"It's a pretty good time to fundraise," says Phil Libin, the former managing director of investment firm General Catalyst and co-founder of Evernote.
That's probably an understatement, considering his latest company, Mmhmm, which is just a year old, wasn't planning on raising new funding until 2022. It has no pitch deck and yet last week, it announced that it had pulled in a whopping $100 million.
Mmhmm plans to use the cash infusion--which includes capital from Softbank Vision Fund, along with World Innovation Lab, Sequoia Capital, and others--to fuel its product development through remote hiring. "One hundred percent of our jobs are global," Libin says. "It's still hard to hire great people. Knowledge companies are going to be at a massive disadvantage if they are making people come in and sit in traffic."
The investment came together quickly. Libin himself delivered the pitch to investors--who, to be sure, were likely extra receptive given his history of success--basically just by "showing them what's already on our website."
His years as an investor and serial entrepreneur helped give him a clear window into what was different this time around. First, the attitude around his company's product, which augments video-chat presentations in both useful and amusing ways, has shifted. At the start of the pandemic, Mmhmm was something of a "painkiller," or a way to make the slog of Zoom calls more tolerable, Libin says. But now that companies are seeing an upside to remote and hybrid work, great video can be a remarkable asset.
It was a shift in thinking that Libin says other founders can adopt when approaching investors. "Think about the most rigorously optimistic view of what your company does," he says.
He adds that using "jazz hands" doesn't hurt either. That is, if you're a founder looking to supercharge your company's growth through venture capital, you should rethink your standard slide-deck presentation. When presenting to an investor, who perhaps invests in one company for every 1,000 pitches she encounters, your own entertainment value is extremely important.
"You have to be more impressive than the last 1,000 things they've seen. At least you have to be the most entertaining thing they've seen this year," Libin says. "Take your responsibility for not boring investors very seriously."
So when it was Libin's turn, how did he do that? While he may have shown Masayoshi Son and others at Softbank a version of a presentation that's already online, he had them laughing multiple times. There was joy, even in what was a middle-of-the-night video call about funding, he says, "Having them have visceral enjoyment is key right now. Especially after a year and a half of not."