Platitudes and PowerPoint Make VCs say “No”
Selling hard: The fast track to VC disinterest

Scott Stanford, co-founder of Sherpa Capital, has some advice for founders pitching to VCs: Don’t try to sell.

A pitch that tries to sell is weak, and seeds doubt in a VC’s mind. “We look for founders who are not trying to sell us,” he told attendees at Lisbon’s Web Summit. “You want to be bought.”

Some other reasons you might be hearing “No”:

  • You haven’t built anything. “If you come to us with a great idea, you are dead on arrival. Ideas are free. Ideas are basically worthless.”
  • You’re desperate. “We smell desperation right away.” Meet investors casually … before you run out of money.
  • You’re using buzzwords. Once you get into the pitch, “You have to break through the noise,” says Stanford. “Break out of platitudes. If we hear one more time, ‘We are the Uber of …’”
  • You have a PowerPoint deck. Just bring data, Stanford recommends. If you do not have data, get other people’s data.

As founders themselves, Stanford and his partners appreciate the work that goes into each startup — they read every email the company receives, encouraging founders to keep knocking on doors.

“In starting Sherpa Capital we have been told ‘No’ 400 times,” he added. “It is like kissing every frog. Kiss, kiss and kiss, eventually you find a prince.”