Each week, the Giant Leap Fund receives an average of 20 pitches from startups across Australia. That means we’ll see over 1,000 decks this year, each typically over 10 slides long, for a total exceeding 10,000 in slides.
I review each and every one of them.
This is because we know that running a startup is hard and pitching for investment can be harder. We respect the effort and so we make sure we’re putting in the time to consider each pitch properly.
In the spirit of making the founder experience a little easier, I’ve put together this guide on how to pitch our fund. Each fund differs in their approach, but there may be some advice that applies to all pitches that you can draw from this piece.
My hope is this will give you the best chance of success and provide some clarity on the decisions we make. At the very least, this is a look at the inner workings of a startup investor — you might just find a tasty insight you can use to your advantage.
When is the right stage to speak to us?
This differs for every investor. At Giant Leap Fund, we invest in Seed and Series A stage businesses. This typically means that the service or product has been developed and you’re generating some revenue.
However, it’s never too early to reach out to us.
Business is built on long-term relationships. We love to get to know founders and watch their progress before making an investment.
We try to provide help where we can for early stage founders. For instance, if there’s a fit, we can introduce you to our Impact Angel Network where you can pitch to values-aligned angels who may be better suited to earlier stage investments.
How to get to us?
Around half of the pitches we receive are from people we’ve met (i.e. “warm referrals”) and the other half are from people reaching out via our website contact page.
While we review every pitch that is sent to us, there is an advantage to finding a warm referral. Business relationships are built on trust, and a warm referral can be a shortcut to establishing that foundation.
For example, these referrals can be from:
- Founders in our portfolio
- Angel investors
- VC funds
- Accelerator programs
- Others in our network (refer to LinkedIn).
We realise, however, that it’s not always easy for founders to find these intros. And we are passionate about giving every founder a go, regardless of who they may know.
If you feel you cannot find a warm referral, here are some other ways to get to know us before sending a pitch deck:
- If you feel your business is a clear fit the fund, we hold regular office hours at co-working spaces around the country. These sessions allow us to get to know you and your business ahead of seeing a pitch deck.
- Subscribe to our newsletter and get to know the events, content, and ideas we’re passionate about. Incorporating some of these into your pitch or saying “Hi” at an event is a great shortcut to catching our eye.
What do we look for?
Keep in mind that this criteria differs for every VC, and your best bet for having cut-through is to research the investor before you pitch.
The impact screen
Every pitch deck we see passes through a screening process which starts with the question:
At a glance, is your business making a positive social or environmental impact?
We realise this question can be subjective and most founders start businesses with great intentions. In general, we get excited about businesses that aren’t just avoiding harm and/or creating jobs, but are actively contributing to sustainability or social solutions.
For some examples of areas we’re focusing on at the moment, check out our impact statement here.
We will need an emphatic YES to the following three questions to pass the impact screen.
- Is the impact baked into the business model? (i.e. is every dollar of revenue generated inherently linked to the positive impact?)
- Does the founder show clear passion for the impact mission?
- Can the impact be measured?
The commercial screen
We will then ask ourselves, “Do we believe there is…”
- A compelling solution to a painful problem for customers? (Note: proven traction acquiring customers and revenue is an excellent way to prove this)
- A big enough market opportunity for the business to grow 10x its size?
- A team that has the right skills and resilience to succeed?
- A competitive advantage that can be sustained?
If you inspire belief on these points, there is an excellent chance the team will want to meet you.
How can I raise my chances of getting you interested?
Reading this post is a good start.
Here are a few more tips, that could also put you in good stead with other investors:
- Tailor your pitch so your impact proposition and traction (i.e. customers or revenue to date) are clearly stated. We look for these things first.
- Try to summarise the value proposition in 1 or 2 clear sentences that anyone could understand. We see your ability to do this as a clear indicator of a focused business.
- Provide sources or assumptions for your market size. We see lots of big — but dubious—estimates, so a clearly justified one will stand out.
- Avoid using jargon. Remember that we are not necessarily experts in your domain. If we don’t understand your business, we’re not going to be able to get excited about it.
- Don’t neglect the design of the deck! This is your business card, and you want to make a good impression from the get-go. This is especially true for companies where branding will be important.
What if you get a ‘no’?
If, after you send us your deck, we respond declining the opportunity with some feedback and nothing else, this is typically a firm decision to pass. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that the opportunity isn’t a good fit with our particular fund.
However, our response might include a request to keep us updated or an invitation to connect you to our network of impact angels.
This means we’re curious, but we want to see the business progress a bit further, perhaps with the help of a key angel investor who can provide domain expertise and guidance.
- Charlie Macdonald is an Analyst on the Giant Leap Fund, Australia’s first 100% impact venture capital fund. He is also the first person to review all pitches for the fund.