Pitching investors online? How to bypass the Zoom doom

To crack the secret of the remote pitch, early-stage ventures must “grow up” and start thinking like revenue-generating companies

Yael Benjamin 09:3706.12.20
If you are an early-stage startup looking to raise funds, Covid-19 has just made your life that much harder. New research by Startup Snapshot found that 46% of startups reported online pitching made it more difficult to close a funding round. Early-stage founders, those that raised under $10M, are the ones feeling the burn, reporting more difficulty in online pitching (52%), shrinking check sizes (30%), and less interest from international investors (38%) when compared to their later stage peers.


Unlike more established ventures that have traction and sales data to back up their vision, early-stage due diligence is based on the founding team’s ability to convince investors they can execute. But in the Zoom age, digital pitches are making it harder for early-stage founders to get their passion and team dynamics across. You can’t demonstrate your high energy levels or sketch out complex concepts on a whiteboard via zoom.

Yael Benjamin. Photo: Merav Ben Loulou. Yael Benjamin. Photo: Merav Ben Loulou.


So how can early-stage founders thrive in today’s remote reality, leveraging the digital platforms to impress international investors?


Start thinking like a revenue-generating company, even if you’re not


To excel in today’s remote pitch, early-stage ventures must essentially grow up, starting to think and prepare like later stage companies, much before the time has actually come. To bypass the “Zoom doom”, they can no longer rely on their soft skills, their vision, passion, or personal connection with the investor. Today, if an early-stage venture wants to win, they must back up their vision with data and validation, even if they are months away from initial revenue.


Without sales figures, what data can an early-stage company rely on? The secret lies in collecting data and insights from market experts, validating product-market fit, and increasing investor confidence. Having answers backed by this concrete market data transforms early-stage assumptions into quantifiable answers.


For a pre-revenue startup looking to fundraise, I suggest interviewing potential clients in their target market. Make sure to record the interviews or take detailed call notes that can later be sent to investors. Treat this exercise with all the seriousness and respect it deserves. These are not friendly calls to gather opinions, but rather a strategic research project to validate assumptions: specific company budgets, cost of user acquisition, potential channels, and existing demand.


When faced with questions during the online pitch session, you will be prepared with feedback directly from your market, stating “I just spoke to Bob from Company X, who has an available budget of X for this type of solution…” or “I interviewed John from Company Y who is working with the competitor and…”


It’s true, interviews are not a guarantee for future sales success. However, by analyzing your market methodically and strategically like a growth stage company, coming prepared with the insider insights directly from your target market, you will generate investor confidence and prove your ability to execute.


The future of the pitch


Today’s remote reality is adding another layer of difficulty to an already daunting task. However, entrepreneurs that will manage to crack the secret to a successful online pitch, will be able to tap into an expansive international investor network, managing entire roadshows from the comfort of their couch at home.


Yael Benjamin is the founder of Y.Benjamin Strategic Marketing and Startup Snapshot, a data-sharing platform working to increase transparency in the venture ecosystem.