If you’re a startup founder and you’ve managed to secure a first meeting with Team Breega, we’d like to start by saying “congratulations!” for getting your foot in our (newly renovated) door!
Scoring a first meeting with a potential investor is no easy task. At Breega, for the circa 6000 decks we receive and examine each year, we only actually meet around 600 founders. This said, getting that first meeting is only the start.
As entrepreneurs, we know what it’s like to pitch a project and work hard to convince someone we don’t know well or have never met, to invest their precious time and money into our companies. So we also know that a first meeting with a potential investor can be a daunting and stressful experience.
This is all the more true as all VCs have their own cultures, attitudes and ways of doing things. Which means that if knowing what to prepare in terms of decks and metrics is usually pretty straightforward (check out Breega’s Let’s Invest page for more info on this) knowing how to prepare and what to expect during the meeting is somewhat trickier.
We both want our first meeting to be as fruitful as possible, so with this in mind we’ve decided to give you the “heads up” on what to expect when you meet us by allowing you an intimate look inside the minds of the Breega investment team.
That’s right, once again we’re putting it all out there, in the most transparent way possible, to help you prepare thoroughly for our meeting, learn which pitfalls/ red flag behaviour to avoid and how to wow us ! Intrigued? Then read on.
1/ Our thoughts before meeting you
Meeting entrepreneurs is what we at Breega love most about our job. We’re genuinely interested and excited about getting to know YOU, not only as a founder but also a person.
We’re looking forward to hearing your story, how you got here and what drove you to create your own company.
Motivation is a deeply personal thing and can come from many places: wanting to make your mark on the world, share the unique idea/ technology that you believe to be the solution to a particular industry or consumer pain, wanting to prove to yourself or others what you are truly capable of…
Whatever your core motivation, it must be deeply rooted. We want to be fully convinced of your drive and therefore of your ability to cope with the inevitable difficulties and disappointments of the entrepreneurial journey.
We’re not influenced by how we met
If you managed to get a meeting with us it means we’re already excited by your value proposition and hoping to be impressed. Our level of interest and attention won’t therefore be influenced by whether or not you were recommended to us by a mutual friend.
That said, given the number of decks we receive each year, being introduced to us by an esteemed friend or contact will increase your chances of securing a meeting with us in the first place.
When planning to raise funds, network ahead of time with the aim of getting qualified introductions to investors. Look out for people who are known and respected by our team. You can also get to know some of our startups and ask them to recommend you. Some of the best introductions we’ve had at Breega have been through our own startups.
Although we do prefer introductions and referrals, success stories that began in our inboxes do happen at Breega! So don’t hesitate to send us your deck directly or through our website.
We’re expecting you to come prepared
Not only do we expect you to know your industry, market and figures inside out and back to front, but we also want you to show us that you understand our industry.
This means understanding how the VC industry works and mastering our codes and jargon. Again, every VC is different, but we’ll expect you to have read up on Breega, our investments and preferred business models (it’s all on our website!)
Investors like to ask questions. So before our meeting, we advise you to pitch to people that aren’t convinced by your idea. Having your detractors challenge your project is the best way to strengthen your arguments and ultimately refine or reinforce your vision. Also, we look for red flags, try to anticipate them.
2/ Our “first few minutes” mindset
We are looking for a strong “fit”
If a first meeting lasts around 45 minutes, the first five to ten minutes are crucial. We’ll be relying on our “gut feeling”, looking for positive energy, connection and a strong “fit” with the entrepreneur. If we don’t want to invest in your company, we’ll most likely know it within these first minutes.
Get straight to the point and organise your time carefully. As investors, we want to understand within minutes of meeting you, what drives you and why (your story), your value proposition (even the most complex of offerings can be understood in less than 2 minutes if explained clearly) and why you are the best person to run your company.
While listening to your pitch, we’ll be asking ourselves “Am I able to believe in what you’re telling me? Am I excited by your project ? Do I want to work with you ? “
Be as enthusiastic and confident as possible. Speak clearly and with passion. Smile. Engage us with steady eye contact, open and animated body language. Show us that you’re enjoying meeting us and are confident talking about your business. Beware though of coming across as arrogant or cocky. Modesty is important to us.
Finally, we won’t judge you on what you’re wearing and our ecosystem’s dress code is casual, this said it’s best to leave the flip flops and sunglasses at home.
Your background will interest but not influence us
It’s no secret that a majority of founders in VC portfolios have a similar profile (young, white, male with strong academic backgrounds). At Breega we’re keen to diversify so if we’re honest we probably get more excited about meeting entrepreneurs from diverse cultural backgrounds or female founders. One of the main reasons being that the ride has probably been bumpier for founders whose profiles are not that of the “usual” startup founder. Their ability to get through it shows resilience and grit, key traits that we really value in our founders. This said, at the end of the day, we evaluate everyone with the same scorecard.
Common ground is great but not mandatory
We’re all human so finding out we have things in common with a founder, whether it’s a mutual interest, a similar background or people in common, is always pleasant. And it can help to reinforce the feeling of there being a good connection or “fit”. Taking the time to enquire about the team member you’ll be meeting with shows that you’ve done your homework and implies you will have similar reflexes with clients. However, you’re not being judged on this so the best bet is to be honest about who you are and stay true to yourself, it’s also the best way to ensure an authentic and meaningful dialogue.
Don’t name drop ! It can show a lack of self-confidence and feeling the need to “prove” your legitimacy.
Here are a few examples of some unusual behaviour we’ve encountered during some of our first meetings…and that you probably avoid if you want Breega to back you !
- Openly arguing with your co founder during the meeting (we’re looking to invest, not referee)
- Showing up with their entire whole team in tow (one rep is plenty for a first meeting, don’t waste your team’s time)
- Making poor or disrespectful jokes or comments (we like to laugh but keep it clean please!)
- Focusing more on your background than on your business
- Asking for a term sheet at the end of our first meeting (yes, this does happen)
- Letting your fundraiser or business angel pitch, answer for you or do too much of the talking (remember you’re the boss!)
3/ What we’re thinking during the meeting
We’re into friendly, not forceful, discussion
As said, we’re entrepreneurs. We understand the pressure that comes with pitching. We want you to feel comfortable and at ease. We’re not looking to unsettle you, in fact, we’re secretly rooting for you. However, as investors it’s our job to ask questions and challenge you on issues that we disagree on or are not convinced by.
If you feel like we have concerns on a key issue during the discussion, don’t hesitate to pause the presentation and reword our question to show that you fully understand it and can address our concerns. Try not to get defensive. Our conversation needs to stay constructive.
We’re looking for answers and watching out for red flags
One of the things we focus on is your market knowledge. We want you to know your competition inside out : what’s the market opportunity, how big is it, why now ? You should be able to explain how you plan to penetrate the market and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Knowing your competitors, not only by name but actually knowing them, what they do, how they do it is a must at Breega. We advise you to reach out to your competitors well before coming to see us because further along the investment process, we will.
Mastering your metrics is also a must, we’ll quiz you on your CAC and LTV. No need to panic though. This is the first meeting, questions on metrics will be not only basic but predictable.
We don’t expect you to have all the answers but we do expect you to admit it when you don’t. This tells us that you’re transparent and honest. Show us that you have identified a problem even though the way to tackle it remains a bit blurry.
These are the red flags we’ll be looking out for and that you should anticipate
- Small markets
- Not knowing enough your competitors or saying you don’t have any (?!)
- Not knowing your figures
- A lack of ambition, vision or dedication
- Having your team located in different parts of the world but this having nothing to do with business strategy
- An inability to answer a metrics question because your CFO or fundraiser is in charge of the business plan…
We expect you to be able to go “off piste” in your presentation
When you’re nervous you can be tempted to follow your presentation with military rigour. However, we’re expecting you to know your stuff and be comfortable with addressing points in a non rehearsed and flexible manner.
We don’t like typos or decks resembling War and Peace in size.
4/ You’ll know if we want to follow up or stay in touch
We get back to you within a week
Unless we’re truly blown away or sure that we won’t pursue we probably won’t provide you with a Yes or No answer right at the end of the meeting. After all we need a little bit of time to process what you’ve just said! We will however make sure you know when we plan to get back to you. We know it’s not nice to be kept waiting!
If we do give you an answer straight away, it’s either because it’s a “no brainer”, we’re super excited by your project and want a second meeting quickly. Or because we’re sure we don’t want to invest, we don’t want to give you false hope. If this is the case we’ll make sure you understand our reasons.
Most of the time, we’ll get back to you within a week. This gives us time to process and share your information with the rest of our investment team in our bi-weekly deal flow meetings. Sharing ideas and team decisions are very important to us! If we decide not to follow through, we’ll send you an email with real feedback on your business and our reasons for choosing not to invest. To us, this is some of the most valuable help an entrepreneur can get. If it’s not clear enough, feel free to ask more details.
If we do want a second meeting, expect a phone call !
If we tell you to stay in touch, we mean it
As mentioned earlier, we’ll always explain our “Nos” and we’re always hoping to be proved wrong ! If we ask you to let us know how you get on, we mean it.
When you do get back to us it will be to show us that you have reached the requested milestones, that you took our feedback seriously and addressed any issues we flagged.
Please don’t discredit yourself and your business by insisting too heavily after receiving a negative reply (stalking investors is never a good idea) or send weekly or monthly email or newsletter with irrelevant information about your business.
To conclude, we should say that this all important first meeting with Breega – besides finding out whether your business is a viable investment opportunity – is mostly about working out whether we have a good mutual “fit”.
As we’ve said before, you and your investor will be navigating the highs and the lows of your business journey together over the next several years. Mutual understanding, dedication to the cause, transparency and honesty are the founding elements of the successful relationship that will power your company and enable it to thrive. A true fit is something that can’t be faked long term so make sure you stay true to yourself and your beliefs.
And now that you’ve taken a look inside our heads, you know how we think and what we’re hoping for, we’ll look forward to meeting you!