The one word you don’t want investors to say


It’s often hard to know if a pitch has gone well because investors are so polite. They will very rarely say “I think this is a bad idea” and they certainly won’t say “I won’t invest”.

After approx. 80 investor pitches, I learned there is one word investors say that means they won’t invest.

But first, a few reflections on the pitching game.

How to end the pitch

One thing I learned is that it’s OK to ask the investor at the end if they’d like to invest. I think they’re expecting it, but it doesn’t feel very….British…to openly ask for money.

The trouble is if you don’t, you can dance around the matter for weeks, when you could have moved on. Chances are they made their mind up in the meeting.

How to ask? Try this “If you were a betting man(or woman), do you think you’re likely to invest?” — it’s a slightly softer approach.

Watch out for the tiny ticket trap

We once went through an 12 week ritual of due diligence, extensive follow ups, introductions to two existing investors, for the Angel at the end of it to offer £5k (we were raising £750k). Some investors like to do this to get on the cap table so they have the right to invest later.

I never made this mistake again — always state the minimum cheque size nice and early.

Get a lead investor

For our second raise, we spent weeks preparing our deck, then sent it out to the existing investors saying “Now open for investment guys!”. Radio silence. I genuinely thought there was a problem with our outbound email server — I raised a helpdesk ticket.

We then adapted the approach to have a lead investor signed up first, and re-sent the email “I’m pleased to say that XX is our lead investor, has agreed a valuation of £X, and we are offering a discount of Y% for committed investments before Z date.”

Significantly better response!

Investors like to know that someone else has done the due diligence and is backing the business.

Sometimes luck is not on your side and there’s nothing you can do about it

A pivotal moment for Pinga was a big pitch to Fuel Ventures. They could have written a big cheque that would have changed everything for us.

A key part of our pitch was our partnership with Sainsbury’s, that had been agreed verbally but not in writing.

Meanwhile Fuel were concerned about the threat of Deliveroo moving into the grocery delivery space and competing more directly with us.

The day before the pitch, Sainsbury’s announced a small trial with Deliveroo, delivering pizza’s. It couldn’t have been worse timing!

The deal never happened and I didn’t know it at the time, but it was quite a big moment for us (not in a good way). There was soon an explosion of grocery delivery apps and our first mover advantage had gone.

So the word to look out for…

You’re pitching hard, you feel in your rhythm, you nail the answers to the tricky questions. You’ve spent weeks setting up the meeting and getting the tailored pitch ready. And the prospective investor wraps up the meeting by saying “Well this has been very interesting”.

Yes when you hear the word ‘interesting’, it’s all over, their cash will be staying firmly in their wallet. In two weeks you’ll get an email saying “Very competitive space/you need a bit more traction first/love what you’re doing but../let’s stay in touch” (they won’t).

It’s time to feel that all is lost for a day or so, wonder how you’re going to close the funding gap now…until suddenly a very promising lead arrives in your inbox…

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