One thing I strongly believe is that founders should drive the agenda of a fundraising meeting. This is something that is easy to do, but only happens a minority of the time.
What does it mean to not drive the meeting? To me, it’s showing up and relying on the investor to tell you how they want to structure the conversation. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. And I can see how an inexperienced founder would like to defer to the investor on how they want to use their time.
But here’s the thing – this immediately puts the founder in the position of “I’m asking for money” as opposed to “I’m telling you about my business”. While investors may have their own preferences, what we really want is to learn about you as a founder and how you articulate your mission and vision. Part of this is your ability to inspire and sell, whether that means future investors, customers, potential employees or execs down the road. It’s also our privilege to learn about your business, and so I am usually more than happy to have you drive the conversation.
The other thing is that we are looking to back founders who will be strong leaders and can knock down walls to achieve their goals. These folks tend to show their leadership in fundraising discussions as well. They may ask for feedback on what the audience will want to see beforehand, but when the time comes to actually pitch the business, they are driving the agenda.
There are simple ways to do this in a way that isn’t too overbearing. I think it’s quite effective to say “this is what I plan to talk about (or how I want to do it). But please tell me if you think we should approach this differently. 9/10 times, the investors will be happy to hear this plan, and might just add one or two things. Very rarely will they say “no, I want to do it this way instead”. Even if they do, I think you’ll generally be better off for having shown leadership of the conversation.
Some investors are really waiting for this. They are more than happy to have a meandering conversation that seems positive, but doesn’t actually go anywhere. Don’t let that happen. You want to use the time well, and also show that you treat your own time as valuable and are on a mission to get things done.