Why a prototype is worth 1,000 pitch decks

The article All about creating a startup pitch deck to raise funding is by far the best compendium of  pitch decks successfully used to raise startup funding. If that’s what you are doing, investing the time to read this very lengthy article and review all the decks will be time well invested.

However, as I advise my mentees who are raising capital, there’s a hierarchy of approaches to investors, in descending order of pitch power they are:

  1. A product or service in the market and a growing number of paying customers
  2. A product or service being used by a signifcant and growing number of people
  3. A prototype that blows people’s socks off
  4. A great pitch deck

The best pitch story comes from Fred Wilson of Union  Square Ventures, whose partner at his early firm, Flatiron Ventures, Jerry Colonna, was an investor in my first company, Course Technology. Fred is now one of the top VCs in the country. I believe that Jerry has retired. Fred’s blog, AVC, is well worth following.

This story is so good I’m going to quote it in it’s entirety rather than just post the link:

Best Seed Pitch Ever

I read yesterday evening that our portfolio company Twilio, which priced its IPO last night, is going to live code from the NYSE this morning. That brought a powerful flashback to the first time I met Jeff Lawson, founder and CEO of Twilio.

It was 2008 in our old offices on the 14th floor of the building we still work in. My partner Albert, who led our investment in Twilio, had met Jeff and was impressed with him and his vision for Twilio. He asked me if I would meet with him and so I did.

Jeff came into the conference room, sat down, and said “we have taken the entire messy and complex world of telephony and reduced it to five API calls”.

I said “get out of here, that’s impossible.”

Jeff proceeded to reel them off and I said “wow”.

He then pulled out his laptop, fired up an editor, and started live coding an app. He asked me for my cell phone number and within 30 seconds my phone was ringing.

I said “you can stop there. that’s amazing”.

It was, and remains, the best seed pitch I’ve ever gotten. I’ve told him that many times and have told this story many times. I am not sure why it has never made it to this blog. But this morning is a great time for that to happen.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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