If you’re a founder who submitted a Dorm Room Fund application recently, and you just got an email from a DRF Partner who wants to know when you’re free for a Zoom, you might be wondering what it means, and how to be successful on that call.
At DRF, we call these initial, informal, evaluative conversations “coffee chats”. We do not have a coffee chat with every founder that applies, but we have at least two with every founder we fund; this is a good sign for you!
Coffee chats run about 30 minutes, typically over video conference. DRF likes to match startups with Partners on the appropriate regional team who have experience or an interest in the startup’s industry, or some aspect of the startup we want to learn more about. We usually bring one or two Partners, and you should bring some part, or all, of the founding team (it’s up to you!).
Here are some tips for coffee chat success.
- If your application didn’t include a pitch deck, make one now. You might not need it for DRF’s application, but we will ask about many things that appear in one, and other investors may require one.
- Reflect on why YOU need to be building this company, and why it needs to be built (with relatively expensive venture capital dollars) NOW.
- Consider your customers. Who are they, what will they buy, and why will they buy it?
- It’s certainly not an expectation, but if you don’t know a Partner, a little social media research in advance might be useful…and this runs in both directions!
- If this is your first coffee chat, we’ll quickly explain our investing process at DRF. You need to understand how DRF operates so you’re armed with all of the info you need to succeed
- You share your startup’s story, your way!
- We love to ask questions, and have dialogue with founders. IYKYK – and if you don’t know, say so! There’s nothing wrong at any point in this process with saying “I don’t know. I’ll find out and follow up.” We’re all students here.
- We’ll reach out about next steps ASAP. You deserve it!
- There are three common outcomes:
- We could decide we’re ready to bring you in to pitch the regional investment team, schedule a pitch, and begin the due diligence process.
- We could decide we need more information, and set you up with an additional coffee chat. If there’s something specific we’d like to understand better, we’ll make that clear!
- We (or you) could decide that we’re not a good fit for each other, and end the process without investing.
- Relax! Pitching may be stressful, but we hope it’s also fun. We are peers, and we want to get excited about your startup.
- Communicate. If you need something from us (rescheduling, quick turnaround, etc), please ask. At DRF, we work hard to be founder friendly!
- You are industry experts! We recommend tailoring your pitch, however you choose to present it, to an undergraduate who is familiar with startups, but not with your industry.
- DRF is an early stage investor. You do not need a product. But…if you have a prototype, or something farther along, we love to see it!
- Live demos are risky.
We appreciate that pitching a vision for the future is tough, even terrifying, and think it’s an incredibly brave thing to do.
We are grateful to our colleagues in classrooms across the world who are founders, and who trust us enough to share their inspiring ideas at coffee chats.
And if you just got that email and you’re reading this, we wish you good luck!
Written by DRF partner Aaron Pickard.