Ask an Investor: Should I bring my co-founder to a pitch?

Silicon Valley co-founders

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My general rule is that any founder in a VC pitch should be speaking 25 percent of the time at a minimum, and hopefully more. So, if you feel like your co-founder(s) won’t be speaking on behalf of the company at least that amount of time, you’re better off going into a meeting without them.

A common tendency I see is for founders to feel they all need to attend each and every pitch (even an initial VC pitch) as a sign of solidarity/teamwork, to have someone on hand in case a question comes up the CEO can’t answer at a deeper level or because they don’t want to leave any of the founders out of the fundraising process (a process that will ultimately result in the founders having to make a difficult and important decision about who to take investment from and on what terms).

Founders feel the need to attend each and every pitch. Resist the temptation.

I would resist these temptations and optimize against the goal of each meeting. The initial pitch should be a high-level introduction to your business and your goal is to get the VC to engage further and drill down, in subsequent meetings, in more detail on functional areas such as sales, go-to-market, technology, etc. Few things make a bad first impression more than someone sitting in a pitch and not contributing or speaking. It leaves VCs wondering why you brought that person, makes them question that person’s contribution to the company, and may make them feel like you aren’t leveraging people effectively in operational areas of your business (outside of just VC pitching). All of this reflects badly on your company and diminishes chances of a follow-on meeting.

If you have a CEO, without a doubt, they should always be in attendance and be the lead pitcher in an initial VC meeting. If you don’t have a CEO, it should be the co-founder who is the most comfortable speaking with VCs and who the founders have collectively appointed as your fundraising/investor relations lead.

But how do you decide about your other co-founder(s) attendance? My advice is to do some warm-up meetings with your current investors/advisors, or even with some VCs that you know won’t likely invest. After a few trial runs, you will know who is speaking to what and when on each slide/demo/topic of your pitch. From there, using the 25 percent rule above, you can gauge who should go to an initial VC pitch meeting. Also, do your homework on the VC you are pitching. For instance, if you know you are meeting a very technically focused VC at a given firm, you can be sure that a lot of the initial pitch will be skewed towards technology and product discussions. Anticipate this and plan founder attendance accordingly.

For VCs who show interest in following-up, you can always bring your co-founder(s) to a subsequent meeting. For instance, interested VCs, after an initial high-level pitch, will often want to do a deeper dive on your product roadmap, technology stack or sales pipeline etc. For these more focused follow-up pitches, again use the 25 percent rule, if you anticipate your technical or sales focused co-founder will be speaking a lot in these meetings, by all means, bring them along and even consider having them lead that meeting. And, as the CEO, if you don’t feel like you will be speaking a material amount in one of these meetings, let the co-founder go on their own.

At some point, an interested VC is going to want to meet all of the founders of a company they are serious about investing in, and typically pretty early in the process, but don’t be scared about doing this in sequence, on your schedule, and at the right times. A good VC will be impressed by your efficiency. After all, we know you have a business to run outside out of just doing fundraising meetings!

As for the coveted “all partners” meeting (typically the final meeting with a VC group before they issue a term sheet, in which all partners of a VC firm are in attendance), when you get there, ask the guidance of your lead champion (the partner who has been engaging with you the most) at the VC firm who you should be bringing to the meeting. They know their partnership the best and can give you the best advice on who should be attending this meeting.

Happy pitching!

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Roger Chabra

Roger Chabra is the CIO at TribalScale, a global provider of digital products & companies for mobile & emerging technology platforms with offices in Toronto, Los Angeles, Dubai, San Francisco and New York City. You can follow Roger on Twitter at @rchabra

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