Tag Archives: Startups

Founders Biggest Pitch Mistake

Never miss a post! Subscribe!

Every day, from demo days to pitch competitions, from LinkedIn messages to e-mail, I see hardworking founders making the same mistake. If you’re raising money today, chances are you’re doing it too.

No trend = no interest

A lot of what venture capitalists and angels are doing when they evaluate a startup is trying to find a trend. Is this company’s product catching on at warp speed, or languishing in a dusty corner of the market?

It’s the founder’s job to show us that trend. But all too often, pitches are long on ideas and short on numbers.

You must show rapid growth in revenue or, at the very least, unpaid users. But in most of the presentations I see, there is no such data at all.

Next, I ask the same question, over and over: “What is your revenue month by month for the last 3 months (3 numbers)?”

That’s when at least 80% of founders make the same mistake: giving me a single, aggregate number for the last 3 months. This does nothing to show investors a trend.

If you made $210,000 in the last 3 months, that could be $70,000 every month. Or it could be $40,000 in October, $60,000 in November, and $110,000 in December.

That’s the difference between 0 growth (appealing to almost no one) and 66% month over month growth (appealing to anyone sane).

If your growth is amazing, don’t hide it by offering up just 1 number or no numbers at all! And if it’s not, be honest about it and do your dardnest to improve it.

Investors will appreciate and remember your candor and your commitment to giving them the information they need.

I can’t emphasize this enough: without data showing a growth trend, it’s almost impossible to say whether I’d want to invest in a company or not. So guess where those pitches go?

Yep, next to the Old Navy ads and the e-mail from Svetlana seeking a husband.

There are simply too many startups doing things right for me to spend a lot of time on those that are doing it wrong, given that I am looking at 100+ pitches a month.

Arm yourself with this information and raise millions! 🙂

Never miss a post! Subscribe!

More on tech:

Cana: The Star Trek Replicator for Beverages

Why I Just Invested in Deft, the Best Way to Shop Online

Why You Should Never Raise a $100 Million Seed Round

Photo: “Head in Hands” by Alex E. Proimos is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Cana: The Star Trek Replicator for Beverages

Never miss a post! Subscribe!

I woke up this morning and wandered into the kitchen. I opened the fridge and poured a delicious glass of tingly seltzer.

Mango flavor.

After a glass or two, I threw out the empty plastic bottle. That bottle may soon make it into the ocean and perhaps even back into my body as microplastics.

But what if I could have my yummy seltzer, along with my morning coffee or even a glass of wine…all from one printer?

This is what Cana, an incredible startup backed by David Friedberg, may soon make a reality. Cana has spent 3 years developing a 3D printer for beverages.

It can make thousands of drinks, from iced coffee to orange juice to beer. Since those drinks are 90% or more water, Cana only has to send you a tiny cartridge with flavor compounds.

The water comes from your tap!

And Cana can add unique flavors to your drink. Maybe almond seltzer is what we’ve been waiting for all along!

If it works, Cana will be incredibly convenient and should be cheaper than regular beverages. But Cana offers a lot more than convenience.

If we quit shipping heavy beverages that are almost entirely water, and quit stocking them on shelves and housing the empties in landfills, the environment will benefit greatly. Imagine all the carbon emissions of trucks and warehouses used to transport and store beverages, gone!

And drinks are just the beginning. Some day, Cana aims to print any consumable item you may need.

The device, about the size of a toaster oven, should be available within the next year, with pricing to be released in February.

I signed up for early access on their website, and I’ll knock over 10 people to be an investor too!

What do you think of Cana’s technology? Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page.

And check out this great interview with David Friedberg on Cana from the This Week in Startups podcast!

Never miss a post! Subscribe!

More on tech:

3D Printing a Human Ear

Why I Just Invested in Deft, the Best Way to Shop Online

Male Contraception With an Ultrasound Device?

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Why I Just Invested in Deft, the Best Way to Shop Online

We’re back!

Sorry I missed you guys Friday. I wasn’t feeling well.

Fortunately, it wasn’t COVID and I’m back to 100%. And I’m really excited about today’s company: Deft.


E-commerce search is broken.

Don’t believe me? Type in a simple search like “pet friendly sectional under $5000” on Google or Amazon.

The results are mostly irrelevant ads and sofa covers, not actual sofas. The brands are trusted names like HDCAXKJ.

That’s why Zach created Deft, the best way to shop online.

Type that search into Deft and you’ll see relevant results from top brands. This saves you time and money.

You can even hire a personal shopper through Deft for a small monthly fee! 

I knew people would pay for a personal shopper when I noticed they pay to skip the security line at the airport (through a company called Clear). Some people have more money than time. 

Deft is currently in beta. I encourage you to check it out!

One day, this will be the standard for e-commerce search and perhaps many other search categories as well. I’m delighted to be an investor!

Check out Zach on the This Week in Startups podcast!

More on tech:

Why You Should Never Raise a $100 Million Seed Round

How to Ace a 3 Minute Pitch

Why I Just Invested in Kippo, Where Gamers Find Love

Photo: “Online shopping” by Robbert Noordzij is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Why You Should Never Raise a $100 Million Seed Round

Markets are hot. And your startup is growing fast.

Time to raise money at the highest price you can get…right?

Wrong. Lately, I’ve seen companies raising seed rounds at valuations of $125 and even $150 million.

A few years ago, a typical seed round valuation was more like $5 to $10 million. Now, that’s beginning to look quaint.

Getting the highest possible price for your company sounds great, but comes with some serious pitfalls. Here’s why you should resist the temptation to swing for the fences:

1) You don’t have enough time grow into the valuation. Companies I’ve seen raising seed rounds at $100 million or more often have little or no revenue.

Meanwhile, tech companies today are IPO-ing at about 15 times revenue. So for your company to truly be worth $100 million, you need about $6.7 million a year in revenue.

Most companies raise enough money in a fundraising round to last 12-18 months. The cash will rarely last more than 2 years.

Can you go from little or no revenue to $6.7 million a year in just 12-24 months? Doubtful.

What happens if you can’t? A down round, or raising money at a lower valuation.

This will upset your existing investors, who quickly book a loss on their stake. It also is a strong negative signal for your company that could impair your future.

2) You get the bad investors and repel the good ones. Astute investors know they cannot make money on $100 million seed rounds.

So who will you get instead? Novices who will provide bad advice and offer few connections.

Your company will be much better served in the long term if you have Sequoia on your cap table. Their name, the advice they can provide, and the doors they can open will be invaluable.

But if you’re raising at an unrealistic valuation, they’re unlikely to participate.

I know that getting a huge bag of money for a tiny slice of your company is appealing. But if you want to maximize the long term value of your startup, raising at a more reasonable valuation is the ticket.

Aim for a seed round between $8-25 million, depending on how much traction you have. Then get to work building.

There will be plenty of time to score that giant valuation later!

More on tech:

A Day in the Life of an Angel Investor

Is Fathom the Future of Blockchain?

How to Ace a 3 Minute Pitch

Photo: “Galvez St Louis Stop Sign Grove 2” by Infrogmation is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

A Day in the Life of an Angel Investor

Not that kind of angel!

You’ve heard of angel investors and their big brothers, venture capitalists. But what does an angel investor actually do in a day?

I thought I’d break down my day today so you can see how the sausage is made:

1) Read deal memos in inbox. It could be as few as 2-4, or it could be as many as 12 or more.

Since I invest in seed stage startups, I generally look for some traction and a valuation of about $10-15 million. I like to see companies with 6 months of revenue, growing 20% or more month over month.

The traction and valuation criteria eliminate about 99% of startups right off the bat.

2) Send over a developer candidate to one of my companies. Looks like they like him!

Adding value through intros to possible employees and investors is a big part of an angel’s job. I try my darnedest to help the companies I’ve invested in.

I found this candidate via a Slack community for developers. Finding good developers who don’t already have a job is very difficult nowadays.

But I still try! One great engineer can make a huge difference to an early stage startup.

3) Answer LinkedIn messages. Usually the deal flow here isn’t great, but sometimes it can be excellent!

Don’t discount cold messages. Jason Calacanis found LeadIQ because the founder cold e-mailed him, and now the company is worth over $200 million!

4) Read about the industry as a whole. Every day, I try to learn more about technology investing as a whole, not just the companies that cross my desk.

Today I read about how founders can get investors to work for them. I also read about finding the sweet spot between valuation and traction, which will inform me as I read tomorrow’s deal memos!

5) Attend a Q&A w/ two expert angel investors tonight!


Being an angel investor is about continuous learning, first and foremost.

You learn about new companies every day and select that 1 in 100 (or more) you want to invest in. And you learn about technology and business in general, which makes you a better investor!

This constant opportunity to learn is one of the things I like best about angel investing. You see companies doing everything from 3D printing human tissue to revolutionizing e-commerce search.

There’s seldom a dull day!

What have you always wondered about angel investing? Let me know in the comments at the bottom!

Have a great day everyone!

More on tech:

This Week in the Venture Bubble

How to Ace a 3 Minute Pitch

The High Growth Handbook: Scaling Startups from 10 to 10,000 People

Photo: “Earth Angel” by drburtoni is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

This Week in the Venture Bubble

Venture capital funding is growing at an incredible rate. The money pouring into early stage startups, my playground, has increased by billions of dollars per quarter just since 2020.

I see the perverse results of this cash flood every day. Here are a few, from just this week alone:

1) A company raising a seed round at a $125 million cap with no product in market.

2) An uncapped note. The ultimate schmuck investment vehicle…you don’t even know what you paid for your shares!

3) A restaurant raising venture capital. 

Restaurants can’t scale like software businesses and are far less profitable. And food is not a winner take all market like many software products.

The standard VC playbook is losing money at first to dominate a market. Then, you make big profits later with your favorable unit economics. 

That model doesn’t apply here. 

3) A company raising a seed round at a $150 million valuation.

Some investors are now willing to invest in any business at any price. This may lead to more of the fourth thing I saw this week:

4) A company that had raised over $10 million in funding from blue chip VC’s recapitalized, completely wiping out prior investors.

Despite raising a boatload of funding, the company had never found product market fit and had very poor gross margins of about 25%. (A solid gross margin for a software business is more like 80%).

If we don’t want to lose our money like those unfortunate investors, we need some discipline. Here are my standards:

A) No $100 million seed rounds. Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures proved this model cannot work.

B) No startups without a product in market unless it’s a very high profile founder. We’re taking sold her last company for $1 billion high profile.

C) No uncapped notes.

D) No low margin, old economy businesses masquerading as tech startups.

Who’s with me? 

What are you seeing in the startup world? Let me know in the comments below.

More on tech: 

How to Ace a 3 Minute Pitch

What I Look For in Startups

Why I just Invested in EyeRate, the Best Online Review Tool

Photo: “Bubble” by zacktionman is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

How to Ace a 3 Minute Pitch

Last week, I was talking with a young founder who is just starting to pitch investors. She wished she could find a good example of a 3 minute pitch.

So I figured if she was having this problem, others probably were too!

This morning, I made a little video of what I would consider an ideal 3 minute pitch. I used the example of my favorite startup, Uber.

A 3 minute pitch is a key thing to master because startup demo days are often in this format.

It’s also useful if you have brief, individual meetings with VC’s or angel investors like me. You want to pitch in a concise way and leave lots of times for questions.

Why Is This Such a Strong Pitch

  1. It’s short.
    There are just 16 slides with only a little text on each one. It takes under 3 minutes.
    I look at around 25-30 startups a week, so I can only spend so much time on each one.
  2. It clearly frames a huge problem and proposes a good solution.
    Mobility is a big issue, and long before Uber, everyone knew taking a taxi stank. This presentation clearly shows how Uber is better.
  3. It shows a clear growth trend.
    Nothing gets investors salivating like rapid growth!
    Show revenue or user growth in a chart and calculate the compounded growth rate. Make that explosive growth obvious!
  4. It shows the product.
    The same slide deck could describe 100 startups. Showing the product makes it clearer what you’re working on.
    It also shows you actually have something built!
  5. There is a clear request.
    I don’t just say “thank you for your time.” I ask the investors for something specific: $3 million.
    And I make it clear what it can achieve: us dominating the taxi industry.

    A little tip for making sure you hit the 3 minute mark is to have your phone with a stopwatch running right next to you, so you can glance over occasionally.

    I also suggest using this template from Sequoia, as I did. It gives a great framework for hitting the key points in your pitch.

    What did I miss? What questions do you have? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

    Disclaimer: I am not Travis Kalanick 🙂

    More on tech:

    The High Growth Handbook: Scaling Startups from 10 to 10,000 People

    Why I Just Invested in Kippo, Where Gamers Find Love

    How Startup Founders Turn Investors Off

    Photo: “The Ace of Spades” by Toufique E Joarder is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

The High Growth Handbook: Scaling Startups from 10 to 10,000 People

Elad Gil is a Silicon Valley legend. After selling his startup to Twitter, he helped the company scale from 90 to 1500 people in under 3 years.

He’s also had enormous success as an angel investor, investing in startups like Airbnb, Coinbase, Square and Stripe.

So I was very excited to dig into his book, The High Growth Handbook. In it, Gil lays out his best tips for scaling a company at warp speed, along with interviews with a who’s who of tech.

Here are some of the best pieces of advice I found:

How to Hire

“Hire only after there’s a burning need for that person.”

Naval Ravikant

Gil’s approach to hiring is carefully structured. He suggests writing a job description for every position and asking each interviewee the same questions.

But even better than questions are actual tasks. The best way to assess someone’s skills is to have them complete a task similar to what they’ll do on the job.

He also counsels interviewers to write down their opinion of the candidate before speaking with other interviewers, to avoid groupthink. This is the same process used at Amazon.

And when you do find the right person, move fast!

How to Lead

So you’ve got your ideal employees. Now what?

In an interview with Sam Altman, Altman says that setting the company’s direction is just 5% of a CEO’s job. The other 95% is making sure it happens.

“Delegation is not abdication.”

Gil also recommends holding skip level meetings with junior employees that don’t report to you. They tend to have their finger on the pulse of the market and are closer to the customers.

How to Rest

Gil used to work every weekend and even on “vacations.” But now, he tries to fully unplug.

This is something I struggle with! I was meeting with a company founder at nearly midnight on my vacation in Barcelona while my wife waited patiently upstairs.

We have to remember that if someone as successful as Gil can unplug for a few days, we can too!


In all, I found this book a very practical guide to building startups. My only criticism is that with the mix of interviews and Gil’s writing, and the jumping between topics, the book feels disjointed.

I think it would be more effective if it followed a company from birth to IPO, examining the challenges it faces on the way.

Nonetheless, if you’re interested in startups, Gil’s advice will help you. Check it out!

More on tech:

What I Look For in Startups

How Startup Founders Turn Investors Off

The Top 3 Startup Pitch Mistakes

Photo: “Elad Gil” by jdlasica is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

What I Look For in Startups

You’ve been meeting with investors day after day. You get a lot of “very interestings” but no actual checks.

What are these people looking for?

Today, I thought I’d explain what I look for in a startup.

As an angel investor, I invest in about 1-2% of the companies I see. Here’s how I choose:

1) Are you solving a big problem? Take Uber: it gets you from anywhere to anywhere, anytime, easily.

Mobility is a huge problem. Any technology that can make it easy to get places has a giant potential market.

What is an example of a company that isn’t solving a big problem? Imagine a better way to search tweets.

That’s a feature, not a product. It’ll probably get copied by Twitter or Twitter will buy it for a small sum.

2) Are you growing revenue 20% month over month? I want to see clear signs that your vision is shared by customers.

Dollars in the door are the best sign there is. I find about 2-3% of seed stage startups are growing this fast.

If the company is pre-revenue, I would also find a similar growth rate in users quite persuasive. But revenue is best.

The greatest companies of today, like YouTube, had incredible growth early on. That’s what I’m looking for.

3) Is the product awesome? If there’s any way for me to use the product, I always do so before investing.

Maybe you have great early growth, but if the product isn’t solid, it may be hard to sustain that pace.

If I can’t use the product (most B2B SaaS, for example), I ask for a detailed demo. I also read every review of the product I can find.

3) Is there good founder/market fit? If you used to work on M&A at Goldman Sachs and you started a company to help people find sustainable clothing, I’m going to have a few questions.

Why would you start a business that is so far removed from your background? Perhaps you have solid reasoning, like a long-term commitment to environmentalism via volunteer work.

Or maybe you’re just in it for the buck. I have nothing against making money, but starting a company is so hard that if the motivations are only pecuniary, you will likely give up.

4) Are you raising at least $1 million? Most companies I invest in are raising $1-3 million seed rounds.

Why does this matter? Companies that raise a seed round of at least $1 million are far more likely to be successful, per a Crunchbase analysis.

A big round means you can hire lots of developers and sales people. That lets you get ahead of your competitors, fast.

When I see companies raising a round of $250-$500k, I often think this isn’t enough to move the needle.


I hope this helps clarify how investors pick startups. Other investors may have different processes, but I think you’ll find a lot of similarities.

Best of luck and happy fundraising!

More on tech:

The Original YouTube Investment Memo

How Startup Founders Turn Investors Off

Why I Just Invested in Gauge, the Best Way to Sell Your Car

Photo: “Historical Documentation Defenestration WHY Sign” by Lynn Friedman is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

How Startup Founders Turn Investors Off

You’ve worked really hard on your pitch to investors. But what if some of the things you’re saying are actually turning them off?

Here are several things that can be a negative signal to investors:

1) No clear growth trend. If you don’t share information about month over month revenue or user growth, it’s almost impossible for me to say whether I want to invest or not.

How do I know if the business is succeeding without seeing a trend? Be sure to include those numbers and compute a month over month growth rate using a tool like this.

2) Showing irrelevant metrics. Some founders show incredible growth…in numbers that don’t matter.

Whether it’s social media mentions, letters of intent, or some other creative metric, showing numbers like these make me think there is nothing more substantive.

What’s substantive? Customers and product.

Nothing else matters.

3) A focus on patents. Some startup founders talk for 10 minutes about patents and 2 minutes about customers.

To most investors, this will show that the founder doesn’t understand what drives success in software startups. IP is rarely a key driving force in a software company.

You will have to deal with IP assignments and patents eventually. But unless you’re a biotech company, don’t make it the core of your pitch.

4) Mentioning irrelevant awards. If you won a startup pitch contest or Forbes 30 under 30, congrats!

But leave it out of your presentation. Much like presenting irrelevant numbers, mentioning irrelevant awards just makes investors think you don’t have anything more concrete to show.

5) An unrealistic valuation. I am not a stickler on valuation if it’s a good, high growth company.

But more and more, I see seed stage companies asking for valuations of $75 or even $100 million. Sometimes, they haven’t even launched a product!

This just shows me the founder doesn’t understand the market. Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures has clearly shown that venture firms cannot possibly make money on $100,000,000 seed rounds.

Your goal should be a collaborative relationship with the investment community. You want to make money, and you want them to make money too!

So keep it reasonable! When seed stage companies go much beyond $20-30 million, they’re getting ahead of themselves.

A more realistic valuation would be about $10 million for most seed stage companies with solid growth.


Founders work incredibly hard to raise money and build their companies. The last thing they want to do is torpedo their own pitch!

If you follow the rules above and keep the focus on your product and customers, you’ll impress investors. You may even find them fighting to get in the round.

Best of luck!

More on tech:

The Top 3 Startup Pitch Mistakes

Why I Just Invested in Capbase, The Startup in a Box

The Original YouTube Investment Memo

Photo: “Stop sign at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park” by JcOlivera.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order.