Investor pitches can be important turning points for startups. Nailing the pitches can transform the startup. However, while preparing for the investor meeting is clearly important, you should also consider treating every interaction seriously – even with strangers. As explored below, not only can such interactions open new possibilities, but also an opportunity to improve your business and pitch.
You never know who you may be talking to
The first reason that you should also take interactions with others seriously, is that you never know who you are talking to, the experiences that they have, or how they could potentially be of benefit to your startup. The random person that you run into in a bar could be your most valuable next customer. The person you bump into in the gym could have some valuable industry contacts.
Part of the reason you should take all your interactions seriously is that it is very hard to turn around an interaction that you start badly. If you blow off a new contact, it is very difficult to turn around the interaction should you discover that they are far more influential than you initially presumed.
You may learn something from conversations
While a majority of interactions will have no direct, tangible benefits – most people that you bump into are not investors eager to join your firm – sometimes you learn things from the conversations. A question that you weren’t expecting can sometimes highlight an opportunity, or a potential weakness you should be aware of.
Innovations come from outside your direct industry, and speaking with individuals in different areas can sometimes draw your attention to different ways of doing things that can make your operations more efficient.
Gives opportunities to practice your pitch
The final benefit of pitching all interactions is that it helps you practice your pitch and responses to questions. You will only ever likely get a handful of key investor meetings – don’t wait for the important interactions to practice for the first time. Treating all interactions as important means that by the time you have your important meetings – the ones that can truly transform your organization – you will likely have direct experience in presenting and discussing all angles of the firm.
Final thoughts: Balancing secrecy with the benefits of discussing with others
A common founder concern is that discussing your startup will reveal secret information; that discussing information with others will suddenly lead to them copying your business idea. While it is important to be aware of the need for secrecy, ultimately, if you are able to ‘give away your secret source’ in a minute or two conversation, your firm is unlikely to have the necessary components to prevent imitation.
If you have genuine concerns that sharing basic important about your company will lead to new entrants and that new firms would be able to easily catch up with your performance, this in itself should be a key warning about your business model. Ultimately, you will need to launch your business, and at that point, such low industry entry barriers will likely mean other firms are quickly able to enter your market.
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