initial traction and can signal a need to bring on more great people. Even if there aren’t positions listed that you are a perfect fit for, don’t be shy about getting in touch. As this New York Times piece recently pointed out, getting in with the right company is often more important than finding the right role.

When they just raised a round of funding

One thing to understand about VC-backed companies is that they often spend the first few years of their existence losing money as they push to find validation in the market and/or reach a critical mass of customers or users. As a result of that dynamic, fundraising becomes an important part of growing the business. Fundraising gives the company money to try different acquisition channels, expand to new markets, and most importantly, hire new people.

To know when a company has raised money, subscribe to StrictlyVC or one of the other great industry-focused newsletters that can help you save a ton of time in your search.

Whenever you feel like it 🙂

As with anything, the timing is never going to be perfect. So if you have a target company in mind, reach out! Tell them how you found out about their company, why you are excited about what they are working on, and where you see them fitting into the market as they grow.

 

4. Become an Expert (Brett)

Years ago, during one of those classic “corporate life is so boring, man” discussions that fresh graduates are so good at having, I told all of my friends that I wanted to work for a startup. One of my buddies stayed above the fray in the conversation and asked me what skills I actually had that could help a startup. Turns out I didn’t really have any.

When I met with the former banker that I discussed before, I was wondering what special skill set he had that allowed him to make the switch. Turns out he didn’t really have one either so he decided to learn the ins and outs of online marketing and SEO. He did this by taking unpaid jobs on Craigslist and learning on his own time. The progression certainly wasn’t glamorous but the work got him to where he wanted to be.

Another approach is to learn everything you can about a specific market or vertical. At an early stage company, no matter how experienced you are or what your job description is, you are going to be asked to do things outside of your immediate skillset. Having a clear understanding of your company’s vision and the market they are operating in can help you build a framework for attacking new projects that fall outside of what you have done before.

Once you’ve started getting your bearings in your chosen area, start writing about it, conversing about it on Twitter, or seeking out people to discuss your thoughts with. Your writing won’t be good at first, your Tweets may miss the mark, and you might not be able to connect with everyone you are hoping to. Don’t be discouraged.

 

5. Understand the Startup Mindset (Brett)

At a small company, everyone is responsible for offering insight into which direction the company should be taking. That is not usually the case in more traditional industries with more structured hierarchies.

 

 

  Our Lead Designer Ciaran (left) and Brett leaving a coffee shop after a hard day’s work in Copenhagen

Our Lead Designer Ciaran (left) and Brett leaving a coffee shop after a hard day’s work in Copenhagen

There is so much startup-related content out there (some good, most bad) that it can be difficult to sort out what you should actually be reading. Try to stick to just a few primary resources or else you can easily get lost in a fog of information and not retain a thing. Fred Wilson’sMBA Mondays series and the podcasts rated highly in this list by Ty Danco are good starting points. You can also attend conferences in your area if for nothing else than to understand how people talk and what they talk about (as stupid as this may sound, it is important in any industry).

Conference Attendee Protip: Try not to hit every conference in your area and steer clear of the “founders” that you see at every single one. The real founders and difference-makers don’t have time to make it all of these things. They are building their companies!

While consuming content (blogs, talks, etc.) is an important part of learning, it is probably more important to create some kind of content on your own. Creating content forces you to take an opinion on things and really think through the decisions being made by companies or people you may be discussing. This becomes useful once you finally take the plunge and join (or even start!) a company.

 

6. Leverage the Right Resources (Nate)

First, go click on everything we linked to above 🙂

Posts on the Startup Job Search

Places to Look for Startup Jobs

Building Your Resume

  • Product Hunt just released a collection of applications that can help you get hired → Checkout Here
  • Sharp looking resumes → ResumUp

To help you get started and stay organized during your startup job search, we’ve built a template that you can use to track companies you are interested in and manage your follow up process. Access it for free by clicking here.

Building Your HR Early – Tools & Culture

Having breakage points of trust and culture are some of the biggest risk points in early stage companies since so much relies on human capital. The startup ecosystem was designed to collaborate, open source, provide others with the mistakes we had so they could succeed quicker in their endeavors. There has been a lot of news recently about companies and firms having a disconnect with company culture and fair treatment of employees; we thought this would be a great time to provide some basic, yet crucial pieces of knowledge.

Visible is still a small, distributed team, we have bi-monthly 1-on-1 chats with every teammate (regardless of role), outside of conference calls and slack communication to make sure everyone is building Visible together and that everyone is happy.

Building a HR team early in a company is generally not a necessity, plus an additional cost before having a complex hierarchy, hitting market fit, and pushing market growth. This does not mean that the foundation of HR should be overlooked. Early HR is the mix of company culture and legal compliance so that everyone can focus on their work rather than worry about if they’ll be treated fairly from any situation.

Here are a few pieces of advice we want to provide to young companies…

Make sure you have the basics

  • Get your team involved early: Policies & culture are for them; the rules need to be sourced by them, not a great blog article you found of Medium. By the people, for the people.
  • Have a living document of general policies everyone can see: Culture changes from 3 to 300 people, make sure your policies and culture are documented over time (great piece to show culture progression at an ‘all-hands’ meeting).
  • Use your network: You’ll normally have friends at larger companies who have in depth HR policies or may work in HR themselves (possible future employee sourcing too).
  • Keep everything transparent (The Open Kimono Policy): Team stand-ups and project tracking have become mainstream to create a lean and quick company, but most people forget that this also opens up trust. Always be constructive when people open up on what they’re working on (“Yes, and…”) and have avenues for everyone to work with each other (Check out Flock for Distributed Stand-ups and OKRs).

 

Here are some sources we thought could get you started

 

Enjoy Your Day, Go Create Something, and Make Someone Smile

Picking the Best Products for Your Business

These are just a few things that startups and young companies deal with every single minute of their day. People who run companies simply want to grow the business, create success, and enjoy the benefits of their work; rarely do they want to manage the actual [internal] business.

 

We all wish that companies and teams were put together like a swiss watch; carefully placed, working in perfectly unison, without issue, or need for maintenance. This is why the emergence of platforms to serve what was previously a manual business function have exploded into the market. There’s pretty much a platform that can help you automate this, or scale that, so you don’t need to worry about the internal issues or the need to hire more people to complete the back office tasks.


Don’t get me wrong, I know that these apps and platforms will eventually make me redundant (there’s always employment for a person that can make themselves redundant), but what is important is that you pick the right platforms and apps to work with your product, team, and other platforms and apps. I’m hoping from this post...

The Call For Resources
 

 

Finding the Right Products

Currently, there is no shortage of product marketing spent on SEO, so searching for “Accounting Tool” or “Customer Messaging App” will get you fairly far in what you are looking for. Some other tips and tricks you can use are…

 

Using Your Investors/Advisors

Your investors and advisors are an amazing resource when you are looking for new tools/platforms/apps. They normally know the landscape either from experience, looking at the market from investment opportunities, directly investing in the companies, and reviews of products that their other portfolio companies use. 

Also, they can help make introductions to these vendors, help provide a discount, or even have a program that allows you to use the products for free or a super low rate.

 

Using Your Network

Normally, if you have started a company or are helping run a young company, you know a few other people doing the same. It’s great to be able to chat with them about their experiences, ideas, execution, plans, thoughts, and what they use to manage their company.

Getting referrals from from other companies is a great way to look into a product. Vendors love getting referral business (minimal acquisition cost) and generally, will be a little more ‘friendly.’ On top of this, the friend/company that referred you will probably get some perks from their referral (win-win-win).

 

Using Your Competitors

While imitation may be the highest form of flattery, it also provides an opportunity to crush your competition. Looking into what your competition is using to manage their business can be a easy way to find a short list of validated products to use. Some tools you can use to find this out are…

  • Ghostery – Helps you find the tools that track your movement in a website/app
  • BuiltWith – Find out what websites are built with
  • Siftery – Discover products that are a great fit for your company

 

Reviewing The Products You Picked

Depending on the product you’re looking at using, there could be a few or many similar products. Which one is right for your specific business model and current stack of products or technology. 

 

Get Some First-Hand Reviews

Very similar to the above of “Using Your Network,” see if anyone you know (or any degree of separation) can give you a review. People like helping people and maybe you can return the favor for anything you have used that they are looking to use.

*Pro Tip: I personally like to ask if there is anyone that is currently using your product that I could talk to about their experience and feedback.

 

Get Some Second-Hand Reviews

The beauty of having so many products is that you can find one that perfectly fits your business model. The beast of having so many products is the time and effort you need to find the best product. Luckily, there are now companies out there that solely help you find the right product. I strongly recommend using G2 Crowd. G2 Crowd is pretty much the ‘Amazon Reviews of Business Software’ plus you can actually receive Amazon credit for some of the reviews you provide on their site (finally get that ping-pong table).

 

 G2 Crowd: Business Software and Services Reviews

G2 Crowd: Business Software and Services Reviews

 

Test Quickly and Try to Test in Parallel

When you’re finally ready to test out a product, don’t waste time. I totally understand that it’s almost impossible to dedicate a day just to test out a product, but the quicker you review, the quicker you can move forward. If you have a few you’re looking at, try to test them all at once. Most of the on-boarding requirements (data input, integration, api) will probably be the same and you can also batch all the tasks your engineering team may need to do as well. 

*Pro Tip – I usually try to test out everything on my own (big fan of self-serve products), and I try not to waste time with scheduling a demo unless its really needed or you can do one of your own time; aka – video tutorial.

 

How Does This Fit With Your Current, and Future, ‘Stack?’

Almost every tech company that looks to use Visible always asks, “Do you have an API? Can I integrate my data sources with Visible?” and while we do provide integrations, the importance is that people want to make sure they do not need to do any manual, mundane tasks to make a product work. In a time where companies like Zapier and IFTTT are here to make our lives easier, I am also looking at the next level: Direct, Dynamic, Communication Between Products. 

It’s important to ask if they integrate (or plan to) with other products you may want to use (now and in the future) that are in the same process or part of your business model. Saving time moving information back and forth means more ways to automate; ergo less time and resources to make your business work. Gone are the days of siloed information and tasks; If I only need 1/20 of my time to make sure my back office ops are running correctly so that everyone can get their shit done super fast and efficient, then I’m living the dream.  

 

How to Get an Awesome Deal

 

‘The Worst They Can Say is No’

One of the adages my father taught me was, “The worst they can say is no.” So don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, promos, extended trials, or different terms. If you feel like something is out of your price range, make sure to give feedback into why you feel this. Companies always want to get more business and can sometimes be flexible with this (startups will take almost any amount of money you offer them). What is important is that you provide a valid reason and solid feedback so that they have some benefit from their discount.

 

Trading Apples for Oranges

We have seen this a few times with companies, where they actually trade services between each other. So if company X wants to use company Y’s product, and vice versa, they give big discounts or trade for free. This is quite rare, but hey, the worst they can say is no. 😉

 

Programs & Partnerships

There are many products that try to capture companies early so that they can capture users for their entire lifetime (from cradle to grave…or indefinitely). A big example of this is are payment processors (Stripe, Braintree, PayPal, etc) where they have special programs that give discounts/pricing to young companies so they can start using the product at a low or zero cost, and start paying higher/standard amounts once they reach a certain level. Make sure to see if there are special requirements to receive these programs or discounts.

 

 HubSpot’s Discount Program for Early Stage Companies

HubSpot’s Discount Program for Early Stage Companies


If you have a direct connection to the vendor from your network, make sure to see if you can leverage them for discounts. If one of your investors also invested in this company, you could get a ‘friends and family’ discount, or added into a promotion program that you don’t, technically, quality for.

 

Conclusion: There are lots of options out there for products to use, and more are emerging each day. Make sure you take the least amount of time to get the most amount of information to make an informed decision, and run with it. A perk for those of you that have decided to read this far: Visible works with thousands of companies and we like to learn a little bit about each one. 

 

Enjoy Your Day, Go Create Something, and Make Someone Smile

The Startup Metrics That VCs Want to See

From working with hundreds of customers and users, we get a lot of questions around ‘what kind of information should I be including updates to my investors?’

We break this down to 4 different sections.

  1. Financial
  2. Key Growth Metric
  3. Industry/Market Standards
  4. Investor/Advisor/Board suggested

 

1. Financial

– Money money money. Finances are the lifeblood of a company, you can tell how well a company is growing, how smart they are spending, how healthy they are, or how many more months they have left before they disappear.

-Look at any standard Cash Balance Sheet and Income Statement, you should have the major line items of this for your investors.

-Depending on what kind of product you sell, there could be some important ones to highlight like gross margin or wages or marketing expenses. Always highlight the items that affect the company the most.

 

2. Key Growth Metric

– There are lots of things that accrue a company’s growth, but there is normally just one or two numbers that you look at for showing your growth and success. We talk about how to find your ‘Most-Valuable-Metric’ and the best way to tell your company’s story in The Ultimate Guide to Startup Data Distribution

-This can be a numeric or monetary amount, and it changes for each company/business plan/industry. For SaaS, this could be MRR, for a messaging app, it could be number of users, average messages per user.

Main Point: This metric(s) is(are) they key segment(s) that needs to grow to continue your success to Unicorn Ranch.

 

 

3. Industry/Market Standards

– Don’t reinvent the wheel. When you’re growing a company in a specific industry or market, there are always benchmark numbers and stats people talk about. Use these for your own reporting so you can have your stakeholders look at the market, their experiences or expertise, and your company (aka – make them work for that equity they bought/earned). For SaaS (I’m in SaaS so I talk SaaS), this would be items like Churn Rate, Average MRR Value, Total ARR, Cost per Acquisition, Lifetime Value, etc.

 

 

4. Investor/Advisor/Board Suggested

– Your key stakeholders (investors, advisors, board members), if you picked them right, will have experience, knowledge, connections, and more to help you become even more successful. From speaking with them, they’ll probably find a few metrics not already covered that they want you to focus on or track. This only helps leverage them in the future and allow them to be proactive towards that ten-figure exit.

 

 

Enjoy Your Day, Go Create Something, and Make Someone Smile