Dos and don’ts for the first call with your potential investor

Getting to know various startups and having calls with their founders is part of my daily routine. In this video, I talk about a few quick tips on what to do in the first call with an investor and what not to do.

Hey, I just finished an intro call, and I want to share a few quick tips on what to do in the first call with an investor and what not to do. If we look at the whole process of how we can get connected, at some point we learn about you, you learn about us, and you either reach out to us via an intro, or we do the same vice versa. Or you get in touch with us via our video process on the website where you go through a quick automated video interview.

So one way or another we hear of you, you hear of us, and now we’ve looked at the things that you’ve sent to us ahead of the call, we’ve decided that this is interesting, that we want to get to know you, we’ve scheduled a 30-minute call. And that’s what’s in our calendar for today.

Structure of intro calls

So this is where we send in the process. Now there are few things that should be avoided and a few things that you want to include. Number one, typically, there’s a bit of structure in those calls. Typically we get on, and we used the first five to maximum 10 minutes to get acquainted, depending on how many people join the call. On the Tomahawk.VC side, Claude and I will typically send you our intro videos ahead of time, as well as a video that covers Tomahawk.VC in one minute so that you can watch this before we get on the call, so we don’t lose any of our call time to discuss your project.

So with that out of the way, there might be you and maybe one or two of your co-founders on the call. And the first thing we want to understand is, who is who, what is your background. It’s a bit of an art. Definitely practice your intro because you don’t want to take 10 minutes per person, but you also don’t want to be done in like three sentences.

What are you passionate about?

If you want some guidelines: what’s interesting for us is what are you passionate about? And why does your passion lead you naturally in your journey of life to solve this problem that you’re working on? So for example, if you’re building a car-sharing platform, tell us about what you’ve done previously, that is connected to building a sharing platform or giving you special knowledge in how to build that platform, be technological or business knowledge and then get to the last couple of years. Tell us what you’ve done in the last couple of years and mentioned the moment of how you came up with the idea. Why is this personally important to you? Why can you not live in a world where this problem doesn’t get solved? That is one of the key things we do care about, is what is the mission that you’re on, and what put you on that mission.

So once we know you and all your co-founders, now it’s time to talk about the project. And one key mistake that founders often make is they jump back into their pitch deck. If you’ve sent us your deck ahead of the call, you can assume that we’ve looked at it and that we probably have a list of questions. We might not immediately start with those questions; we might want you to first give us a bit more background and give us an intro, but do not go back into the deck, share your screen, and now take the narrative of slide by slide walking us through the deck.

I cannot stress this enough because it happens from time to time, and it ruins the conversation. We should use the time on the call to have an open conversation and discuss things that came out of us reviewing your pitch deck. We do not want to go through it slide by slide and use up the remaining 20 minutes just doing that. I just mentioned that we only have about 20 minutes left, and we probably have a few questions.

So be aware of that. If we ask you a question, try to be concise. That doesn’t mean to give us “Yes” or “No” answers but give us answers that stay fairly at a high level. If we do want to continue, and if we start to do due diligence, we will send you more questions, we will schedule more time to talk to one another. And that’s when we can dive into all the economic and technical details. In this first call, we just want to understand how much have you thought about all these problems and discussions that we’re bringing up. And are you able to concisely mention your thinking?

So much, in fact, that for us at the Tomahawk.VC when we do assess founders, we actually make that one of the three dimensions that we look at: execution, empathy, but also clarity. How clearly have you thought about the project? How concise are you able to express your thoughts, because we believe it’s so important that long term you are able to express yourself concisely because that’s going to help you with hiring sales, investors and so on so forth.

What are your questions?

So once we are having a conversation, we’re asking you some questions, and you’re giving us concise answers. Typically, we will use about 10 to 15 minutes of that time to try and take a few notes or go deeper or clarify misunderstandings that we might have had. And then we’ll use the last five minutes to ask you, what are your questions? What do you expect from your investors? What do you want to know about us, because we believe that investing in a company is very much like building a relationship for the long term. There’s a good chance that at the stage where we invest, we are going to be in the same boat for the next 10 to 12 years. And so it’s important that it’s not a one-way selection, it’s not us choosing you but you also choosing your investors and making sure you know whom you’re going to work with and whom you’re going to partner with.

And so think about that as well. What is it that you want to know from us ahead of the call? What are the things that you’d like us to input on? What are the initiatives where you can use support from us? All of these questions are extremely valuable both to you and us because this is part of building our relationship.

At the end of the call, we usually mention the next steps for the process. Typically, it will mean that Claude and I will compare our notes, stick our heads together. And then we’ll get back to you with either more questions or a clear idea of how the process looks from here on.

So in just a few minutes, those are the high-level things to make sure you keep in mind, or you avoid in your first call with a potential investor on a very high level. Keep your introductions short but targeted. Keep answers to a certain point, not too short, not too long. Keep it an open conversation. Don’t jump into the deck and try to walk us through slide by slide. And then at the end, very important. Think of what you want to know from us as well, so that it’s a two-way conversation.

Hopefully, that was helpful. If you have any experiences I forgot to mention, any rules that you use for investor meetings, or you are an investor, and you agree or disagree, please let me know in the comments. And with that, have a beautiful day. Stay curious, and we’ll chat soon.