The following is a comprehensive list of questions I’ve come across in my experience pitching and raising money for startups, and from those of other budding and seasoned entrepreneurs.
Everything from “Why should I care about your product or service?” to “What happens to my money if you get divorced?”, all segmented into their respective categories.
Products & Services
- What is your business model?
- Why do users care about your product or service?
- Why should I care about your product or service?
- What are your major product milestones?
- What are the biggest changes your company has gone through in the past 3, 6 and 12 months?
- What are the key differentiated features of your product or service?
- What is your value proposition?
- What is your distinctive competency?
- What have you learned from early versions of your product or service?
- Provide a demonstration of your product or service.
- What are the two or three key features you plan to add? And how do they benefit users/consumers?
- What are the advantages of using your product/service?
- How can I make money?
Founder(s) & Team:
- What is your vision for the company?
- Who are the founders and key team members?
- Why start this venture?
- Your relationship with your technical team is unclear, please elaborate.
- What relevant domain experience does the team have?
- What key additions to the team are needed in the short-term/long-term?
- What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
- Why is your team uniquely capable of executing the company’s business plan and vision?
- How many employees do you have?
- What motivates you? What motivates the founders?
- What keeps you awake at night?
- What is the starting salary for your technical team?
- How much are you paying yourself?
- How do you plan to scale the team in the next 12 months?
- How much equity will you reserve for employees?
- What happens to my money if you divorce? (when founders are married)
- Why are you the team to execute on this idea.
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What do your customers need and how do you know?
- What is your total available market?
- What is your total addressable market (how large is the market opportunity, in relation to your proposed sales and distribution channels)?
- What percentage of the market are you expecting to acquire? How long?
- How did you arrive at the sales values and growth rate of your industry?
- Why does your company have high growth potential?
- Who owns the customer?
- Who are your competitors?
- How easy is it for new entrants to enter your market?
- What is the level of rivalry in the industry at the moment?
- What substitute products and alternatives already exist?
- What gives your company a competitive advantage?
- What advantages does your competition have over you?
- Compared to your competition, how do you compete with respect to price, features, and performance?
- What are the barriers to entry?
- What concerns you most about the competitive landscape of your industry?
Marketing & Customer Acquisition
- What is your principle marketing strategy?
- What is your price?
- How did you derive the price of your product?
- How much money do you have earmarked for marketing?
- How does the company market or plan to market its products or services over the next 3, 6 and 12 months?
- What is the company’s PR strategy?
- What is the company’s social media strategy?
- What is your customer acquisition cost?
- What is the lifetime value of one of your customers?
- What advertising will you be doing?
- What is the typical sales cycle between initial customer contact and closing of a sale? How long? Who are the key players/decision-makers?
- How many early adopters/customers have you talked you?
- How many early adopters/customers have you visited?
- What early traction has the company gotten (sales, traffic to the company’s website, app downloads… etc., as relevant)?
- How can your early traction be accelerated?
- What has been the principal ‘driver’ for your early traction?
- What key metrics are you measuring for company growth?
- How do you keep someone from copying this immediately and selling it?
- What is the one thing that can kill your business… today, tomorrow, next week? And what is your strategy to defend against that risk?
- What do you see are the principal risks of your business?
- What do you see are the principal threats to your business?
- Who has the power, your suppliers or you?
- Who has the power, your customers or you?
- What legal risks do you have?
- What are the regulatory risks of your product/service/market/industry?
- Are there any product liability risks?
- What are your key assumptions?
- What is proprietary about your project?
- What key intellectual property does the company have (patents, patents pending, copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, domain names)?
- What comfort do you have that the company’s intellectual property does not violate the rights of a third party?
- How was the company’s intellectual property developed?
- Would any prior employers of a team member have a potential claim to the company’s intellectual property? Why?
- What is my expected return on investment?
- What are the company’s three-year projections?
- What are the key assumptions underlying your projections?
- How much equity and debt has the company raised; what is the capital structure?
- What future equity or debt financing will be necessary?
- How much of a stock option pool is being set aside for employees?
- When will the company get to profitability?
- What is your burn-rate?
- How much runway are you currently working with?
- What are your unit economics?
- What are the factors that limit faster growth?
- What are the key metrics that the management team focuses on?
- What is your likely exit strategy — IPO or M&A?
- When do you see the exit happening?
- Who will be the likely acquirers?
- What price range do they typical make acquisitions?
- How will valuation of an exit be determined given market comparables?
- How much are you aiming to raise in this round?
- What is the company’s desired post-money valuation?
- What is your pre-money valuation?
- Will existing investors participate in the round?
- Who’s the lead investor?
- What is your proposed cap table?
- What is the planned use of funds from this round?
- What milestones will the financing get you to?
- When will you need more capital?
If you are planning to raise venture funding or begin your journey in entrepreneurship, being cognizant of these questions goes a long way when convincing others that you (1) know what you’re talking about, and (2) are worth putting their money behind — but that goes without saying. Because after-all, investors invest in people. Not ideas.
Danny J. Williams
Venture For Canada | Fellow