By Beck Bamberger, founder of BAM Communications
Publicists are to the media as entrepreneurs are to venture capitalists. Just as entrepreneurs show VCs compelling reasons to invest in them, PR pros persuade the media to write about their clients. At my company, we work with a number of VCs, as we represent many startup brands. But long before we hit up journalists with angles, tie-ins, and various renditions of a startup's story worthy of media coverage, VCs heard the story first.
Below is a compilation of reasons VCs ultimately decided to write a check, based on our conversations for the purpose of this article:
Let the Target Talk
"OpenInvest showed me how enormous the market is with a data-dense, well-researched deck. We have the largest wealth transfer in history coming up: $58.7 trillion will transfer soon to millennials. They compiled and conducted studies that showed 93 percent of millennials believe a company's social and environmental record is key to their investment decisions. In addition, 86 percent of heirs in global family offices will fire their wealth advisors within a year of inheriting wealth. The data told a story of a market in the trillions of dollars, and OpenInvest is going to help millions steer their capital into impact investing." - Sarah Cone, Managing Partner at Social Impact Capital
Use Emotional Appeals
"Finding those startups that could have a lasting impact in society is not an easy task and can come from anywhere. When Lisa Gantsky, an amazing LP in our fund, introduced us to Komal Ahmad, I hugged her after our first in-person meeting. That's how touched I was about her story of why she decided to build COPIA, a company created to feed those in need using excess food from events and companies. If the company story hits me straight in the heart, I know the company itself is compelling." - Jacob Shea, Partner at Structure Capital
Show Signs of Life-Long Character
"We led the Series A investment in Booster Fuels in January, and while many things about the business and market stood out, we were particularly impressed with the founder and CEO, Frank Mycroft. Frank is a rocket scientist, literally, and has the technical chops and attention to detail required to build this multi-faceted business. We also learned that he is an Eagle Scout. And while that might seem unrelated at first glance, we saw the values of leadership, hard work, and commitment to duty emulated by him in every step of launching and running a complex company in a highly regulated space." - Anarghya Vardhana, Senior Associate at Maveron
Give a (Literal) Test Drive
"Sure, Kyle's background was impressive. He was an MIT roboticist and co-founder of the wildly successful gaming online video network, Twitch. But, to be honest, it was Cruise's product demo that had me commit to invest right after our initial meeting. He held an old Sony Playstation controller in his hand and drove an Audi A4 (that had been retrofitted with Cruise technology) around my office's parking lot with it. Everything I saw had been hacked together in under three months. It was a no-brainer." - Sunny Dhillon, partner at Signia Venture Partners
Ditch the Duct Tape
"Building a technology company for groceries means you operate with unusually thin margins. Hence, running a very tight and well-managed operation becomes critical to your success. When I met with the founding team of Cornershop the first time, they showed me a beautiful consumer interface, and explained how the service works to deliver groceries within 90 minutes. Most startups in their early days have to make harsh prioritization in terms of development and implementation of processes and structure. You simply can't do it all at once. The customer usually comes first, resulting in "duct tape" being used internally to support the operations with bare minimum. But Cornershop had developed a very sophisticated internal management system, which allows them to drill into granule details in real-time about most operating metrics, and take actions based on it. This is something which is not only difficult to build but also implement, and something we tend to see in much more mature companies." - Carl Fritjofsson, Principal at Creandum
Don't Be Married to Your Story
"When I asked Amit Sharma, the CEO and Founder of Narvar, to share his projected product roadmap with me, he said, 'I do not create my long-term product roadmap -- my customers will do that.' At that moment, it was clear to me that I was dealing with a very customer-focused (vs. VC focused) entrepreneur. Many times, entrepreneurs give VCs the answers they think we want to hear while what we really want to know is what entrepreneurs honestly believe and why and also, the personality of the person with whom we may be working." - Jenny Lefcourt, Partner at Freestyle
"Almost every investment I've made had an element of surprise in the pitch. If the founder can make me look at a market in an entirely new way or show me a change in end-user behavior creating an entirely new industry, I'm intrigued. One particular investment, Power Supply, had me reconsider the multi-trillion dollar industry of food, and I've been in the food space for more than 10-plus years since my Urbanspoon days. Most recent "food" investments surround how to get lazy, wealthy people food faster. Power Supply took a different approach, honing in on super active or health-oriented consumers who view food as an anchor to a broader health or wellness lifestyle: e.g., those who crossfit and eat paleo or diabetic-friendly for those living with diabetes or are pre-diabetic. In short, they weren't shoving healthy food to the every day, well-to-do consumer. They stuck to a core demographic and remarkably had the unit economics that proved serving this demographic." - Kara Nortman, Partner at Upfront Ventures
Similar to journalists, VCs are a discerning bunch, wanting to hear just the right angle and aspect about a company that compels them to sign a check. Whether you're seeking a check or headline, pay attention to crafting an enticing narrative.
Beck Bamberger founded BAM Communications in 2007 and has since founded three other businesses, Bite San Diego, Nosh Las Vegas and Pangea Pal. In 2011, she won an Emmy for on-camera hosting in a talk show format for her show, Next 500. She is currently a board member of Gen-Next, a marketing domain expert with CONNECT's SDSI organization and a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters.