Doesn’t just about everyone enjoy seeing and playing with a new device? This even applies to seasoned and sophisticated venture capitalists.
I’ve seen a lot of pitch decks. The ones that have a demo or an early stage product are almost always more compelling than a simple pitch deck. A demo, or a prototype (often called an alpha), can bridge the gap from an idea or concept, to demonstrating how something works. And it’s been my experience that live demos often gain a VC’s rapt attention.
Here are a few examples based on my work with start-ups, discussions with VCs, and working with many law firms.
I’ve seen pitches wherein investors were able to play with an innovative mobile phone case and hotel food service robots. I’ve observed devices that measure health parameters, that interact with software measuring people’s reactions to advertising and branding, and that will deliver medicines to remote areas in Africa. I’ve also played around with a Web service that customized websites based on predictions from the viewer’s web browsing history.
These demos connect emotional interest in these products to the business proposition — and far better than any document ever could. They also reveal how well the founder can communicate their vision, as well as their level of passion.
On the founder side, a demo allows them to test the reaction of the audience to different features, then consider adding or removing features.
This is particularly true if your audience contains engineers. As a recovering engineer, I still like to play with stuff and take it apart to see how it works. But make no mistake: so do many VCs. That’s why a “show and tell” pitch brings out the kid in most of us, including those with serious money to invest.