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They are surprised when I send them a powerpoint file. It's always a good idea to put down on paper your plans for the business, so that your team can build consensus around objectives and metrics. Make it as overwrought writing a business and wordy as you like though show some restraint--over-modeling the future only wastes your time.
I'm sure that Brad Feld's upcoming series on business plans will become the authoritative online reference for this kind of internal operating document. But my advice is to never send a document like that to a VC. Keep in mind that you are not alone--entrepreneurship is thriving around the world.
In fact, we assess about times as many investment opportunities as we fund, so as everyone knows, it's hard to get a VC's attention. It's not exactly true that all VC's are stupid not exactlybut we do not have the luxury of an attention span. Drop a thick document on a VC, and it will, wrapped in good intentions, go straight to The Pile.
The Pile is a dark, evil tower--impervious to attack--that looms over every VC's desk. My Pile, like many, is constructed out of business plans, white papers, analyst reports and scientific journals, waiting to be read with quiet thought and deliberation Who Has Time For This?
My only opportunity to curb the Pile's growth is airline travel, where I have some downtime to chip away at it that is, until I can email and Skype using on-board WiFi.
You'd think that with the recent surge of VC activity in Asia, we'd really have time to work down our Piles, but instead our Piles only grow taller, fortified by new material imported from China and India. That's why nothing slows down a VC as much as a comprehensive business plan.
Powerpoint presentations, in contrast, can be quickly emailed and skimmed, eliciting much faster indications of whether there is a fit. And if there is a fit, the VC will have an easier time educating the firm about the opportunity.
So powerpoint plans greatly increase your chance of getting a term sheet, or at least the dignity of a quick No. I was first exposed to this notion in by a super smart CEO, whose name I regretfully forget. His company Eo Networks, I think developed fiber termination units optimized for rural networks.
He was walking me through his slides, and when I asked him for his business plan, he pointed to the laptop, looked me in the eye, and said, "this is my business plan. So here are my specific tips on constructing a business plan Your presentation should not exceed 10 slides.
The appendix can include as many slides as you want. The more the better. Nothing beats responding to some VC's question with a slide from the appendix. Here are the historical numbers. Most operating details will remain safely ensconced in the appendix, eliminating unnecessary friction in the presentation.
You might structure the 10 slides as follows: The cover slide should offer complete contact info, and a tagline if you've got it. One of the benefits of a powerpoint plan is that it forces you to perform the critical exercise of describing the business in very few words.
A mission statement is a good idea to present, unless it's rather obvious from the tagline as in BlueNile. Education, Guidance, Diamonds and Fine Jewelry. Select a mission statement that is achievable, but not yet achieved.
Here are some nice ones On one slide, highlight the backgrounds of the key members of the team, and any directors or advisors not too many who bring something special to the startup. Explain verbally whom you intend to add to the team in the next year. If that includes a CEO, say so up front, without waiting to be asked.
Without yet getting into your product or service, describe the nature of the problem you address. Emphasize the pain level and the inability of incumbents to satisfy the need.
Introduce your product, and the benefits which should obviously address the market problem you just described. Elaborate on the technology or methodology you have developed to enable your unique approach.
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