Lo Toney, founding managing partner at Plexo Capital, has advice for founders looking to raise money: think like a product manager while crafting your pitch deck. Toney has helped shape products at Zynga, Nike and eBay, and currently serves as both a GP and an LP at Plexo Capital, which invests in funds and startups. He’s done a ton of pitching and gotten pitched himself, which is why we invited him to TechCrunch Early Stage 2020.
“The framework of product management is very similar to the same playbook used by an early-stage investor and early-stage investors in the absence of an abundance of data,” Toney said. “They’re really thinking very similar to a product manager to evaluate an opportunity.”
Crafting a solid pitch deck is critical to the success of a startup seeking venture capital. Investors, however, spend less than four minutes on average per deck, and some even tell you that you have half that much time (so either talk fast or pick your favorite slides). Even if you have the business to prove that you’re the next Stripe, if you butcher the story behind the numbers, you could lose the potential to get the capital you need.
Toney said adopting a product manager mindset helps refine what that story looks and feels like.
“The story is not your product. It’s not your company, and it’s not the entrepreneur. It’s how your customer’s world is going to be better when your product has solved their problem,” he said, quoting Rick Klau from GV.
In action, Toney broke down the framework into four key slides: problem, market, solution and, of course, team.
First up, most investors say they want to see the problem you’re trying to solve up high. Toney is no different.
“I like to see an entrepreneur describing the desired outcome first, and then what are some of those roadblocks that come along the way to that desired outcome?” he asked. Similar to a product manager, founders could illustrate the different challenges that could come to executing a solution on a specific problem.