Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #44

The great email debate continues

Last week, I shared an article called Nobody Reads Emails From Entrepreneurs That Begin with These 5 Phrases. It blew up. (With a click-baity title like that, how could it not?)

I got tons of comments and responses, and they all basically said the same thing:

“You’re a jerk for being so transactional about emails.”

Just kidding. Only a minority of people had that response. (Which isn’t to say they’re wrong, but that’s a subject for another newsletter.) In reality, most people agreed with my points and wanted to know what they should be saying in their emails.

I wrote an article addressing that exact topic, and you can read it below!

Also, in this week’s EOH, I had an amazing conversation with Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda, founder of Slashdot. Even if you never used Slashdot, how could you not want to listen to the story of someone who goes by the name CmdrTaco?

If neither of those interest you, and the other articles don’t either, skip to the Q&A at the end where I answer a question about what slides to include in a pitch deck.

When you’re done with all that, be sure to share this issue with your friends. Better yet, share it with your frenemies by posting it on social media.

-Aaron


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Entrepreneurs Who Get Responses to Their Emails Always Do This One Thing Right

It’s the follow-up article to last week’s viral hit. There’s a reason people are ignoring your cold emails, and it’s (probably) not because your startup sucks.


The CmdrTaco Who Popularized Social News

If you get lots of your news from sites like Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, then you owe a debt of gratitude to the guest on this Web Masters episode. It's Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, founder of Slashdot, the pioneer of social news.

Listen to CmdrTaco’s story now on:

…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.



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But there was a problem he hadn't anticipated.


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Office Hours Q&A

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QUESTION:

Hey Aaron,

As a product/brand is approaching the time to look for $, I’ve been working on a Pitch Deck. After version 3.0 (nice, well designed, good, with plenty of info and too many slides...) I got fed up and just copied AirBnBs famous example. To no one’s surprise, our Advisor “can’t show this to his finance friends” and so on.

Is it being “lazy,” comfortable, or unserious to assume a potential investor will consult our homepage if they’re curious about our company after having looked through a 10 slide deck? I thought the whole idea was to hook them, no? Isn’t an ideal Pitch Deck one slide: “We’ll make You 537 trillion dollars in three years”?

Am I right in assuming the important slides for an initial pre-seed pitch are Problem, Solution, Market, Profit?

Team, Customer Acquisition, Legal Issues etc are important as hell, but are they really bait?

Gratefully,

Tommi

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For starters, you’re in the right ballpark by at least recognizing that a pitch deck isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of thing. By that I mean different stages of growth require different types of pitch decks, so the one you’re creating at the seed stage is different than the one you’re creating when you’re raising your Series Z round.

Now let’s add to this complexity. No matter what stage you’re at, you’re likely going to need multiple pitch decks. At the very least, you’ll need two. One pitch deck you’ll use when you’re actually pitching (obviously). The other pitch deck is the deck you send investors when they say “send me your deck” (either before you’ve convinced them to hear your pitch or after you’ve pitched them and they want to share with other people).

These decks are related, but they aren’t the same because they have to do two very different jobs.

When you’re pitching your company using a traditional pitch deck, your slides should have almost no text on them. Instead, you — the person talking — should be explaining all the important stuff. In fact, the deck you pitch with should be so sparse that it’s basically impossible to understand the story it’s telling without you there to narrate it.

Because your actual pitch deck has so few words on it, you’ll need another deck people can understand when you’re not around (this includes the people who saw you give your actual pitch).

For some reason, this second deck is sometimes referred to as a “pitch deck,” too, even though you’re not pitching with it. A better term for it is “summary deck” or “opportunity overview.”

Regardless of what you call it, this second version of your deck will have more text because it needs to tell the story of your company without you being present to explain anything. The easiest version of this deck is to take whatever slides you’re using as your in-person pitch deck and basically add the words you would have said if you were there.

But please don’t do that. Instead, think of your summary deck as a completely different deck that needs to convey the same info.

Based on your question, what you seem to be asking about is your summary deck, not your pitch deck. And you want to know what type of info it needs to include so people in your network can share it with potential investors in the hopes of getting meetings.

Honestly, that’s a problem I often struggled with during my entrepreneurial career. Over the years, I had lots of advisors/investors/mentors/friends pass around my decks, and nothing much ever came from it.

Maybe I had bad decks. In that case, you may not want my advice for what to include. However, because I did ultimately raise capital, I don’t think the quality of my decks was the main issue. I think there was a bigger problem.

Fundamentally, a shared deck, by itself, is never going to be as compelling as an in-person pitch or conversation with a founder. Eventually, I realized this and decided that asking people to share my deck with their networks was a terrible way to meet investors.

Instead, I learned the best way to get meetings with investors was not through my network. (I recently wrote an article about it here.) The TL:DR of the article is that you shouldn’t be relying on other people to share your deck for you and make intros. Instead, identify the investors you want to connect with, and then send a short, clear email explaining why the thing you’re doing is interesting (e.g. $10,000 in MRR; 20,000 beta users; or whatever you’ve got). If the little nugget of info about what you’re doing is genuinely interesting, you’ll get a response, you’ll get a meeting, and you’ll get a chance to pitch in-person, which is much more effective. After the pitch, you can follow-up with your summary deck, assuming the investor even wants it.

Oh… and what should you do if you don’t have a genuinely interesting nugget of info about your startup that’s shareable in one sentence? Easy! Don’t fundraise.

If no single piece of information about your company is compelling enough to get an investor to at least talk with you, consider it a warning sign. Remember, fundraising isn’t something you do before creating an interesting startup. Fundraising is something you do once you’ve proven a compelling opportunity and need additional capital to help develop and/or scale.

In other words, if you don’t have a one-sentence nugget of info to put in an email that will convince investors to meet with you, you’re not ready to fundraise.

Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!