“You need to sign an NDA,” my co-founder, “John”, said to David, the investor we were presenting to. It was our second meeting with David, and John’s comment took me totally by surprise, but David’s response didn’t take me by surprise.
David looked at our VP Engineering and said, “We can stop right there. I’m not signing an NDA.” I sat there, stone faced, while I waited for John to reply.
I knew that if John didn’t say he was okay with continuing that we would be done for. VCs, as a rule, don’t normally sign NDAs.
After what seemed like an hour, but what was really less than a minute, John backed down, and the diligence meeting continued.
So let’s put asking an investor to sign an NDA at the top of my list of things you shouldn’t say to a VC during a pitch meeting. However there are many more things you shouldn’t say to a VC during a pitch meeting like this beauty:
B. Never say, “I’m a reformed VC.”
I was in the audience when I heard the VP of a long since forgotten startup make this joke/comment when he was introducing himself to the partnership of the VC fund where I was an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR). The VP’s joke landed like a lead balloon.
The crazy thing is I’ve seen other entrepreneurs make this exact same mistake with this exact same joke. And, I made a similar mistake with a different joke when I was presenting to the partnership at one of our investors, the notorious “Donald Ventures”.
Here’s the deal. You are really rolling the dice when you make a joke. It’s great when the joke lands, but a joke at the wrong time can kill the momentum you have with a potential investor.
So, if you’re at all in doubt, just don’t make a joke. The other point that you, as a CEO, should recognize from these first two points is that you have prepare and rehearse with your co-founders before you present to any investor.
For example, I should have spoken with John about what to say and what not say in front of an investor. I didn’t have that conversation, and it almost cost us dearly.