Pitching is a vital component to achieving success as a start-up, so we thought we’d ask five law-gends what gets – and keeps – their attention.
Meet the law-gends and read their tips below:
Shruti Aijitsaria: Head of Fuse – Allen & Overy’s tech innovation space launched in September 2017. Shruti is also an independent angel investor.
Bruce Braude: Head of Strategic Client Technology at Berwin Leighton Paisner. Bruce is responsible for leveraging technology and data analytics to offer clients enhanced and new legal services.
Robyn Weatherley: Programme Manager of MDR LAB – Mishcon de Reya’s incubator for legal tech start-ups.
Nick West: Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at Mishcon de Reya and Director of their MDR LAB.
Daniel van Binsbergen: CEO at Lexoo, a legal tech platform which helps businesses and in-house legal teams easily compare and hire talented lawyers.
1. Know everything about who you’re pitching to before entering the room – and ruthlessly tailor your pitch accordingly.
Shruti Aijitsaria: If you are pitching for a place on an incubator make sure you know about the profile of the sponsor firm. Bring concrete examples of the effectiveness of your offering. For example, if you’re applying to a law firm incubator, it is very effective to be able to point to a specific deal that the firm has done recently and then to say ‘with our technology, you could have done it more effectively and saved this much money’.
Looking at angel investors, look for ‘smart money’, that is, an investor who can help you, not only with capital, but also with their knowledge and network. So always ask yourself what does this person provide, beyond the cash?
Nick West: Understand how the law firm you’re pitching to makes money – we aren’t all the same. If you’re pitching to Mishcon, don’t explain how your tool will help us streamline our Derivatives contracting (we don’t do that) or how your software will help us work seamlessly across all our offices (we are basically a one office Firm). Similarly, if you’re explaining how your super-duper natural language processing capabilities will help us, choose a litigation use case rather than a contracting one (we’re a 70% litigation firm)”
Bruce Braude: Law firms are increasingly relied upon by in-house teams to advise on technology. So as well as talking about how your technology can help law firms, think about how it could help their clients.
2. First impressions last, so make a good one.
Robyn Weatherley: Be enthusiastic – you might be heading into the offices of a large law firm with lots of lawyers in suits, but they are still people. It’s not just the product people buy into, it’s the people too. If you are passionate and believe in what you are doing, people will want to support you in your venture (and if not this one, then perhaps the next).
Bruce Braude: Don’t get caught out on connectivity. I have seen people rock up with the wrong HDMI lead, or assuming that the meeting room will have a Wi-Fi connection when it doesn’t. Most people get this right but it’s amazing how many times it still happens. Come prepared for a connectivity failure – bring a back-up Powerpoint deck or a printed document with screen grabs just in case your live demo doesn’t work.
Shruti Aijitsaria: The quality of the team is paramount. Whether making a decision about who to include in Fuse, or equally, when deciding whether to make a personal investment in a business, I look for someone with a passion for what they are doing, experience and resilience. I normally make my mind up about someone quite quickly, so first impressions are really important.
3. Priority 1 from any meeting: secure another meeting.
Daniel van Binsbergen: Your goal in the first pitch meeting is to get a second meeting, not to close the round. Only talk about things that will get you the second meeting. e.g. use the time to build excitement by talking about traction and vision, rather than detailed stuff they’ll cover in due diligence anyway.
Bruce Braude: You don’t have to say everything about your technology in your first meeting so keep your pitch short. This will give you time to hear what feedback I have got to give and allow you to adjust your pitch ahead of a follow-up meeting.
4. Be concise.
Robyn Weatherley: “Be able to sum up your product in one sentence – everyone is busy (and many are recording their time in 6 minute blocks…) so if you can’t explain your idea concisely, people are going to turn off pretty quickly. If you know your product and who you are selling it to well enough, you shouldn’t need to ramble.”
Bruce Braude: Don’t start your pitch with a company overview. This is relevant once we want to progress to the next level but what I want to know in the first meeting is what the product does and how it works.
5. Question your inquisitor.
Shruti Aijitsaria: Be ready to ask lots of questions about an incubator so you can be sure that it’s the right fit for you. Incubators all operate very differently and will have a different range of offerings, so it is important to understand the commitment from your end (be it time or otherwise) and what you will likely get in return, to ensure that you will actually achieve maximum value.
With Fuse, there was a perception that we were simply providing access to free legal advice – but that’s not the focus. We want to identify the brightest minds in the tech sector and understand how we can work with them to create solutions that address our clients’ biggest challenges.
Daniel van Binsbergen: always ask at the end: if there were two things that you feel you’d need to dig into more before investing, what would they be? (This flushes out what they find riskiest about your business, so that in a second meeting you can spend more time there).
6. Don’t over-sell.
Bruce Braude: Be open about your product’s pipeline. We accept that start-ups aren’t going to have the perfect product from the first meeting. Be clear on what is possible now and what will be possible in the future. But do mention who else is using your product, or who else is looking at it. This gives greater credibility to your product.