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Recently, I had the pleasure to attend super angel Jason Calacanis’ Founder University and the WSGR 2018 MDC (Medical Device Conference). I’d like to share my thoughts as well as my notes from these conferences on how to get investors open their pocketbooks to MedTech startups, and of course, healthcare 3D printing startups (since few people discuss it in a separate context alone). (I have previously written about investing in medical device startups and current investment landscape of healthcare 3D printing.)
In the last 12 months, 3DHEALS hosted several pitch competitions with a number of 3D printing, 3D printing related (materials, AI, bioprinting, VR/AR) startups pitching. The performance of these pitches varies significantly from one startup to another. Some were disastrous and showed the founders’ inexperience. I concluded that perhaps some tips from the receiver end would help:
- Pitch as often as you can. This is assuming you are in fundraising stage and you don’t have investors knocking on your doors. Many 3D printing and bioprinting startup founders need to learn how to pitch because we are not part of the media hype cycle. Adding “machine learning” can only help you so much. Therefore, you need to have a game plan to get the word out there about your incredible technology and grab the mic as often as you can. When you do have the mic, don’t waste your hard-earned moment in front of the investor with a crappy deck. Often, you only need a single investor to get to the first working prototype.
- Have a good pitch deck ready. Many articles online teach founders how to create a great pitch deck. (Here is one.) They are great. When I see a pitch deck that is completely un-structured or miss important elements like a slide on “Team”, I can only guess two things: the founder(s) did not bother to do some homework because they did not care enough, or the founders(s) are totally new to this entrepreneur journey and there is an unusual amount of coaching needed ahead. Neither is good news to the investor. With some minor homework, many can make significant improvements quickly.
- Goal of the pitch. The immediate goal of pitching is to “get a second meeting with the investor”, per Jason Calacanis. Of course, the ultimate goal is to get funded (and hopefully along with a mentor/advisor). Many startups complaints about the short-allotted time they have on stage, but a good pitch can be delivered between 2-5 minutes, and I have seen them. The amount of time you need is only as long as you need to address the most important questions the investors have to decide whether to spend more of their time on you/your company. An even better pitch is delivered when people don’t even realize that they have been pitched.
- Second Meeting. Earning a second meeting is an excellent sign that you will get funded because the investor now wants to do due diligence about your company. “Second meeting” may be composed of many subsequent meetings of various lengths and formats ranging from 15 minutes phone calls to in-person meetings, but basically an ongoing conversation with the investor to fulfill his/her inquiries about technical, financial, and business aspects about your company.Here is a non-exhaustive list of items that your investors may be interested in discussing. Over-preparation is not a bad idea. Just imagine the return on investment in time spent on polishing your pitch, in my opinion, well worth it.
Other good articles on pitching for seed funding: