I pitched to Dave McClure: here's what I learned

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When I first heard that Dave McClure was coming to Ramallah and Gaza, my immediate reaction was wow, we’re definitely doing something right over here.

And when I learned that I would be among 10 Palestinian startups pitching to McClure, founding partner of 500 Startups and ‘super’ angel investor, I was overtaken by anxiety, euphoria and absolute confusion.


Kenz founders Christina Ganim and Nicola Isabel listen to feedback from Dave McClure. (Image courtesy Rawan Abu Ish'ira)

Was I ready to pitch to McClure?

I was getting ready to launch my own startup, Kenz, an ecommerce site selling lingerie to women in the Middle East.

I initially thought to myself, maybe I’m not ready to pitch to McClure: maybe it’s too early as the site isn’t live yet, and we don’t have enough metrics to prove why this is a good idea or why the region needs Kenz, or even why he should be interested at all.

I snapped out of it, quickly tossed those fears and hesitations aside and got down to business. What’s the worst that could happen? He’d eat us up alive? Throw our idea down the drain? Tell us we’re not doing anything revolutionary and there’s enough bras on the market?

After watching several videos of McClure critiquing other startups around the world, I knew we were up for a challenge.

If I couldn’t show McClure statistics and measures of success for Kenz just yet, then I’d have to show him why it’s a good idea and why it’s the perfect time for Kenz to exist as a prominent player in the intimate apparel industry in the Middle East.

My cofounder and I put together a pitch deck to show McClure on the day of the event.

First, we researched successful pitch decks from companies that made it into 500 Startups.

We realized simplicity was key: show the problem we’re trying to solve first then talk about the important figures that prove why the business is a good idea. We kept our slides short, kept the text minimal, and added images of the lingerie that we will sell to grab attention.

The day of the pitch

We were asked to pitch for five minutes, in which McClure would give feedback and comments afterwards.

Nerves started to take over once we realized that we’d be pitching alongside other startups at much later stages in their careers: Mashvisor, FadFid, Indiepush and WebTeb, among others.

When it was our turn to pitch, we got up, had our slides ready and went straight into it.

I started by talking about the problem women face when shopping for lingerie in the region. Lack of sizes, frustrations with shopping at male-owned lingerie stores, and that fact that there’s no one in the market currently doing a good enough job at satisfying the needs of female consumers when it comes to buying a bra. We talked about the importance of Kenz being by women, for women, whereas other competitors like Victoria’s Secret are only satisfying the needs of male consumers.

We discussed the size of the market, how many users shop online in the region, what our target age groups are, and who our main partners will be in terms of logistics and brands.

Much to our surprise, we weren’t eaten alive and our idea wasn’t thrown down the drain. McClure gave us incredible feedback. In general, he was direct about whether or not a business would be one he’s interested in investing.

He told us that we did well and that it was smart of us to go straight into the problem. He said that we were clear and we gave the basics, which was important to him, and that it was important that we focused on our knowledge of the industry and why men aren’t the experts in the field. In McClure’s words: “shame the men [investors] in the room”.

The essence of his critique was that if we’re the experts and we know about bras, then to focus on that for our future pitches and really own that knowledge.

His general feedback to everyone was that if any startup has any revenue or any success metrics, then mention those metrics right away. The first slide is key. Blank slides with little text and slides with too much text are not going to get you far with McClure.

He also explained that it is important to differentiate between pitching to customers and pitching to investors. For customers, show the product and provide more details about what you’re selling. For investors, talk about revenue, metrics, customer lifetime value and less about how the product works.

I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to pitch to McClure. It was overwhelming, but in a good way. Whether we hear back from his team or not, we’ve now got a killer pitch deck on our hands and we’re more determined than ever to show the Middle East why it’s the perfect time for Kenz.

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