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How to present yourself as a startup in discussions with venture capital investors and answer questions!

Every team member should actively participate in venture capital pitches and use criticism constructively. A clear division of roles and positive body language are essential. These principles reflect perpetuo GmbH’s expertise in management consulting and venture management.

I sit in numerous meetings every day, from startup pitches to board presentations in DAX companies. There is usually a team there that presents. It is almost always the CEO with members of his or her management team, including employees from tech, marketing, sales and/or product management.

Venture capital investors love teams. They want to see a strong CEO and leader who is in charge. But they also want to see that you can lead talented people and have them on board. So any kind of presentation is about getting a sense of the team dynamic – and believe me, all venture capital managers discuss the team dynamic after the pitch is over.

Here are the best tips from my experience on how to present yourself to venture capital investors as part of your pitch:

1. everyone talks! If someone from your team attends the meeting, they must speak. Otherwise, team members end up looking ineffective or insignificant. Adjectives you don’t want to be associated with when raising venture capital. It’s fine to attend an initial meeting alone, but at some point venture capital investors want to get to know the whole founding team.

2. assign slides to individual persons! The best way to involve all team members is to assign slides and content according to their strengths and skill set. In this way, everyone can shine directly with their personal strengths and the venture capital manager can see that essential skills exist.

Venture capital investors want to see critical faculties, openness and cohesion.

3. do not argue among yourselves! There will always be times when you disagree with how someone on your team answered a question to potential venture capital investors. Make a note, suck it up and talk about it after the pitch. Don’t start arguing or discussing in front of investors. A VC wants to see that you have the same understanding of the path you are taking together. Disagreements are not welcome here.

4. do not argue with the venture capital investors! When critical questions and statements about pain points or weaknesses in your business model come up, please remember the following: Ideally, you already have the problem on your radar and can explain your risk mitigation measures. If this is not the case and the topic is completely new to you, respond as follows: say thank you, agree that this is an important point. Offer to take up this point and (preferably together with the investors) promptly consider and provide risk mitigation measures.

In this way, you signal that you are open to criticism and suggestions from outside. And that’s exactly why you’re bringing venture capital into the company! Please do not do the following: talk down, brush away, ignore or even ignore the criticism. Because then you will certainly not receive any venture capital from these investors.

5. pay attention to body language! Even though, fortunately, neither venture capitalist managers nor start-ups make the man, remember that more than 90% of all communication is non-verbal. Even if only subconsciously, people perceive eye rolling, sighing, arm folding, boredom, etc. Be careful not to give this away through body language. Small additional tip (also for 4th): It has been proven that positive thinking has an effect on positive charisma and body language. So think carefully instead of getting annoyed about the stupid question from the venture capital manager.

If you want venture capital, you should prepare yourself: Think about who will answer which questions and what questions might be asked.

6. quarterback questions! The hardest thing to coordinate is figuring out who should answer questions when they are asked. This applies just as much to a meeting with venture capital managers as it does to a sales meeting or any other group situation. I always recommend that you appoint a quarterback in the meeting. It is usually the CEO. The aim is for this person to listen to the question and then either answer it themselves or assign someone to answer the question.

7. have the difficult discussions before they even come to the table! Venture capital is also earned by answering very difficult and sometimes mean questions. And venture capital managers love mean questions! They could be something like: “If you were offered 100 million euros, would you sell?” or “If you ran out of money and one of you had to leave, who would it be?” However, they only want to use such questions to find out how decisions are made in your company. Because everything that can go wrong in a company will probably go wrong. It is therefore good to think about this in advance and to be able to answer it consistently.

To summarize: Teams are important. You have presented yourselves well if you are perceived as just that. Especially in the heart of the Ruhr region, in Dortmund, we are fans of great footballers and their individual class. However, they in particular need to know when to pass the ball.

It is the same with us and no different. We, perpetuo GmbH, have been an internationally operating group of companies since 2007. The core competencies of perpetuo are management consulting, change management, turnaround management, digital marketing and venture management (in particular as an operational early-stage investor). The main target groups are start-ups, particularly in the early stages of their business (pre-seed/seed) with digitally focused, scalable business models, as well as entrepreneurs and managing directors of SMEs (hidden champions) in and around Dortmund.

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