6 min read

Fundraising Over Zoom

By Peter H. Diamandis on Mar 21, 2021

Billions of dollars of investment were closed over Zoom this past year.

Historically, fundraising used to require getting on a flight, wearing a suit, and many longggg road shows ... now, entrepreneurs are raising their seed, Series A, Series B, and billions in SPAC funding over Zoom from the comfort of their home office, bedroom or kitchen.

This blog is all about practical advice: the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of pitching yourself and your company over Zoom.

The goal is to help you avoid mistakes and up your ZOOM-PITCHING success.

For the blog, I connected with a number of friends in the VC world, and grouped their input with my own. If you’re interested, here’s who contributed: Teymour Boutros-Ghali & Neal Bhadkamkar (BOLD Capital Partners); Dakin Sloss (Prime Mover Lab); Scott Stanford (ACME Capital); Courtney Reum (M13); Will Weisman (KittyHawk Ventures); and Steve Jurvetson (Future Ventures).

Some of their advice is priceless!

Let’s dive in... 

DON’T Do This…

When you’re pitching yourself and your company over Zoom, avoid these mistakes: 

Poor Zoom Etiquette

  • Showing up late: First things first: be on time. In fact, sign in a couple of minutes early. First impressions count.
  • Being too casual: Don’t do the meeting in your pajamas or looking like you just got out of bed. You can always show more of your personality later.
  • Awful background & lighting: Respect how others are seeing you on Zoom. Don’t be backlit, choose a reasonable background. As one VC put it, avoid communicating this attitude: “I am so busy that I will do a video call from my car with bad visuals and bad sound.”
  • Not looking at the camera: Make sure you know where the camera is on your setup, and *look into the camera.* There’s nothing worse than having your line-of-sight way off.
  • Take Zoom off screen share if you’re done with slides: First, you should minimize the amount of PowerPoint you use, but importantly, when you’re not discussing the slides, and just having a conversation, take it off of screen share. 
  • Eating during your pitch: Do you really need to have lunch while pitching your startup?
  • Sending a private message to everyone: This is the Zoom equivalent of “replying all” unnecessarily in email. 

Not Engaging Your Audience (and Team)

  • Not “reading the room”: This is harder to do over Zoom, but it’s still important. The onus is on you to stop, ask if there are questions, and foster a discussion.
  • Monologuing: The reality is that there’s a greater risk of people multitasking while they’re in a Zoom meeting. Don’t monologue. Pause, and make sure the audience is with you. Pause and ask if there are any questions.
  • Not engaging your team: If you have members of your team join the Zoom, but you don’t give them an opportunity to present or participate, then why are they there? Show the VC that you’re a team player and engage your team.

Here’s how to IMPRESS the Venture Fund

Here’s how to actually impress the VCs during your Zoom pitch:

Do the Pre-work 

  • Send materials before the meeting: Send any materials and an overview ahead of the meeting. But you shouldn’t assume that they have read through everything and absorbed it. Start the meeting by recapping and summarizing.
  • Do your research: Take the time to research the people you’re meeting with: what are their interests, your common connections? Build early rapport.
  • Give yourself enough time: If possible, schedule an hour-long meeting, but only use half of it to pitch. Reserve 50% for conversation and Q&A.

Making a Connection Instead of Giving a Lecture

  • Connect first, pitch afterwards. Ask questions up front: Instead of diving into a pitch, explain who you are, and find out who they are. Ask a few questions early so that it’s a two-way conversation and not a lecture. Connect as people not as a transaction.
  • Be conversational: The best Zoom pitches are engaging and conversational. You want to make sure that the investor understands you and your business and can feel your passion.
  • Keep the energy high: This is part of keeping your audience engaged. If you’re not excited about what you’re building, why should they be? One way to do this is to consider standing during your presentation to generate energy/enthusiasm.
  • Maintain eye contact: Talk directly to your audience, and not some unseen person off-screen. Look at the little bright light next to the camera on your laptop.

Running an Effective Meeting

  • Engage your team: If your team members are also in the meeting, then each of them should have a role to play during the Zoom call. Your teamwork should show. A team that works well together in-person can also communicate that ability over Zoom.
  • Sufficient time for Q&A: The most important part of your meeting is AFTER you finish the briefing. This is when the VC gets to ask you questions and engage with you. Leave plenty of time so they can steer the conversation.
  • Say thank you: Being polite is always good.
  • Feedback & next steps: Make sure you ask for immediate feedback, and for the best next step.

Final Thoughts

Being an entrepreneur is all about being adaptable. 

That includes how and where you tell the story of what you’re building. Given that so many deals are now being done over Zoom, know the best practices and use them.

The tips in this blog should help you take advantage of what I call our current era of “capital abundance.”

Join My Abundance 360 Community

If you want to understand how to use converging exponential technologies to create breakthroughs during this era of capital abundance, then consider joining my Abundance 360 Community.

Every year, my team and I select a group of 360 entrepreneurs and CEOs to coach over the course of a year-long program. A360 members participate in quarterly Implementation works, monthly webinars and in an annual live event. You can join at any time for a full year worth of personal coaching.

My mission is to help A360 members obtain mastery in four specific Mindsets: an Abundance Mindset; an Exponential Mindset; a Purpose-driven Mindset (through their MTP); and a Longevity Mindset. Together we will actively select and reinforce your preferred Mindsets.

To learn more and apply to A360, visit abundance360.com

Topics: Entrepreneurship Finance Exponentials capital venture capital investing Fundraising
6 min read

Capital Velocity… LOTS of $$$

By Peter H. Diamandis on Mar 7, 2021

Nothing accelerates technological innovation like cash. Lots of cash.

Topics: Abundance Entrepreneurship Finance Exponentials Abundance 360 crowdfunding capital venture capital investing exponential technology future tech
11 min read

Future of FINTECH - Part 2

By Peter H. Diamandis on Sep 23, 2018

In 2018 alone, over 22,000 businesses around the world borrowed more than $380 billion from crowdlending services. 

Disruptive business models are often powered by alternative financing.

In Part 1 of the Future of Fintech, I discussed how mobile is redefining money and banking and shared some of the dramatic transformations in the global remittance infrastructure.

In this blog, we’ll discuss:

  1. Peer-to-peer lending
  2. AI financial advisors and robo traders
  3. Seamless Transactions

Let’s dive right back in…

 

Decentralized Lending = Democratized Access to Finances 

 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is an age-old practice, traditionally with high risk and extreme locality. Now, the P2P funding model is being digitized and delocalized, bringing lending online and across borders. 

Zopa, the first official crowdlending platform, arrived in the United Kingdom in 2004. Since then, the consumer crowdlending platform has facilitated lending of over 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion USD) of loans .

Person-to-business crowdlending took off, again in the U.K., in 2005 with Funding Circle, now with over 5 billion euros (~5.8 billion USD) of capital loaned to small businesses around the world. Now, in 2018 alone, over 22,000 businesses around the world borrowed over $380 billion from crowdlending services.

Crowdlending next took off in the United States in 2006, with platforms like Prosper and Lending Club. The U.S. crowdlending industry has boomed to $21 billion in loans, across 515 thousand loans.

Let’s take a step back… to a time before banks, when lending took place between trusted neighbors in small villages across the globe. Lending started as peer-to-peer transactions. 

As villages turned into towns, towns turned into cities, and cities turned into sprawling metropolises, neighborly trust and the ability to communicate across urban landscapes broke down. That’s where banks and other financial institutions came into play — to add trust back into the lending equation. 

With crowdlending, we are evidently returning to this pre-centralized-banking model of loans, and moving away from cumbersome intermediaries (e.g. high fees, regulations, and extra complexity). 

Fueled by the permeation of the internet, P2P lending took on a new form as ‘crowdlending’ in the early 2000’s. Now, as blockchain and artificial intelligence arrive on the digital scene, P2P lending platforms are being overhauled with transparency, accountability, reliability and immutability.

Artificial Intelligence Micro Lending & Credit Scores

We are beginning to augment our quantitative decision-making with neural networks processing borrowers’ financial data to determine their financial ‘fate’ (or, as some call it, your credit score). Companies like Smart Finance Group (backed by Kai Fu Lee and Sinovation Ventures) are using Artificial Intelligence to minimize default rates for tens of millions of microloans.

Smart Finance is fueled by users’ personal data, particularly smartphone data and usage behavior. Users are required to give Smart Finance access to their smartphone data, so that Smart Finance’s artificial intelligence engine can generate a credit score from the personal information. 

The benefits of this AI-powered lending platform do not stop at increased loan payback rates -- there’s a massive speed increase as well. Smart Finance loans are frequently approved in under 8 seconds. As we’ve seen with other artificial intelligence disruptions, data is the new gold. 

Digitizing access to P2P loans paves the way for billions of people currently without access to banking to leapfrog the centralized banking system -- just as Africa bypassed landline phones and went straight to mobile. Leapfrogging centralized banking and the credit system is exactly what Smart Finance has done for hundreds of millions of people in China.

Blockchain Backed Crowdlending

As artificial intelligence accesses even the most mundane mobile browsing data to assign credit scores, blockchain technologies -- particularly immutable ledgers and smart contracts -- are massive disruptors to the archaic banking system, building additional trust and transparency on top of current P2P lending models. 

Immutable ledgers provide the necessary transparency for accurate credit and loan defaulting history. Smart contracts executed on these immutable ledgers bring the critical ability to digitally replace cumbersome, expensive third parties (like banks), allowing individual borrowers or businesses to directly connect with willing lenders.

Two of the leading blockchain platforms for P2P lending are ETHLend and SALT Lending. 

ETHLend is an Ethereum-based decentralized application aiming to bring transparency and trust to P2P lending through Ethereum network smart contracts. 

Secure Automated Lending Technology (SALT) allows cryptocurrency asset holders to use their digital assets as collateral for cash loans, without the need to liquidate their holdings, giving rise to a digital-asset-backed lending market.

While blockchain poses a threat to many of the large, centralized banking institutions, some are taking advantage of the new technology to optimize their internal lending, credit scoring, and collateral operations.

In March 2018, ING and Credit Suisse successfully exchanged 25 million euros using HQLA-X, a blockchain-based collateral lending platform. 

HQLA-X runs on the R3 Corda blockchain -- a platform designed specifically to help heritage financial and commerce institutions migrate away from their inefficient legacy financial infrastructure.

Blockchain and tokenization are going through their own fintech and regulation shakeup right now. In a future blog, I’ll discuss the various efforts to more readily assure smart contracts, and the disruptive business model of security tokens and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Parallels to the Global Abundance of Capital

The abundance of capital being created by the advent of P2P loans closely relates to the unprecedented global abundance of capital.

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and crowdfunding are taking a strong stand in disrupting the $164 billion venture capital market. The total amount invested in ICOs has risen from $6.6 billion in 2017 to $7.15 billion USD in the first half of 2018. Crowdfunding helped projects raise more than $34 billion in 2017, with experts projecting that global crowdfunding investments will reach $300 billion by 2025.

In the last year alone, using ICOs, over a dozen projects have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in mere hours. Take Filecoin, for example, which raised $257 million  in only 30 days; its first $135 million was raised in the first hour. Similarly, the Dragon Coin project (which itself is revolutionizing remittance in high-stakes casinos around the world) raised $320 million in its 30-day public ICO. 

Some Important Takeaways…

  • Technology-backed fundraising and financial services are disrupting the world’s largest financial institutions -- anyone, anywhere, at anytime will be able to access the capital they need to pursue their idea.
  • The speed at which we can go from "I've got an idea" to "I run a billion-dollar company" is moving faster than ever.
  • Following Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, the rapid decrease in time to access capital is intimately linked (and greatly dependent on) a financial infrastructure (technology, institutions, platforms, and policies) that can adapt and evolve just as rapidly.

This new abundance of capital, requires financial decision-making with ever-higher market prediction precision. That’s exactly where artificial intelligence is already playing a massive role.

 

Artificial Intelligence, Robo Traders and Financial Advisors

 

On May 6, 2010, the Dow Jones Industrial Average suddenly collapsed by 998.5 points (equal to 8 percent, or $1 trillion). The crash lasted over 35 minutes and is now known as the ‘Flash Crash’. While no one knows the specific reason for this 2010 stock market anomaly, experts widely agree that the Flash Crash had to do with algorithmic trading

With the ability to have instant, trillion-dollar market impacts, algorithmic trading and artificial intelligence are undoubtedly ingrained in how financial markets operate.

In 2017, CNBC.com estimated that 90 percent of daily trading volume in stock trading is done by machine algorithms, and only 10 percent is carried out directly by humans.

Artificial intelligence and financial management algorithms are not only available to top Wall Street players.

Robo-advisor financial management apps, like Wealthfront and Betterment, are rapidly permeating the global market. Wealthfront currently has $9.5 billion in assets under management, and Betterment has $10 billion.

Artificial intelligent financial agents are already helping financial institutions protect your money and fight fraud. A prime application for machine learning is in detecting anomalies in your spending and transaction habits, and flagging potentially fraudulent transactions.

As artificial intelligence continues to exponentially increase in power and capabilities, increasingly powerful trading and financial management bots will come online, finding massive new and previously lost streams of wealth. 

How else are artificial intelligence and automation transforming finance? 

 

Disruptive Remittance and Seamless Transactions

 

When was the last time that you paid in cash at a toll booth? How about for a taxi ride? 

EZ-Pass, the electronic tolling company implemented extensively on the East Coast, has done wonders to reduce traffic congestion and increase traffic flow. 

Driving down I-95 on the East Coast of the United States, drivers rarely notice their financial transaction with the state’s tolling agencies. The transactions are seamless.

The Uber app enables me to travel without my wallet. I can forget about payment on my trip, free up my mental bandwidth and time for higher-priority tasks. The entire process is digitized and, by extension, automated and integrated into Uber’s platform. (Note: This incredible convenience manytimes causes me to accidentally walk out of taxi cabs without paying!).

In January 2018, we saw the success of the first cutting-edge, AI-powered Amazon Go store open in Seattle, Washington. The store marked a new era in remittance and transactions -- gone are the days of carrying credit cards and cash, and gone are the cash registers. And now, on the heals of these early ‘beta-tests’, Amazon is considering opening as many as 3,000 of these cashierless stores by 2023.

Amazon Go stores use AI algorithms that watch various video feeds (from advanced cameras) throughout the store to identify who picks up groceries, exactly what products they select, and how much to charge that person when they walk out of the store. It’s a grab and go experience. 

Let’s extrapolate the notion of seamless, integrated payment systems from Amazon Go and Uber’s removal of post-ride payment to the rest of our day-to-day experience.

Imagine this near future:

  • As you near the front door of your home, your AI assistant summons a self-driving Uber that takes you to the Hyperloop station (after all, you work in L.A. but live in San Francisco).
  • At the station, you board your pod, without noticing that your ticket purchase was settled via a wireless payment checkpoint.
  • After work, you stop at the Amazon Go, pick up dinner -- your virtual AI assistant passes your Amazon account information to the store’s payment checkpoint, as the store’s cameras and sensors track you, your cart and charge you auto-magically.
  • At home, unbeknownst to you, your AI has already restocked your fridge and pantry with whatever items you failed to pick up at the Amazon Go.

Once we remove the actively transacting aspect of finance, what else becomes possible?

 

Top Conclusions

 

Extraordinary transformations are happening in the finance world.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the fintech revolution.

All of these transformative financial technologies require high-fidelity assurance, robust insurance, and a mechanism for storing value. 

I’ll dive into each of these other facets of financial services in future blogs.

For now, thanks to coming global communication networks being deployed on 5G, Alphabet’s LUNE, SpaceX’s Starlink and OneWeb, by 2024, nearly all 8 billion people on Earth will be online.

Once connected, these new minds, entrepreneurs, and customers need access to money and financial services to meaningfully participate in the world economy.

By connecting lenders and borrowers around the globe, decentralized lending drives down global interest rates, increases global financial market participation, and enables economic opportunity to the billions of people who are about to come online.

We’re living in the most abundant time in human history -- and fintech is just getting started.

 

Topics: Bitcoin Finance cryptocurrencies blockchain fintech banking investing mobile banking developing markets developing economies loans distributed ledger
8 min read

Future of Finance & Banking - Part 1

By Peter H. Diamandis on Sep 16, 2018

The CIA estimates over $90 trillion of global value is stored in cash, banknotes, money markets, and bank accounts.

Topics: Bitcoin Finance cryptocurrencies blockchain fintech banking investing mobile banking developing markets developing economies loans distributed ledger