The Top 3 Things to Tell a VC When Networking

Welcome, Melissa Kargiannakis here. I’m a former founder myself and have coached > 600 founders through early traction to raise their first $1M - $10M. Coupling my experience pitching hundreds of VCs myself with all the founders I coached, leads me to deliver the top 3 things you need to tell a VC when mingling at a networking event.

Really all that investors need to know about you is: how you can help them. Business relationships are all about incentives. Venture Capitalists (VCs) are incentivized to invest in the next > $10 billion dollar company.

VCs need to know:

  1. What problem you solve
  2. For who
  3. And how many “who’s” there are (aka how big the market is)

If they remember nothing else from your conversation. It has to be these 3 things. They truly do not even need to remember who you are. Set your ego aside, because they don’t need to remember your name as long as they know what you’re building. If they are interested, they will find you.

Also, super important to remember VCs get founders' word-vomiting all over them all day. It is horrible to experience.

The super savvy founders, best in class, they don’t say “Hi I’m Melissa and I’m the founder of an AI start-up that does ABC for XYZ and we’ve done this, this, and this for that and that [blah blah blah - droning on for hours]” → no one cares. Endless unsolicited information causes eyes to glaze over. It’s a terrible first impression.

If you say “Hi I’m Melissa, WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” and actually have a conversation and, most importantly, WAIT for them to ask you what your start-up does, you’ll go much, much further. More convo do’s and don'ts below. ⬇️⬇️⬇️

As for knowing how to help investors, you have to understand their incentives. Founders get money from investors and investors get money from Limited Partners (LPs). AKA people way richer than them. The Secrets of Sandhill Road is a fantastic read to understand the dynamics from the investors perspective. It’s extremely helpful at building empathy for their position.

Bottomline: they need to invest other people’s money into companies that they believe can generate a 10x + return at exit. You need to show a massive market and huge willingness to do whatever it takes to IPO at > $10B to even be considered VC-fundable.

Another Key: Oversimplify.

Investors are known for their ability to spontaneously become experts in anything: 

2016 - 2019 = crypto & blockchain 🤑 

2020 - 2022 = healthcare & pandemics 😷

2022 - 2024 = AI & chips, apparently 🤖

“Jokes” aside, 😏 investors really do spend ridiculous amounts of time going deep on any given industry depending on the space a particular company might be in. They will read research papers, $3000-industry reports from the likes of Gartner, and have conversations with domain experts. They will learn everything they can about a subject in order to evaluate a deal. 

This means they have incredibly broad knowledge. They aren’t going to know every detail and nuance of your industry or use cases until they think they might want to invest then they start to go deep. Which means, less is more.

So at a first meeting in passing at a networking event, you need to say less. Tell them the bare minimum. Leave them wanting more and asking more. 

VC Convo Do’s & Don’t’s: 

Instead of (Don'ts)... Try (Do)...
Word vomit every single detail about your company in the first sentence. “Hi I’m Melissa, what’s your name?”
Not ask them any Qs - very poor manners in a conversation. “Nice to meet you. What’s your story?”

Provide information they don’t ask for.

Unless a VC asks a specific Q about what you do or who for or how your tech works - don’t just volunteer any information they don’t ask for.

Then, ASK 2-3 specific Qs about VC (aka basic good conversationalist vibes) any of these work:

  1. How did you get into VC?
  2. Why did you choose to become an investor?
  3. What’s one of your favourite deals that you sourced?
  4. Who are some of the founders you admire the most?
  5. What keeps them up at night right now (besides limited liquidity)**?

**which is a) a great little joke and b) and if you don’t know what this means then you need to read Secrets of Sandhill Road and google what people have been saying about the kiboshed Figma <> Adobe deal. Or just google VC liquidity worries.

Dance around a Q without answering it. Be succinct and direct - answer their Q. “Oh I'm a founder”
Name drop. Just don’t. “In the _____ space / industry”
Pre-empt them by asking for a meeting. This will get awkward. FAST.

After they ask, you can say: “We help XYZ person solve ABC problem in ___ x faster OR ___ x better OR _____ x cheaper.”

^^ super simple, palpable, clear

If you want to learn how to become a founder and raise your first $1M to $10 million, click here to access Melissa's "So You Wanna be a Founder?" course.

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