Less boardrooms, more dinner tables.

People have become really good at pitching. The art has turned in to a bit of a science and if you do ever find yourself in front of a room of people it is par for the course for you to “nail it”. The pitch, it seems, is dead media.

It’s time to stop obsessing with your pitch and start building relationships.

If you are going to raise financing for your new product then you need to learn what it means to build relationships.

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We started Founders and Funders on the basis that you would never want to accept investment from someone you couldn’t eat a meal with. What better way to find out than to eat a meal with them? It works incredibly well.

You need to find ways to end up at more dinner tables and in less boardrooms.

Also: Eat with your mouth closed ya filthy animal.

Funny story. When I was raising an angel round for my latest company I met a fairly prominent investor for lunch. I ordered a $15 sandwich combo. He got two doubles of Grey Goose, the Rib Eye, and a glass of wine. Then dessert! The shithead then stuck me with the bill! I kid you not. He then got in his car and drove off, I contemplated calling in the DUI. The hell if I was going to let him invest in my company. It was worth the $120 it took to figure it out.

I tell every entrepreneur that story, and I name names!

Then there was the time I met with Steve Anderson at a crowded bar. You should consider an invitation to meet an investor at a bar or restaurant a golden ticket. Steve came in, he was starving. I was a bit nervous so I didn’t eat much but we shared some appetizers. He was cool as shit and I knew I wanted him in my round before that meeting was over. Having a coffee and being forced to sit in a corner of a busy bar helps you get almost every “is this guy/girl legit? can I talk to him/her without needing to watch myself?” sort of stuff out of the way.

I met another investor at a Yogurt shop (he gave a fake name and told them my name was Mike). Another one in a Tiki bar and another in a co-working space.

Get out of the boardroom. Loosen up. Your pitch sucks but your product is cool, and you are even cooler.

  • http://startupcfo.ca/ Mark MacLeod

    Awesome advice Jevon. And given that Steve is a fellow DJ, i have to second you on this. He’s cool.

  • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

    Part of this is getting the VCs out of the board rooms. I think the last time I met @startupcfo:disqus it was for tea. @MattGoldenVP:twitter  was at Jimmy’s Coffee. @bwertz:twitter was lunch at Terroni. And I had pints at the Firkin with @derekjsmyth:twitter before joining. I have always found VCs very approachable, maybe it’s because I started with @rchabra:twitter and @spelton:twitter 

    I’m hoping we can do another @foundersfunders:twitter and enable a few more low risk social connections without the pitch. 

  • http://www.onceabeekeeper.com/ Kevin Swan

    Rule #1 of raising a seed round: The investor always picks up the lunch/drink tab.

  • http://bradmills.tumblr.com Brad Mills

    I like this story :) I just went through this with my company, I met a potential investor for lunch at a hotel he was staying at in Toronto at the end of November, and it was such a comfortable environment he started showing me HIS company’s financials and asking my advice.

    After our lunch meeting was over he pitched ME on flying to Hong Kong to meet his team and said we could do a deal if I got along well with his group.

    I wanted to just do a Skype video chat, but I realized that nothing extraordinary happens when you are in a comfort zone.

  • http://bradmills.tumblr.com Brad Mills

    Is there another founders and founders happening soon? I’ve been aching to go to the last couple, I’m not missing another one!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649737072 Glen Lougheed

    Jevon, this is great advice. We have lived by this.

  • Startuper99999

     Sorry David, but gotta discount your response because you’re well known+nice.  So, who wouldn’t take a meeting with you?  I’d be more interested in how open these people were to john-Doe/nonentity entrepreneurs that approach them. #IJS

  • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

    Uhm, thanks @cff5ce4a0c43c185823f0df03b3462c4:disqus 

    It wasn’t always this easy. I’ll blog later today about things pre-2005. I was a nobody in Toronto. I had moved here after living in the US for >5 years. No connections, no relationships, all i had was a blog. 

    Most of our VCs are very approachable, you just have to give them a reason to approach. Are you a dev? are you are marketer? are you a designer? Are you a founder? Are you pitching? Do you fit in their portfolio? 

    Maybe I should start a first time entrepreneur lunch with VCs. Interested?

  • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

    Plan is in February, venue is always the hardest. Don’t forget about  @startupfest:twitter Elevator Tour on Jan 30 http://startupfestival.com/en/elevator-tour/

  • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

    Drinks on @kevin_swan:disqus 

  • Startuper99999

    Sure!  I’m a bootstrapped founder who’s not yet pitching but it would be very useful to get to know VCs before time.

  • Startuper99999

     +Also looking forward to reading your pre-2005 post.

  • http://www.onceabeekeeper.com/ Kevin Swan

    I look forward to hearing you pitch your new startup, @davidcrow:disqus :)

  • http://startupnorth.ca Jevon

    David is a nice guy? News to me…

  • http://startupnorth.ca Jevon

    Yup. We were all in this situation so we had to work together. Nobody knew who anyone was, let alone any of us. 

  • http://startupnorth.ca Jevon

    I remember cold-emailing Boris Wertz to have breakfast in ~2007 and that turned in to a great relationship and he eventually became an investor. Also: he paid for breakfast

  • http://startupnorth.ca Jevon

    I remember cold-emailing Boris Wertz to have breakfast in ~2007 and that turned in to a great relationship and he eventually became an investor. Also: he paid for breakfast

  • http://davidcrow.ca/ davidcrow

    I know, I was thinking I’m normally an arrogant a$$hole who has lots of opinions but never done it before. But nice guy

  • Startuper99999

    LOL.  Does this mean I’m so jaded by having met much more arrogant people that David is nice in comparison or that he’s actually nice but tries to hide it?

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  • http://www.quantifire.net/blog Will

    Great story, Jevon.

    I’ve been thinking about the whole process of relationship building over the last few months.  While I’m not doing a startup myself anymore, I think building relationships with the long-term view in mind is especially crucial.

    My experience has told me this – every interaction you make should be genuine, helpful and at the very least cordial.  This isn’t with anyone who has clout or influence in the startup ecosystem, but anyone really, you never really know how things turn-out as everyone will judge you on your demeanour and track record.  From every interaction you have, whether good or bad, is another data point that can build up your trust and goodwill.

    Whether you’re helpful or not, or made some sort of solid connection that has benefitted the person you met will yield dividends well into the future.  Conversely, if you’re a dick who’s selfish, wastes time or schemes of ways to suck value out of relationships won’t get you very far…

    My line of thinking closely parallels Mark Suster’s blog post “Invest in lines – not dots” http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/11/15/invest-in-lines-not-dots/ – the post equally applies if you’re looking for new opportunities to join a team – those people who you’ve made a positive/helpful impression upon will magically and mysteriously help you in subtle and not so ways.

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