Getting to the Dinner Date — Pitching to Investors


I was roaming around the University of Chicago Booth School of Business when I stumbled upon an interesting video playing on the bulletin board. First, it was about pitching! Cool! I’m interested. Secondly, it was a female professor talking about pitching. Excellent, I’m ready to see some diversity. I stayed to watch more. Then, as she talked, it got me really, really excited. So much so that I yelled “yes!” repeatedly at the screen. What she said in the video was so true! You are not (just) asking for money; you are building — and going into — a relationship!

At the end of the day, everything we do, we do with people. Nobody is in a vacuum. It really does not matter what field you are in; yes, even computer scientists have to work with other people. One common question is: Why do investors invest mostly in their backyard? There are many reasons, but mainly because they invest in people they know. Their kids go to the same school; they have common friends; they see each other at Your Favorite Grocery Stores (YFGS).

Another very brilliant woman, who is the CEO of a large financial institution, told me about “smart money.” Don’t just seek investments. Money alone is valuable, but “smart money” — the kind that comes with industry insights, mentors, invaluable experience — is the one that you really want to snatch. And you are getting so much more than the dollar amount! Value creation!

Back to the video at Booth, the professor likened a pitch to a coffee date. On a coffee date, you are exploring the option to go into a relationship. You want to leave the coffee date having secured a dinner date. I couldn’t help but screamed a loud “yes!” to the screen at this point. Your pitch (coffee date) should be so intriguing that investors can’t help but invite you to a meeting (the dinner date) to learn more about your company. Then comes the commitment; accepting an investment is quite like getting married. First, you sign some papers, you pop the champagne, and then the real hard work starts. Accepting an investment means you are giving up some kind of control to your investors. They will sit at your board meetings, often ask difficult questions, and may have different opinions about how you should run your company. Well, while in a marriage, till death do you part; here, till exits do you part.

Now, how would you go about your coffee date with your potential investors? Something to think about, isn’t it? Choose wisely, eh?

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