One of the most common fund-raising questions founders ask is: can my co-founder and I pitch the company together? You have a great co-founder, so it is a natural thing to want to do. My recommendation? Strongly resist the temptation. It is a very bad idea. Some roads are better walked alone. Single person pitching, by the CEO, is always the preferred approach. In the Q&A you can find a role for others, but you should not make a role in the pitch itself.

Investors Need to See the CEO
In the early days of a start-up, the CEO is the critical face of the company. Over time, the head of sales and other people will help shape the way the company interfaces with the outside world, but at the beginning it is the CEO. She sets the vision, she communicates the story, she sets the tone from the top, she builds the team, she defines the character of the organization. She, as much as anything, is what the investors are investing in at the seed stage. Any pitch time devoted to anyone else is time that the investors cannot use to appraise the CEO.

The CEO Has to Demonstrate Mastery of the Whole Story
Given the importance of the role, the CEO needs to demonstrate comfort with the entire process: strategy, technology, team building, marketing, sales and go-to-market, and the business model and revenue model. If the CEO puts other people up there to tell key parts of the story, it begs a natural question: does she have a comfortable handle on those parts? This is particularly true when presenting the numbers. It is OK to have a CFO back you up, but you have to know the numbers cold and be comfortable and effective in talking about them.

Speaker Transitions are Distracting
Further, as a practical matter, passing the slide remote back and forth is clumsy. Most pitches are time-limited, and all are attention-limited. Investors are only going to stay engaged for so long. Fumbling with handing the baton back and forth is distracting, breaks the narrative flow, looks amateur, and wastes precious time.

Intensive Co-Founder Prep is Still Required
Be forewarned. Even when you relegate co-founder contributions to the Q&A portion of the pitch, you still need to put in intensive prep to avoid land mines. Co-founders need to be very brief and stay on script. Prep to keep answers short. This helps keep the Q&A cadence high so you can answer more questions. Sometimes co-founders have been bottled up so long they start rambling and over-answer (based on anecdotal evidence, this appears to be particularly true of technical co-founders). It is also important to prep your choreography to avoid the pitfall of not knowing who should answer which questions. If you both jump in and talk over each other, people will wonder who is in charge (and why you didn't prepare better). Similarly, contradicting each other makes people wonder if you are on the same page, covering something up or not being totally forthright. Same with steamrollering over a co-founder trying to answers--it makes people wonder if you are a good manager.

Have A Plan
In case it is not obvious, the Q&A phase is a really tricky business. The choreography and body language during the team Q&A is critical to a successful outing. Although many CEOs choose to just show up alone (which is always my advice, provided you have a good team slide), there are some advantages to showing off your great team. To make it work to your advantage, you need a plan, and lots of prep to nail the execution. Generally the best plan is to agree that the CEO will take all questions EXCEPT those on specific topics. Then agree exactly what the answers to those topics are going to be and practice them until they are fast, tight and on point.

Most good CEOs will agree this advice is common sense. The trick is to take the time to think everything through before the first pitch. Forewarned is forearmed. Take the time to create a roadmap that will detour you around the major potholes. Experience is great, but a lot of times experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.


Published on: Apr 15, 2015