Show, Don’t Tell: Stop Wasting Time Talking About Your Background
Rather than ticking through your resume, inspire with your enthusiasm and demonstrate your depth in your domain.
I’m lucky to be able to spend most of day meeting interesting entrepreneurs who are working on interesting ideas. During these first pitch meetings (I listen to close to a thousand per year), my goal is to understand a company’s product and its potential so that I can decide whether to dig in with further diligence and have Ubiquity invest $1-2 million to lead their pre-seed/seed round.
Too Much Telling
During these initial meetings, it’s critical to use our limited time to cover as much ground as possible. Over the years, I’ve noticed a troubling pattern that is far too common: early stage CEOs and founders spend too much time talking about their background, from their college experiences to their first, second, and third jobs.
In a pitch meeting that may last 30 minutes, some people will spend 10-15 minutes going through their laundry list of experiences. The kicker is, even they seem to get bored going through their own background, as if it’s simply a box they’re checking off on a list of what they’ve been told by advisors and blog posts that they must say during a pitch meeting
Show That You Know Your Stuff
Rather than spending that precious time ticking through your resume step-by-step during first meetings with investors, I’d recommend a very different and more authentic approach: show, don’t tell.
There are 2 types of VCs, but a product investor like myself wants to know that you’re a total domain expert. Show me you know your stuff by diving right into the subject matter of your work — the industry, the product, and the potential customers you’ve talked to. This showcases your depth of knowledge and expertise in a way that an energy-draining list of your past work experience simply does not.
As an investor who is obsessed with nerds and chooses to invest in them exclusively, I love listening to CEOs and founders talk about their passions rather than a list of their life steps. Instead of leading with the various stops along your career, inspire me with your enthusiasm for an idea, demonstrate the depth of your expertise, and communicate the problem you’re trying to solve and why it’s so important. When people evangelize what they love - whether it’s piano, robot arms, or self-driving cars - it screams that they know their stuff, and the icing on the cake is finding out why.
By taking a potential investor step-by-step through your resume (which they can easily find on LinkedIn if they’re interested), you’re sort of acknowledging that they won’t realize your expertise through your pitch alone. In rare cases, explicitly highlighting an element of your past makes sense in a first pitch meeting, for example, you’re building an AI model and you were the first author on an important AI paper. This provides context to the investor about your industry expertise, which is all the information they’ll need for a first pitch meeting.
Ultimately, the best way to show an investor that you know your stuff is to simply show that you know your stuff! Demonstrating your depth of knowledge rather than talking through a laundry list of your experiences will lead to a more interesting first meeting for both you and the investor, and will feel more authentic, as well.
Ubiquity Ventures — led by Sunil Nagaraj — is a seed-stage venture capital firm focused on startups solving real-world physical problems with "software beyond the screen", often using smart hardware or machine learning.
If your startup fits this description, fill out the 60-second Ubiquity pitch form and you’ll hear back within 24 hours.
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