[VivaTech] Addressing VCs: 5 tips to prepare your pitch

In 2018, Viva Technology is doubling its efforts to connect start-ups with investors – more than 1,400 are expected over the next three days. Increase your odds with the following tips form Orange Start-up and Rémi Prunier, Investment Manager at Orange Digital Ventures (ODV).

The investors at this year’s VivaTech (opens in a new window) come from many different sectors, including public and private banks, business angels, corporate funds (CVC), VCs and private equity companies. In addition to on-site mentoring and coaching opportunities, the Accelerate your future (opens in a new window) initiative incudes the Office Hours platform. Its objective: arranging one-to-one meetings between start-ups and top VCs such as Accel Partners (opens in a new window), Index Ventures (opens in a new window), JVP, Partech Ventures (opens in a new window) and Orange Digital Ventures (opens in a new window).

1. Target contacts in advance

According to Rémi Prunier, these new initiatives indicate that VivaTech has become an essential business event which requires all the more preparation for start-ups. “At a tradeshow of this scale, you won’t be discovered organically; you have to arrive having already targeted the funds and partners most relevant to your business activity,” he says.

He advises contacting these partners well before the event, ideally to make an appointment on site but also, simply to introduce yourself. In the same way, Rémi recommends taking part in side events (opens in a new window) before and during VivaTech. The VC Night (opens in a new window) on 23 May (where ODV will be represented) is also an opportunity for an informal meet and greet.

2. Customise your pitch

With just 3 short days to meet a whole host of stakeholders – the VCs of your dreams as well as visitors on the day – you have to be as efficient as possible and customise your pitch. This implies, for example, knowing the industrial, geographic and technological specificities of a particular investor or even their individual profiles to determine the appropriate level of “technicality”.

You have to adapt to the moment – whether you have 2 or 5 minutes, with or without slides, with a demo or not… there are no secrets, it all comes down to preparation.

3. … while taking care of the basics

It’s about making the best first impression in the shortest time. Therefore, make sure you don’t cut any corners.
“All VCs expect to find basic common elements, weighted differently according to the start-up’s stage of development: the team, product, market and competition status, traction, business model, go-to-market, etc.” explains Rémi.

4. When meeting VCs: build trust

Beyond a technical analysis, a successful pitch is one that builds trust. “Hiding information will come back to bite you afterwards. It’s better to explain what you want to leave out upfront, rather than create unpleasant surprises later: for example, a well-explained change of course shows flexibility which is conducive to entrepreneurship,” says Rémi.

Building confidence also includes a realistic 3 to 5 year vision with a strategy for protecting the innovation. In the longer term VCs will also expect to see possible exit routes.

5. The alchemy of pitching: leave a good impression

A VC at VivaTech will certainly meet hundreds of people – it’s up to the start-up to ensure they are remembered. This is where the human touch comes into play, which is even more important for new businesses.

A convincing storytelling can make all the difference explains Rémi, who summarises the objective as follows: “If the VC can understand in 2 minutes why the company was started, what pain point it will solve and the way it intends to do it, it’s already a good start!”

To avoid: starting straight away with a demo or comparisons with trendy unicorns, such as “we’re the Uber or the Airbnb of the x or y sector.” As for the tone, adds Rémi, it’s a question of being both enterprising and humble: “If you have made a good impression, even if the VC is not convinced, it can always be the source of some good advice. Trying to convince them at all costs, however, is a dangerous game.”

The ultimate goal is to get an appointment with a VC for further discussion.

Bonus: good to know when pitching to Orange Digital Ventures

Orange Digital Ventures (opens in a new window) is a corporate investment fund focused on verticals that are of particular strategic interest for the Orange Group. It finances start-ups that have already achieved a certain level of maturity (opens in a new window).

“This doesn’t mean that we haven’t helped start-ups who don’t fit this profile,” suggests Rémi. “We stay up to date with new trends that have real development potential such as UX, digital content or blockchain for example, and it’s always interesting to meet new businesses to create relationships that might bear fruit later.”

He also underlines ODV’s interest in start-ups that offer cutting-edge technology, particularly thanks to the expertise of the Group’s many researchers. Finally, the launch of Orange Digital Ventures Africa, which announced its first investment (opens in a new window) in April 2018, once again demonstrates the ambition of Orange’s corporate fund to support start-ups in all areas of innovation.