What mentors want

August 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The following very thoughtful piece was written by dam in Berlin on his experience at Seedcamp. Great advice for anyone pitching or working with mentors. The full version is here along with a great video from Fred Destin on how to hack VC’s:

Here are the highlights for me:

For those that I only have 0–5 minutes to talk with (at coffee breaks, lunch, in the hall):

* Be confident, simple (it takes strength to be simple) and clear – I am on your team so don’t use more words than necessary.
* I don’t want to talk about me but you may want to know what I have done that makes my advice worth listening to (
* A FAST way for me to relate to the premise (not the details) of your business. WHY? I want to be able to describe your business to someone in my network in a way they can understand in about 7 seconds, e.g. “I met Company X, they are creating this value to consumers this way…” As perhaps an overused concept, think 140 characters or less.
* Explain to me how you are discovering your business model – if you tell me you have one ready at this stage I won’t believe you (for the most part). Why? This helps you demonstrate your product to me in a working, feedback-open manner where you will hopefully turn off that awkward pitch tone you may think you have to use (again, I can’t fund you). Also, I will hopefully be able to help you clearly get a handle on market-accepted metrics/benchmarks that will translate to a further proof of a concept worth funding.
* I want to know your market (and “everyone” doesn’t count) – if you tell me you need “just” 10% of the UK market I will say something to the effect of “interesting”, which is not good. Try to capture how you are defining your specific user or consumer base as you discover your business model (evolve your product).
* Carry a notebook, tablet or something to always write on for SPECIFIC follow ups – make “us” own what we say we can help you with by sending a simple, specific and polite follow up note (within about 48 hours if you want real help) – you may not want to just connect on LinkedIn – you will likely become clutter!

For those that I am lucky enough to meet with in the 45 minute sessions:

* Start with introductions at the table that YOU (the team) should lead – ask if anyone is carrying a business card they would like to hand you when they introduce themselves. HINT: arrange the business cards to correspond with the way people are sitting (facing you) – you should ALSO have a piece of paper for each session where you write down under each person’s name worthwhile ideas that you can mention in your follow up note. I can’t tell you how many people don’t take advantage of simple methods like this to keep organized, and it’s a shame because you meet 100+ people and ideas come from all directions.
* Come prepared with a (max) 5 minute recap that is composed something like the following (in case people couldn’t hear or didn’t see your presentation at the start). “Hi everyone – we are “Company Name” and we are trying to serve “customers” by delighting them with “stuff”. For today’s session I would like some feedback about a few things: our “pitch”, the way we are trying to discover our business model, product applications/extensions (not feature debate) and finally market fit (where we are and where we should be); at the end I would love to open it up for broad discussion and to see if you have any advice, perspective, reactions, introductions, resources, etc. that we might want to consider in order to carry “Company Name” forward. Would anyone like to add anything that they think would be helpful for us to discuss in a group? We are happy to meet and talk afterwards if you think there is a specific topic better served within a one-to-one chat.
* Come with visuals for those that were sat at the back (10–15 printouts of your home page/core offering/pitch deck) for people to write on (and carry home with them), or for you to offer to them to catch up instead of having to bore the rest of us that were paying attention.
* Start organizing your feedback/action items against two major factors – urgency and impact. Make sure to challenge mentors by asking how urgent they think something is (and why) or how they would qualify the impact of their suggestion (actual metrics).

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