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Terp Tip: Sharpening that investment pitch with Terp alumna Lisa Dorsey

Terp Tip: Sharpening that investment pitch with Terp alumna Lisa Dorsey

Lisa Dorsey
Lisa Dorsey spent more than two decades as an institution equity research sales professional to institutional investors. She worked on the front lines of investing with some of the greatest investors of our generation. Now, she’s turned her ear for a successful pitch into a second career as founder and managing partner of Innovative Capital Access. The consulting firm helps new businesses streamline relevant information and fine-tune presentations geared to successful interactions with venture capitalists or other potential funders.
A new appointee to the New York Alumni Board, Dorsey recently created and hosted the inaugural NYC Terrapin Tank Night, during which four founders of young companies shared their pitch decks with three seasoned alumni.  At the event, Dorsey and a team of successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists offered tactics to help them get to the heart of their investment thesis — and lock up funding.
Missed the event? Dorsey shares some insights here.

Build interest quickly.

As an equity analyst covering enterprise software companies for Smith Barney and later as a top salesperson at Brown Brothers Harriman, Dorsey understood the value of time for CEOs, CFOs, portfolio managers or other pivotal decision-makers. Her skill was to get to the heart of the investment thesis quickly. Then it’s on to the numbers: market validation and market size, followed by product details. 

Today, Dorsey teaches technology and healthcare influencers how to speak this language of investors. In addition to explaining what is the problem and why they are part of the solution, they must show proof of concept and formulate financial models while highlighting any milestones or goals already achieved. In your pitch deck, she suggests, too, include a photo.

“They have to articulate what the business focus is — and within the context of where they’re at — what it is about the model that is attractive and scale-able,” she said. “What’s the sizzle?”

Use rejection.

According to Forbes, even a successful start-up may take at least 12 months to raise its first round of capital. That likely plenty of “nos” before a few critical “yeses.” Each pitch deck presentation is an opportunity to learn even if it doesn’t net any funding.

“Learn how to take from your meetings,” Dorsey said. “Surely they said something that can help you grow.”

That could be a specific criticism of the deck itself (too long, too short, not enough financial information) or a suggestion on how to build a stronger management team. Whatever it is, use it to better understand what’s important for investors.

Commit to the slow burn.

A rejection shouldn’t mean cutting off communication. Though a specific company might not fit into a given investor’s portfolio, he or she may not see it as a poor investment.

Incorporate that investor into your network with an intentional, even scheduled, approach. Dorsey suggests following venture capitalists or other investor representatives on social media and reaching out via conference call or in person three times a year — particularly if the company hits a new milestone. 

“You just never know when someone will become more interested,” said Dorsey, who stoked networking relationships with some potential portfolio managers for as long as one year before even securing the first meeting. “Or they could meet someone else and pass that opportunity on to them.”



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