It’s very natural to be flattered by early investor interest, but it’s important that you fight the urge to take that high-profile VC meeting right away. Without sufficient practice you’re almost guaranteed to come off as “too early” or unpolished, which can have a negative ripple effect on your round. You have a responsibility to your company and your team to take the time to get things right. The best way to do that is to gather feedback from qualified, but safe sources so you can hone your pitch over time. When prioritizing, there are a few investor groups to consider:
The best source of feedback is someone that you have a previous relationship with. They can take an initial meeting as a training scenario, rather than a formal pitch, because they’ve already formed their initial impressions of you. A trusted investor that you already know can give you a level of honest feedback that’s nearly impossible to find via first introductions. They want you to succeed and will be able to share their candid thoughts without risk of coming off as rude or disrespectful, because trust has already been established. Look to your existing investors as a first step (if you have them). In addition to their own thoughts, they can connect you with other investors that they trust to provide useful guidance. If you don’t have any close investor friends, try to leverage your network of fellow founders and get meetings under the guise of a training exercise.
Later Stage Investors
This doesn’t mean Series C or later financiers. Rather, seek out investors that consistently back teams in later rounds than what you’re raising. When an investor doesn’t have to make a Yes/No decision (because you’re too early) they can provide insightful guidance in a safe environment. The added benefit of this is that you can get on the radar of later stage investors and start building your relationship early.
Try to find individuals who have relevant sector/technology knowledge as well as limited exposure to your relevant investment community. This may sound like “talk to shit investors” but it’s not. Bad investors will likely lead to bad advice. Absolutely search for feedback from those who can provide meaningful insight into your market, target customer, etc. so you can tailor your narrative. But also search for investors that aren’t very plugged into the investment scene. At this stage you have to assume that you’re not going to be great at pitching. Do you really want to talk to a highly networked VC within your first week of fundraising? The overwhelming chances are that they’ll pass, but once they do you can’t control who they speak with or what they say. This is a less discussed, but very real form of signalling risk. Do yourself a favour and mitigate it before it starts.