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What Not to Do When Pitching Your Company to a VC

Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 | 11:32 AM ET
Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 in New York
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Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 in New York

There are a few things you absolutely shouldn't do when pitching your company to potential investors, a leading venture capitalist told an audience at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in New York City on Tuesday.

Fred Wilson, managing partner at Union Square Ventures, shared some common mistakes he sees entrepreneurs make.

Don't Tell Your Life Story

Investors don't care about your transformative teenage years, so skip that narrative and focus on beginning a discussion about your idea. Besides, it's impolite to talk about yourself.

"Going through a really long backstory is a bad idea," Wilson said. "I prefer someone to come in and make a really bold, audacious statement right off the bat, like 'I'm doing the stupidest thing you've ever heard of.' … Hook the person, then reel them in."

A good way to envision your presentation is by using one slide to describe the opportunity, hit all the big points and try to "lean in" to get a conversation going about your project.

Be Crazy, Not Insane

Doing things differently, knowing you're right when everybody else thinks you're wrong, takes courage—and also a bit of wack, according to Wilson.

"It's good to be a little crazy if you are looking to attract some investors," he said. "I think crazy is a compliment. I think you make money with people who are crazy."

But there's a line between constructively crazy and unbalanced, he added.

Investors "don't want a psychopath," Wilson said. "You want someone who is crazy but mentally healthy. I think people who are genuinely mentally unstable, it will reveal itself over time, and hopefully it will reveal itself before you write the check."

Show, Then Tell

Investors don't want to just hear you talk; they want to see something.

A common mistake entrepreneurs make is talking about their product for half an hour and then showing it for only a few minutes, Wilson said. Instead, he said, you should show first.

"It's all about getting a conversation going," he said. "If you can't get the other person talking to you, then they're not listening to what you are saying."

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