Don’t Sweep your Failures Under the Carpet

Yesterday, we revamped the pitch book that we share with potential investors interested in Artha Venture Fund. Although the revamp was long overdue, I kept procrastinating until a fund manager in Hong Kong took out an hour from his day to offer me insightful critique for our 35+ slider presentation. He asked me to cut out 35% of the existing presentation but add a slide that initially I was hesitant to do.

Right after the slide that talks about our previous investment performance including the top 6 companies in our portfolio (by valuation), we added a slide that talks about our two biggest investment blunders, why they happened, what the outcome was and what we learnt from it.  It didn’t take me more than a minute to decide which investments I would include on that slide since I discuss them frequently with investors in person, but I was apprehensive of putting them on a presentation that wouldn’t allow me to explain myself.

While reviewing companies, our team always goes through their reviews on Google, Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, the Play store, Glassdoor, etc. During this process, we don’t look for the best & recent reviews but scour through the list for the 1 & 2-star poor reviews to understand where the company’s product/service is lacking. We do this because 99% of founders will provide snippets of the best feedback in their pitch deck but leave out the bad ones altogether. I believe they do it for the same reasons I did because not being able to explain why there is a big ugly black blot on an otherwise beautiful painting takes away the cloak of invincibility that you work on building throughout a presentation.

In my opinion, after adding the hotly debated slide, we have enhanced our reputation as astute investors. That slide candidly lays out our biggest blunders for potential investors offering a window into how we look at our failures and what we have learnt from them. It makes us relatable, it makes us human.

I recommend that all founders who are currently preparing, reviewing and editing their pitch book should put a slide of their ugliest reviews and explain why it is there, how they resolved the situation with an offended customer/supplier/whoever, whether the guffaw warranted a corrective action within the company, if the corrective action lead to lasting changes (be honest) and what the result of those actions was.

I (now) firmly believe that this is a slide that will stand out in your pitch because it does in mine.

68/2018

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