Progress Presentations vs. Investor Presentations

The format of the LaunchPad classroom sessions is simple: Each team has 5-7 minutes to do a brief Powerpoint presentation focused on their progress since the previous week. A discussion follows each with commentary, suggestions and critique from everyone in the room: Teaching team, advisor/mentors and other teams. This is followed by training in specific aspects of the lean methodology. Because we do it weekly for three months everyone is quite familiar with the challenges each team is facing.

At the end of the three months, the teams are pretty good at these presentations. They’ve refined their ability to show progress based on the reality of their customer discovery conversations. And these are documented on the slides in measurable ways- who, when, how many and what they learned or unlearned. The final stage was the public events in Rochester and NYC where the teams gave a summary progress presentation to rooms full of people who were not familiar with their work. It was a powerful experience to be a part of for both the audience and the program participants.

One of the comments I heard more than once was a comparison of this progress-focused presentation style vs. investor presentations. In all instances, the commenter preferred the progress format. I felt the same way, in part because I lump many investor presentations into the same category as business plans. All too often they focus on what the team thinks the investors want to hear.

Interestingly enough Steve Blank (originator of all this lean stuff) recently wrote a post on a new metric, The Investment Readiness Level:

“The collective wisdom of venture investors (including angel investors, and venture capitalists) over the past decades has been mostly subjective. Investment decisions made on the basis of “awesome presentation”, “the demo blew us away”, or “great team” is used to measure startups. These are 20th century relics of the lack of data available from each team and the lack of comparative data across a cohort and portfolio.”

As usual with Mr. Blank he has wrapped this idea into a very complex set of metrics for accelerator managers. But the core concept is simple:

Present investors with data gathered by the founder team that verifies and strengthens their value proposition, market understanding and expertise, rather than creating a set of expectations based on what you think investors want to hear.

And frankly, if you’re in the program, focus on customer discovery, not raising money. If you get your business model right, investment gets a lot easier. Or you may find you don’t need it, an increasingly viable option these days.