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Founder-Product Fit: Why It Matters & How to Pitch It


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Fundraising is extremely hard. It's super difficult to get investors' attention. 

Even if a founder does manage to get a meeting (or many), the odds of getting a 2nd meeting are stacked against them. Then, the odds of continuing through the process and getting an investment are even lower - chances sometimes falling close to 0. 

In reality, that's pretty much exactly the statistic. Top VCs only seriously look at about 6% of deals they're presented with. And less than 1% are funded.

But I'm convinced this doesn't have to be the case. I think founders can 10x their chances of successfully fundraising by leaning harder into one thing they most commonly overlook: themselves.

Why the “Team” Section is the Heart of a Pitch Deck

As a former strategic finance professional who has worked with over 75 venture-backed startups. And as now a tech founder who has raised from VC. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of venture ideas, decks, and pitches. I’ve also participated in more investor meetings than I can count, both as a trusted advisor and now as a founder.

One thing that founders strangely too often overlook in their decks, pitches, and meetings is the importance of "Team." Different personas tend to focus on different things when building a deck or pitching. 

If you've ever heard of the idea of the "Hipster, Hacker, Hustler," or "Dream Team," these different personas tend to lean into the aspects of the venture they're most comfortable with. 

The Hipster will tend to focus on marketing, design, and brand. The Hacker will focus on product, engineering, and technical specifications. The Hustler speaks more to vision, sales, TAM, and growth trajectory.

But weirdly, no matter which persona(s) the founders possess and which aspects of their venture they favor discussing, very few lean hard into talking about themselves. Specifically why they are the best people to be running this particular startup. Often, if "Team" is discussed, it's a brief, quick overview of team members' skill sets and experience, at best.

The reality is it should be discussed early, clearly explained, and leaned into very hard - as it relates to the startup. Why? Because it's one of only three things that investors look at for companies in the early stage

1. Is there demand in the market for the problem the company is trying to solve?

2. Is the market big and growing? 

3. Is this the right team to deliver?

Pitfalls in “Team” Slides

I've looked at probably over 500 decks in my career. It always baffles me when I see the "Team" slide as two to four pictures with sometimes only job titles beneath them - and sometimes maybe a fine print one sentence about relevant skills and experience. Or, even worse, a blurb filled with a bunch of buzzwords. This slide is often tucked away at the back of the deck or sometimes not included at all. 

Then, even if the deck had a great "Team" slide, a meeting is taken, what I then commonly see is little to no mention of the team and specifics on "why us" as the right team to deliver on the vision - in the actual meeting like it's somehow self-explanatory. 

The reality is that usually, it's not self-explanatory.

This leads to a problem of investors not understanding the "Founder-Product Fit" of your venture. 

Establishing a Convincing "Founder-Product Fit"

Investors want to feel not just good but to have full conviction that the founding team is the right team to deliver on their startup's vision. The only way to do that is to explain why you are solving the problem you are trying to solve and why you and your team are the best people to get it done - very clearly in the deck, pitch, and meetings.

If you're someone who has a FAANG pedigree, is a 4x founder with multiple exits under their belts, is building an ed-tech product, and has a Masters in Education from Stanford -- this becomes an easy exercise (also if you're someone in that category and are still reading this post, why are you still reading this post? I'm flattered, but scroll away, please).

For the rest of the large majority of founders, the ability to present your "Founder-Product Fit" isn't as simple.

The best thought exercise I've found to start the process of fleshing out your best "Team Slide" or "Team Talk" during meetings is to take a step back from the undying passion you have for your startup and think about yourself and your co-founder(s) for a second. 

Why did you pick you for this startup, and why did you pick them? What are their greatest strengths that you and they bring to the table? And what would be completely missing and impossible to do without you or them?

If you're a solo founder, I can do a separate post about why having more than one founder is critical. But for the sake of brevity, the TLDR is -- if you are a non-technical founder, go out and get a technical founder right now. 

Literally, drop everything and run through walls to do so. No one is going to give you money to hire a CTO if you're a first-time founder without a prototype or MVP. Co-founding team is required.

If you have a founding team, great! Do this mini-analysis right now for you and your founding team.

Analyzing and Presenting Team Strengths

If you're building, for example, an enterprise deep tech product, ask yourself: 

Who knows the technical challenges best? Why? Have they lived the problem? Did they study it at a known university or trade school? Do they have adjacent experience seeing colleagues live the pain point, even if they haven't lived it themselves? 

So if this startup above is a deep tech machine or process that, say, can efficiently sort and extract raw minerals from landfills in a cost-effective way, for example. And you're trying to sell this machine to state, federal or local governments. You better have someone who:

a) knows a lot about the tech behind solving this problem 

b) someone who has experience selling to or has an existing network within the government 

c) someone who has solved something similar, if not exactly this problem, before in some other, maybe less effective way.

If no one on your team has any of the above, you're fighting an uphill battle from Day 1, and I highly recommend rethinking your startup idea. 2x or more founders can often get away with doing something unrelated to their field or experience. But first-time founders need to be positioned to succeed as early as the idea stage. 

"Do what you know" is key. The odds are already heavily stacked against you to win. Don't make it harder on yourself by trying to solve global hunger when you've never left your home city or town, for example.

So, assuming you're not in one of these two extremes above, which most founders aren't, start working on your "Founder-Product Fit" slide and meeting talking points today. 

Here’s an example of a great team slide from a team that isn’t a behemoth unicorn but is still a successful startup. In reality, most startups – even those that do successfully raise – do not end up with $1B valuations. So, we’re bringing everything down to earth in this post to show what’s achievable in the real world.

This team slide is from a presentation design startup called Slidebean, which has raised $1.6M to date. What stands out immediately is a great “Hacker, Hustler, Hipster” combo with a simple but to-the-point set of 2 - 3 bullets that speak to the major aspects of their experience that would be relevant to the startup and excite investors.

Each of these founders alone wouldn’t make a compelling slide by themselves (thus, find co-founders if you’re a solo founder – immediately). But together, they are exactly the pieces needed to show potential for this startup’s success. 

The only thing I’d change is for non-technical founders to put what position they held at X's previous company – 6+ years @ Intel in Caya’s case. 

I happen to know this founder was a Sr. Customer Success rep at Intel. I would include that. It’s a great talking point: "I know customers, I know how to delight them, and I’m obsessed with them.” That customer obsession is a critical skill for a founder, and I would have included the actual position + “customer-obsessed” in his blurb. 

Don’t assume something is not relevant. Be thoughtful and think about how your experience helped you form your startup's vision and why that trait/experience will help you thrive. Being able to explain why something potentially “not sexy” about your experience truly is hyper-relevant is incredibly needle-moving. Investors appreciate it.

Don't be afraid to tell stories. Investors love understanding the story/journey of a startup. And don't be too humble. This is a time where, like in a job interview, you really want to highlight your strengths and how who you are makes sense for your startup. It's one of the only three things investors look at for early-stage deals. 

Don't spend 95% on the other two, only to spend just 5% on "Team." It's way too critical of a decision-making point to race through. Make your story stick. And make the investor believe you and your team are the best humans on earth to run your company.


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