Aug 12 2010

How not to pitch your business

I had an exchange with an entrepreneur last night that I couldn’t resist posting (I did resist including the guy’s name, however). It started with a relatively typical email. One which I wonder why I still receive but still get regularly. The entrepreneur writes:

Seth…..I’d like to pitch you on a start up. I need the help of someone like you. I haven’t filed any patents yet and I need a nda signed. can we do it?

I respond as I do for all requests like this by saying:

Hi [name redacted]. Like most VCs I don’t sign NDAs (see: Let me know if you’d still like to show me what you’re up to (totally understand if you feel it’s too sensitive).

Here’s what I received in response:

Seth….I’m reaching out to you here, lets get off this old cookie cutter vc "don’t sign nda’s" attitude, it’s only until the patents are filed. I believe I’ve got one of the biggest deals to come down the pike in years. This isn’t my first rodeo. Just FYI, no matter how hard you crunch the numbers, this is a 20+B per year deal. I already have demo software and I need you to help me put a team together, the money will come as soon as we are able to "show and tell" so to speak. Please reconsider.

Really? That’s how you’re engaging with me? I can’t imagine how you think this is a winning strategy. Am I supposed to be bowled over by how amazing this potential opportunity might be, change a cardinal rule of our business and through this series of emails think that you’d be a competent manager, effective advocate for your business and a good guy to work with?

The initial email is completely casual, full of mixed cases and grammatical errors. Oh, and totally un-researched. But the second response really takes the cake and what caused me to post this for the world to see. Of course you have one of the biggest deals ever. Clearly this isn’t your first rodeo. Certainly you’re playing in a $20BN market. And without question I’m just one of those cookie cutter VCs. Obviously I should change my attitude.

[BTW, in case you were wondering, I didn’t bother responding]