Is almost always – and I do mean with rare exception – to get a second meeting.
And what I’m learning is that the vast majority of companies & people I meet with (85% plus) simply don’t get this. I promised that this blog would be transparent, and so I want to be straightforward: most people try to achieve too much in a first meeting. An analogy I like to give for this is from the poker world. Most winning poker players make their money by having a better sense of ranges and hand values than their opponents. Sometimes, winning poker players choose to ignore their experience, and instead implement “Fancy Play Syndrome.” FPS occurs when you know you have the worst hand, but figure if you do something really weird and quirky your opponent will fold. Most of the time, this fails. That’s because the story a player is trying to tell via FPS is simply incongruous. The best meetings I take are where the story is simple, the entrepreneur relies on his strengths in a certain industry to communicate a value prop, and acts naturally.
When I was younger and an aspiring thespian, I used to dream jealously of those lucky stars who got plucked out of their high school cafeterias into major picture roles. But those occurrences are 1 in a million at best (so you’re saying there’s a chance?). The same legends abound in the venture world of firms walking out of their first meeting with a signed term sheet at a great valuation. Has it happened? Yep. Is it likely to happen? Nope.
In too many meetings, companies try to do too much. Chris Dixon recently remarked that he wished he’d cut his meetings to 10 minutes. And that’s the truth – if it takes a company an hour (or even 15 minutes) to explain what they do, we’re simply not going to invest. The reason is because we’re an early stage VC. Our goal is to find companies who are attacking a problem with an opportunity to expand to multiple problems long-term. And while I’m new to this, our firm’s partners are really, really (and I mean scary) smart. Which means that they understand how a singularly focused platform can expand to deeper opportunities long-term. The job of a first meeting is to explain what you do now, why it matters, and why it works. The job of later meetings is to explore the greater vision. My goal isn’t to trivialize your business, but if you can’t explain it in 30-60 seconds, how are you going to convince customers or users to join your platform as well?
The title of this post says it all: the purpose of a first meeting is to get a second meeting. Be concise, be precise, and be real. Talk about what got you interested in the business, what you do, and why it works (or will). Take a few moments to explain why you’re the right person for the job. Consider every first meeting like you would a coffee date – realize that both sides are feeling each other, determining if there’s a potential match.
Most importantly, I don’t believe this approach applies to exclusively to VC. I think it applies to job interviews, sales, even dates. Very few major decisions are made on a single meeting. And most important decisions are ultimately syndicated out to a larger group – meaning that your goal in a first meeting is just to be so incredibly clear and likable, that the person you meet with can’t help but introduce you to the larger decision making body. Sales generally start lower in the funnel and move up, job interviews generally start in HR and expand towards specific offices, and dating is often screened by a larger friends group. Focus on being concise in a first meeting and allow questioning in later meetings to open up the larger potential.