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The Big Score is a venture capital and corporate sourcing event taking place online, December 1-3

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\Startup Life How To/

How to pitch to investors — from VCs to corporates

What do investors really want to see in your pitch deck? And how do you woo them over Zoom?

By Connor Bilboe

Corporate venture capital (CVC) funding for startups has skyrocketed in recent years. Between 2014 and 2019, large enterprises’ global VC investments reached an all-time high of $57.1bn, up from $17.9bn according to a CB Insights report. 

Corporates are providing more than just capital to startups, too; they’re also helping them scale up fast and find big clients. But how can founders get connected with them in the first place?

This December, The Big Score, a matchmaking event for corporates and startups, opens its (virtual) doors. This edition, the event focuses on Benelux scaleups to pitch their solutions to top international VCs and corporates — and for big enterprises to find ways to tackle their tech challenges. 

Chief technical officers and chief information officers from some of the world’s biggest corporates — like P&G, BASF, AB Inbev and Orange — will be attending to find new ideas, partner with and potentially invest in high-growth startups from six key sectors like finance, transport and marketing.

To help founders on their corporate deal journey, we spoke to leading CVCs and VCs operating in Europe — including Samsung Catalyst Fund and NGP Capital — and discussed the tech solutions they’re hunting for, what their dream startup collaboration looks like and how founders can wow them while pitching remotely. 

Headshot of Megumi Ikeda of Hearst Ventures
Megumi Ikeda, managing director at Hearst Ventures

Hearst Ventures 

An affiliate of the US-based mass media firm Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, CVC Hearst Ventures focuses mainly on American investments but has dipped its toes into a few European deals, such as London-based home rental platform The Plum Guide and Amsterdam-based online manufacturing platform 3D Hubs, who pitched at The Big Score in 2018.

Hearst Ventures focuses on a range of sectors, but what tech solutions are you looking for right now?

We look at what’s on the horizon for technology and what technology is doing to shift certain industries. These can be overall tech trends like the rise of mobile or the cloud.

They can also be things that impact our core businesses, such as new consumer models because we have a lot of consumer assets, or logistics because we’re interested in how technology is disrupting that space and we have a fair amount of automotive and transport-related data.

What other challenges do you see your industries of interest are facing?

The sales cycles on the B2B side [is challenging] in certain sectors if it’s an industry that requires a lot of face time for deals to get closed or that have multiple levels of approval. Sometimes it can be shortened because they just need to get the product there, but other times it can be exacerbated because people are more cautious.

But it’s also good to remember that in times of change, it’s a moment for startups to shine. You can see that currently in sectors like logistics — people never knew what the supply chain was, but now it’s on BBC News and has become a mainstream term.

How can startups ensure they impress you while pitching virtually?

 It can become more engaging if there’s some type of personal bend to the conversation because you’re not in the same room. So make an extra effort to communicate personality, motivation, and something that makes it feel more than just cold hard numbers.

pitch to vcs
Newion Capital’s investment team

Newion Capital

Meet Newion, an Amsterdam-based VC (and partner of The Big Score) founded in 2000 which focuses on seed to Series A rounds. Herman Kienhuis, investment partner at Newion, previously worked at KPN Ventures, the investment arm of a Netherlands-based telecommunications company KPN and Sanoma Ventures, the investment arm of Finnish media group Sanoma.

As an investor with a B2B software focus, what tech solutions are you looking for right now?

We focus on B2B software startups and scaleups located in Benelux, Scandinavia and  Germany. We are also closely following several market trends, for example, collaboration, data analytics and industry 4.0, to name a few.

What other challenges do you see your industries of interest are facing?

“…there’s no time to waste to gain market share and claim market leadership; otherwise, another will become the market leader.”

Competition is high. Barriers to start a B2B software company are lower than they have ever been. As soon as the product-market fit is proven, then there’s no time to waste to gain market share and claim market leadership; otherwise, another will become the market leader.

How can startups ensure they impress you while pitching virtually?

It’s crucial to tell us a straightforward story about a few things: 1) what does the company do; 2) why does the company do this; 3) why can the company achieve its objectives. We want to see the proof with data points but also get inspired by the passion behind the idea.

pitch corporates
David (Dede) Goldschmidt, managing director at Samsung Catalyst Fund

Samsung Catalyst Fund

Founded in 2013, Samsung Catalyst Fund (SCF) investment strategy spans domains from data, AI, and deeptech to infrastructure, cloud, security and more, with an aim to improve technology. SCF supports Samsung’s device solutions, mobile and consumer electronics groups, and operates globally in the US, Europe and Israel. Its Europe offices are in Paris and Berlin.

Samsung Catalyst Fund focuses on a range of sectors, but what tech solutions are you looking for right now?

We see three important shifts happening over the course of the pandemic. First is the rapid rise of mobile and cloud services, as well as the deeptech infrastructure needed to power the digital transformation for virtual, convenient and efficient user experiences.

A second shift we’re targeting is the intersection of biology and tech. For instance, portfolio company Genome Medical is accelerating telehealth services and access to genetic specialists via AI-powered remote counselling.

Lastly, we all worry about our safety and security, especially during working from home. We’re looking for disruptive solutions and digital products and services to defend against biological, mental health, physical, financial and cyber threats.

What kinds of startups are you keen to work with?

When we make an investment, we have a double bar — we look for strong founding teams that are solving a significant problem with defensible technology and addressing a very large market. 

And at the same time, we evaluate the Samsung collaboration angle: how could 1+1 equal 3? We are keen to partner with bright entrepreneurs and help amplify their success by working together.

What one common mistake do you see startups making when pitching?

Focusing the pitch too much on technology. As a future business, the first question to be asked is market need — what pain point can be solved, how big of a problem is it and how large is the market opportunity?

“…what pain point can be solved, how big of a problem is it and how large is the market opportunity?”

Bo Ilsoe, partner at NGP Capital

NGP Capital

This investor is the CVC arm of Finnish hardware giant Nokia, and has been investing in companies across Europe, the US and Asia since 2005. Its notable investments include German tour booking platform GetYourGuide and food delivery company Deliveroo.

As an investor focusing on enterprise, mobility and mobile, what tech solutions are you looking for right now?

A big thing that is happening is that 5G networks are being rolled out. And we’re thinking about what sectors will benefit from an improvement in speed, connectivity and accessibility as a result of 5G, such as drone technology. With enterprise, we’re looking at things like cloud technology.

What one common mistake do you see startups making when pitching?

There’s some basic homework that people often forget to do. Know who you are meeting, look at your investor’s LinkedIn profile and put yourself in the shoes of the receiver. To avoid wasting time at the pitch, ask investors what they know about your business, or whether they’ve invested in similar companies before — do some level setting with the people you talk to.

“Know who you are meeting, look at your investor’s LinkedIn profile and put yourself in the shoes of the receiver.”

How can startups ensure they impress you while pitching virtually?

Be better prepared. On Zoom, it’s harder to gauge the individuals’ body language, whether the person received what you were saying or if it registered in the right way. And it comes back to clarity and asking questions to make sure you’re tracking on the right subjects and topics.

Force Over Mass team picture
Force Over Mass Capital’s investment team

Force Over Mass Capital (FOM Capital) 

This London-based VC launched in 2013. Its team of nine has invested in a portfolio of over 65 companies ranging from ecommerce to edtech.

As an investor focusing on fintech, industry 4.0 and AI, what tech solutions are you looking for right now?

First, open banking, as we see opportunities in using transaction data to provide customers with a more tailored banking experience.

We’re also looking for solutions in applied AI, because AI is a top priority for every company now and will remain so in the future. As big data proliferates, the ability to use available data to make accurate and timely forecasts becomes increasingly essential to competitiveness. 

The lockdowns have also accelerated adoption in the gaming space. For example, we saw a 45% increase in time spent playing video games during the March lockdown in the US. While gaming as such is large already, we feel the infrastructure supporting this industry is nascent.

What kinds of startups are you keen to work with?

We like companies that are tackling a big market and are operationally well run. Also, we want to make sure that we back a team that can make their business scalable and profitable. We find clear and structured communication, both in due diligence and post-investment, a good indicator of success.

We appreciate founders that acknowledge their shortcomings, and we like to see a plan on how they will resolve these issues. It can sometimes add value to understand how founders tackle and think about problems, than the actual solution itself.

“We find clear and structured communication, both in due diligence and post-investment, a good indicator of success.”

What one common mistake do you see startups making when pitching?

If you make predictions about the future, make sure you can back them up. We like to see high revenue growth, but just putting a high number in the financial model does not do the trick. We need to understand how you are planning to get there, if it’s realistic and how aware you are of potential pitfalls.

 

Connect with Samsung Catalyst Fund, Newion and FOM Capital alongside over 150 other corporate investors and VCs at The Big Score from 1-3 December. Learn more about the event here.

Sponsored By

The Big Score's logo

The Big Score is a venture capital and corporate sourcing event taking place online, December 1-3

The Big Score

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