Going to an investor pitch? Lose your product demo.

Last week I sat in on a pitch where a young entrepreneur was having his first VC meeting. He’s building a software platform for consumer health.

After brief introductions, the VC said “I think this is a really interesting space, and I’d love to hear about your thoughts on the best route for monetization for a product like this.”

With that, the entrepreneur launched into a 30-minute product demo. A really boring product demo that never actually answered the question asked. It was a live demo, so there were a few bugs and glitches. I knew after 5 minutes that this pitch was lost.

I’ve seen this pattern happen many times. An entrepreneur is so excited by what he has built that he can’t wait to give a demo of it. But 99% of the time, an investor isn’t worried about whether the product could be built, he’s worried about the monetization model, the go-to-market strategy, the unit economics, the depth of the team, the competitive landscape, etc, etc. And giving a glitchy product demo doesn’t address any of those things. So while you may be excited to show off what you’ve spent nights and weekends building, that’s not what an investor cares about. Spending time showing a live demo in an initial investor meeting is usually a bad decision.

Instead, give a 5-minute high-level overview of what the venture is, and then ask the investor what she would like to dive deeper into. Listen carefully to the questions you are asked. Successful entrepreneurs are great listeners.

Mediocre ones just want to show off what they’ve built.

I’m a Silicon Valley guy. I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, coach startup CEO’s at Miller Center, and run the 4thly Startup Accelerator. Also, I love tacos.

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