When approaching a VC at a networking event, what should you do (and not do) and say in the short time you have with them?
Approaching a VC at a networking event can be one of the easiest things you can do. Why? Because the VC is also at the event to network (and we are no different than anyone else). So, what are the do’s and don’ts in the time you have with them. Many of you will view these as “common sense,” as such, consider yourself in great shape for a conversation. For others not as familiar with networking, you can apply some of these basic ideas in your approach to non-VC’s as well. Here you go:
- Get an introduction from a mutual acquaintance – a “friendly” introduction is always good for immediate validation/credibility.
- If you do not have a contact that knows them, come up and say “hi” - introduce yourself (if name badges are being worn make sure it is visible).
- Met before? It’s ok to refresh our memory (remember, we meet lots of people).
- Handshake/smile always creates more of a bond and lowers barriers.
- Look for a common interest to speak about – Did they lead a recent investment or do they have a vertical focus that you know a lot about? Are they involved in the community or participate in an activity that you do too?
- If possible, do a quick search ahead of time to scout the investment profile of the VC and their firm (smartphones make this simple) – if the VC is a late stage investor, approaching them about a seed round of capital may not make sense.
- Tell us the story behind your business and idea – in summary form.
- A first impression is generally made in the first few minutes of meeting someone. So, make your introduction comfortable, yet memorable.
- Remember, VC’s have a vast network, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any suggestions of what you could be doing differently, or things you should think about. That may lead to more introductions from the VC.
- Be wary of when you pitch your company to the VC – if you are still early, without ideas flushed out, you may want to frame the conversation as such.
- Ask insightful questions and then remember to listen to the responses.
- Follow up with an email in the days following the conversation. Include your deck or a link to engage with the product. Try to schedule an initial call or in person meeting to go over the business, if the VC is willing to / has an interest.
What a good introduction might sound like:
“Hi, I am Gabe (shake hands). We met through my friend XYZ, a VC at ABC firm. Last time we met, I mentioned that I may be starting a SaaS company in the real estate space, an industry that I have many connections and a successful career in. I would enjoy sending along my deck, which is tackling a multi-billion dollar problem that I faced. Would that be ok to send your way? I have paying customers and strong product/market fit as evidenced by my scaling user base. I would appreciate 15 minutes to get your thoughts on the business sometime. Would that work for you? ”
Don’ts – some items to remember
Don’t interrupt the individual in the middle of an existing conversation (especially to begin to pitch your idea). Natural pauses will occur. It’s always awkward to meet someone, then have them immediately have to turn back to the conversation at hand because there was some important topic being discussed.
Don’t tell us that once you have money from us then you will finally get some traction. Others have been there before you. Show us that there is value for your product /service and that you can sell it (product market fit and customer validation).
Try not to take more than 5-10 minutes of time overall (unless the person continues to engage you in conversation and questions). Why? There are a lot of people to meet and catch up with – for you too!