How to Have Meaningful Investor Conversations During a Pandemic

Any entrepreneur can tell you that the process of pitching your startup to VC firms in order to land funding can be an overwhelming and intimidating process. Product demos, pitch decks, business plans; there are so many assets to create and so much on the line that important steps like relationship building can be missed entirely. Now add on top of all that a global pandemic that keeps you from actually meeting investors and pitching in person. What do you do? How can you navigate this uncertain time and still find success?

I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life, having founded several companies with over $100 million in revenue. As such, I’ve been familiar with the investor world for some time. And yet when the time was right for my newest venture, the all-in-one workplace productivity platform ClickUp, to seek out funding, even I was unprepared for what the pitch process would look like during a pandemic. By the end, however, we were able to secure a $35 million Series A in June, right at the height of the quarantine. So what did I learn?


Relationships Are Key – Now More Than Ever

Building relationships has always been at the core of selling. The struggle today is in building authentic relationships with new investors without that usual face-to-face time over a sit-down dinner or shared bottle of wine. However, there are still ways you can build powerful and lasting relationships virtually; you just have to think differently.

One of the unique facets of this global pandemic is the fact that we are all experiencing the same cultural moment at the same time. This can help form bonds through shared challenges, frustrations and perspectives. Investor conversations over Zoom can also help you learn more about a person’s life (on both sides). Spouses and kids are at home, their dogs are barking in the background, their office is decorated in French art–all these things give you deeper insights into someone you’re potentially working with and is a great way to connect personally. 

Ideally, investors are long-term partners and you have to treat them accordingly by building trust through open communication and transparency. The more you lean into the ways in which virtual working and virtual life connect us, rather than distance us, the more you will be able to build organic and lasting relationships, even in virtual times.


Let Your Product Do The (Virtual) Talking

One of the biggest areas of growth in virtual working since the pandemic (and even before) has been in how we are able to use technology to showcase and demo products. No longer do you have to be in the room with someone to give them a comprehensive demo or engage them in actually testing out a product. Sales teams have been using virtual tools for a while now to walk customers through a platform or give them the reins and let them test it themselves, and you can do the same with investors.

We’ve all been on Zoom calls where someone spends way too long talking or walking through a presentation. People inevitably lose interest in what is being said, no matter how important it may be. Without the ability to be face to face with your audience, it can be much harder to read body language and develop a good conversational cadence that keeps everyone engaged. So rather than trying to replicate an in-the-room pitch style with traditional pitch decks, use the tools at your disposal to really highlight your product and the real-world problems you are solving for people. This will help create a pitch experience that keeps investors intrigued and excited.


Consider The Present While Thinking About The Future

It can be easy to focus entirely on the world as it is today. You might think: How does my product address pandemic problems? Am I helping a newly remote workforce? The chaos of the pandemic and its impacts on business seems like all anyone is talking about, so why not focus my entire pitch there as well? This would be a mistake.

Yes, it can be helpful to make your pitch timely by attaching it to trends, but you can’t forget about the future. Now more than ever it’s important to showcase a sustainable business model and present your case for profitability. So many startups focus on spending and growth that they don’t consider a long-term roadmap, and you can instill a lot of trust with investors when you can highlight future plans.

On top of that, make sure you are showing how your product will evolve with the times. At ClickUp, we are doing a lot today to help remote teams get organized, collaborate and be productive, but we also have our sights set on the future and think about problems we can solve that go beyond the trend of the day. Remote work will certainly remain to an extent, and it’s great if your product can address those needs, but be sure to think deeper about the larger role your product will play in the future of your industry as we start to move the pandemic to our rearview mirror.

Securing funding with a VC firm that believes in your vision and supports your product is all about the future. The more you can show you are thinking about and building for the future, the more investors will trust you and your company. More often than not, that trust will lead to the funding your company needs to take off and take over the world. 

Zeb Evans is a serial entrepreneur that’s started several software companies with over $100 million in revenue. Currently, he’s founder and CEO at ClickUp, a productivity platform where people plan their work. Zeb grew ClickUp organically through content and product-led growth (spending $0 on marketing).

  • Originally published November 20, 2020