Rob Coneybeer: What Investors are Looking for in Startups

Hundreds of investors are coming to Web Summit. Take a peek at some of the best here.


Rob Coneybeer, founder of Shasta Ventures and former aerospace engineer has become synonymous with early stage investments in disruptive Startups. Rob has invested in companies such as Nest, RelayRides and Airware, and here, in Part 2 of our Startup Series, he tells us exactly what investors want from a Startup.

Every year at Shasta Ventures we hear thousands of Startup pitches. The best pitches – the ones that stand out and get us excited – are given by entrepreneurs that take these four key steps:

1./ Get a strong introductory referral.
2./ Demonstrate the product within the first five minutes.
3./ Solve an important problem for a lot of potential customers.
4./ Show that you have the right team.

The introductory referral is extremely important. In today’s world, LinkedIn and other online networking tools allow anyone to rapidly figure out how you’re connected to anyone else. At Shasta Ventures, we believe that investing the time to find a quality connection is a leading indicator of your business development and sales acumen as an entrepreneur. It also works in reverse for Shasta. When there are entrepreneurs that we want to proactively meet, that’s what we do as well – find a high quality introduction.

The most important part of the pitch is explaining in simple terms what your product (or service) does. If it’s tough to explain simply, it will probably be a lot tougher to sell to your customers (let alone investors). Every great company we’ve backed at Shasta over the last decade has had a simple product proposition. How you explain the product, how you demo the product, and how you think about the product provides an important lens to us – one that allows us to best understand how you, the entrepreneur, is uniquely suited to bring that product to market and fulfill the opportunity.

There are clearly some great ideas out there that are interesting, but if the market’s not exciting, we won’t get excited either. An exciting market needs to be large, and your product should be something people are eager to buy, because it solves a real problem.

Finally, you need to have the right team in order to build the product, and to take it to market. A “right team” can mean a lot of different things – it doesn’t have to be an experienced team – just that the backgrounds and expertise of the team support an ability to build that product.

Check out Part 1 of our Startup Series here: 11 Ways to Rock the Floor at Web Summit

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