The European Blockchain Convention is welcoming the Top 50 European early-stage startups to pitch on stage in front of their 5,000 attendees and VC investors. The startup pitch will cover topics from DeFi, crypto, gaming, NFTs, ReFi and sustainability, and blockchain infrastructure to security.
To further assist the 50 finalists in crafting winning pitches and keep growing after the event, the European Blockchain Convention engaged in discussions with two experienced VC experts. These experts have generously shared invaluable insights on how to craft a winning startup pitch and what VCs really want to hear from startup founders!
VC Experts Profile
Jury member: Jeddi Mees
Company: Fabric Ventures
Expertise: Gaming, NFT, DeFi, Blockchain Infrastructure, Metaverse, Identity & KYC Solutions, Wallets & Security
Short bio: Over the past 6 years Jeddi has dedicated himself to his entrepreneurial journey having founded 4 businesses, and launching a sold-out NFT collection. Jeddi has bootstrapped 3 e-commerce projects whilst exiting on 1. He also has years of start-up mentoring experience, where he has mentored over 200 founders. Jeddi has been a Web3 user, investor, and growth advisor since 2019.
Jury member: Mahsa Doorfard
Expertise: Blockchain infrastructure and Sustainability
Short bio: Since January 2023, Mahsa has embraced the role of the Sales and Marketing Manager at coinIX; a blockchain investment firm based in Hamburg. She is one of the DLT and ReFi talents of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and her ambition revolves around fostering greater female representation within the Web3 ecosystem.
What are the key criteria that VCs prioritize when evaluating an early-stage Web3 startup pitch?
Jeddi thinks that the criteria remain the same no matter whether the startup is in Web3 or other industries. He raised three important points for early-stage startup founders to consider when making their pitches:
- Do the founders have expertise in the domain they want to cover? This expertise allows them to have a unique perspective on a problem, known as founder-market fit.
- Does the problem they wish to solve cover a sufficiently large and growing market?
- The ability of the founders to focus on the right metrics and the right problems at each stage of the project’s evolution.
When presenting a pitch, it’s essential to articulate the problem clearly, emphasizing its longstanding nature and the team’s solution. The product section should convey the value proposition, supplemented by a demo and testimonials. The market discussion should be concise, focusing on the real target audience and the startup’s unique positioning.
Moreover, the pitch deck should also outline the business model and emphasize relevant KPIs, avoiding cumulative data. Sharing the company’s journey and the team’s accomplishments adds a human touch. Outlining the roadmap and concluding with a well-structured business or cash plan and a vision statement is also vital, ensuring a comprehensive overview for potential investors.
Mahsa proposed some slides for startup founders to include in their pitch decks:
It summarizes what you intend to present and it should Include your brand name, logo, company slogan, and email address for investors who want to reach out.
Round Details & the Ask
- How much have you raised so far? What is the goal? What is your cash burn rate? You can put a range to attract more targets but don’t keep it very wide.
- Know your CAPEX, OPEX, & working capital.
- Understand your milestones.
- Calculate how much cash you need for the first 18-24 months
Problem Addressed & Target Audience
- What gap in the blockchain industry are you filling?
- The audience must be able to relate to the problem addressed.
- Remember that you are solving just one problem. Not more!
- Link the problems to your solutions
- List the already existing solutions and their shortcomings
- Why are you launching now? Is the timing right? Being too early or too late is not good
Competition & Long-term Market Positioning
- Your pitch deck should clearly state your methods and strategies for beating the competition. How do you stand out?
- Use a graph outlining past market growth and potential future growth, so investors can quantify the ROI of their investments
Market Size & Potential
Business & Revenue Model & Tokenomics
- Create a basic outline of your business model (pricing, who will be paying for the service? Options for cross-selling and upselling)
- Focus on one or two main revenue streams. Don’t mention a lot.
- Show the possibilities for your future revenue, along with your reasoning for them. Try out multiple business models to see what might work best in your case.
- Do you really need Blockchain? Why?
- Which Blockchains are used?
- Is the platform launched?
What are some common mistakes to avoid during the pitch?
Based on her experiences in VC, Mahsa shared several common mistakes that she’s observed over the years.
Lack of catchy opening & coherent narrative
Mahsa recommends using a more attractive business story that can grip investors within the first few seconds.
Don’t dive into irrelevant technicalities and product features
Lack of vision & strategy
You should know where you see yourself in 5 years and summarize it in a sentence. Avoid stating you are the only one doing this or you are the pioneer in the industry.
Not understanding the market & why now
Not understanding the market & why now
Don’t forget to say why you are launching now. Timing is everything!
Bad Business Model
Don’t over-diversify revenue streams
Poor competition slide
Don’t focus on insignificant competitors!
Weak team slide
Just mentioning the name and role is not enough. Say why did you choose them! What makes each team member stand out?
Pitching to the wrong investor
Research the VC firm before applying. Who is the right person to talk to? In which areas do they invest? Does it include your project? Do they have a history of investing in businesses like yours?
How important is the team’s expertise and experience? What specific attributes do you look for in the team?
Mahsa stated that the team’s experience and reputation are very important. What makes the team unique? She suggested each founder highlight the two or three achievements and roles of every member which is relevant to the project in bullet points.
Jeddi also agreed that the expertise of the team is crucial, and it often comes hand-in-hand with experience. He believed that with both expertise and experience, the startup could spot unique problems and develop innovative solutions that others might not see.
Pitching to VCs can be daunting for founders. How can startup presenters effectively convey their vision and value proposition when pitching to VCs?
According to Jeddi, to prepare a good startup pitch, preparation and understanding your audience are a good start. During the pitch, the presenters should demonstrate the product, showcase the team, and clearly share the company vision. Founders can also create a story about why they started the company and why they decided to tackle this specific problem, especially for founders with technical backgrounds.
The main goal of meeting VC investors is to secure a follow-up meeting since it’s rare to close a deal right after the pitch. It’s thus important to focus on potential investors and schedule several meetings. Listen attentively, establish a connection with the audience, and be open to discussions. Last, Jeddi shared that every meeting should conclude with clear next steps to avoid ambiguity.
After preparing the slides, Mahsa shared a few tips for startup founders to reflect on and examine their pitch deck:
- Does the story make sense?
- Is my opening gripping enough to make them want to continue reading?
- Does the narrative have a consistent flow?
- Is the storyline memorable? Does it elicit emotion?
- Stick to what investors want to see, not what you want to say.
- Keep a minimum of 10 slides and make sure not to have more than 19 slides.
- Show that you have a vision. You should know where you see yourself in 5 years and should be able to summarize it in a sentence.
Startup founders should also be able to answer these questions:
- How will your company stand out in the industry?
- What will your brand be recognized for?
- What kind of growth will you achieve?
- Will you become a leader in a niche?
- What markets will you conquer?
Given the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the crypto industry, how can early-stage startups stay relevant and adapt to changing market conditions?
For Jeddi, the answer is simple: listen to your users. He thinks that users should always be the founder’s only focus while Mahsa also agrees with the importance of staying in touch with the community and the ecosystem.
Mahsa also thinks that in order for a startup to keep growing, the team has to research regularly and never stop learning. Founders should be willing to invest in the employees’ development.
Furthermore, the ability to pivot is also essential for startups in the Web3 space, and founders should keep their business models flexible to adapt to new technologies when needed.
What specific areas do you think will potentially grow in the crypto space? What areas is your company focusing on investing in?
According to Mahsa, coinIX invests in blockchain infrastructure and is focused on the Ethereum blockchain. Most of the projects that coiniX has invested in are either getting built on top of Ethereum or are offering Ethereum scalability solutions. Tokenization projects and the DePIN sector are interesting for them.
On the other hand, Jeddi from Fabric Ventures thinks open Loyalty and commerce graphs, collectively owned content, open finance, gaming, open payments, open-source/AI, open infrastructure, open work, and contribution economy are some interesting areas for Web3.
Can you share some examples of a successful startup pitch?
Jeddi recommends startup founders take a look at Brian Armstrong’s training for his pitch during the YCombinator demo day in 2012.
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