Entrepreneur

How Rod Stewart helped me get the attention of VCs and angels

Spent some time feelin’ inferior
standing in front of my mirror.
Combed my hair in a thousand ways
but I came out looking just the same.

For some of you, that feeling Sir Rod sang about is the same one that venture capitalists can cause you to feel. The name “venture capitalist” alone can send shivers down one’s spine, conjuring images of well-dressed men poring over company statistics and shooting holes in your vision.

Our company, EquipRent.com, has pitched to these guys many times this past year to raise capital. As we became more comfortable with pitching, what used to be an intimidating interview scenario slowly turned into a conversation, and we have learned a lot more about the scary men behind the table in the process.

The first thing we noticed was how short of an attention span these guys had. After five minutes of talking, three of them were already looking at their phones. They really didn’t care much for the story of how our company was founded, who a typical customer was, or even the pages of statistics that clearly showed why we were a great investment opportunity. Over time, we learned to keep our pitch concise, relevant, and full of engaging imagery … and pictures.

After much fine-tuning, it dawned on us that Rod was on to something: the best way to tell your story is through a picture. We creatively put together a colorful investment infographic, or “InvestFoGraphic,” on a handout. This completely complied with our goal of keeping our pitch concise, relevant, and exciting. Check out our capital-raising infographic.

Detail of EquipRent's capital-raising one-page infographic

Above: Detail of EquipRent’s capital-raising one-page infographic (click for full version)

Image Credit: EquipRent

The previous handout that we had given them (a typical 1-page executive summary) was heavy on words explaining in great detail what our company did and how successful we had been. Our new handout was riddled with bold and exciting claims about our company and our industry. The underlying theory behind using the infographic was to hook them first, and then be ready to talk business once they were paying attention.

One of the most necessary considerations when pitching a venture capitalist firm is to view the pitch from their point of view. What makes a great investment? What specific qualities do investors look for in a presentation?

We found that investors love disruptions and hate distractions. They love getting first dibs at untapped potential in huge markets. So, we focused our pitch from this angle. Instead of our old tagline “leading market service for equipment rentals,” which was an accurate description of our company, we decided to go with “disrupting the $28B market for construction equipment rental.”

The infographic we handed out contained VC-friendly buzzwords like “scalable model” and “fast, profitable growth.” Each of these claims was accompanied by a picture, since pictures are much more likely to stick in someone’s head than a paragraph of big words. Long, wordy paragraphs are distractions. There is a time and place to get down to the nitty-gritty and go over the numbers, but that is is not in your first encounter with a potential investor.

The reaction to our new infographic one-pager was very positive. “I liked it…I can quickly see what is different about this company than reading a typical one-page executive summary,” one investor said.

“I have never seen anyone use an infographic for investor purposes before,  other than to distinguish market trends,” another one said.

“It sets you apart…it’s like a cool and different resume,” said another one.

The exciting news is that we are now in final discussions with several investor groups to close our first round (series A) funding. We know the infographic wasn’t the main reason for getting to this final phase, but we do know that differentiating yourself makes you more memorable and shows investors you and your company plan on being different.

Remember the advice that the great Mr. Stewart gave years ago:

Every picture tells a story, don’t it!

Roberto Guerrieri is the chief executive of  EquipRent.com. This is his fourth startup. Previously he was the founder and chief marketing officer of Incentive Logic, a loyalty platform for online market research panels. He has also worked for early-stage companies in mobile marketing, lead generation, and in consumer marketing for Apple  and Hewlett-Packard.

Image: Album cover for Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story”


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