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How to pitch me: 7 investors discuss what they’re looking for in March 2023



It’s too early to determine whether SVB’s downfall heralds a new era for venture capital, but based on anecdotal evidence, off-the-record discussions and chats with co-workers, it seems like we’re back to business as usual where pre-revenue startup fundraising is concerned.

Not a scientific sampling, but several investors signaled this week on Twitter that they remain interested in talking to founders who are still at the idea stage. My hot take: With contagion contained, the VC community feels good about writing smallish checks for pre-revenue startups, but Series A and up? Más o menos.

As long as this downturn persists, this investor Q&A will be a monthly TC+ column. If you’re a recently laid-off worker considering striking out on your own, an H-1B employee who’s had it up to here or just looking for tips and advice that can help you connect with early-stage investors, please read and share.

Thanks very much to all of the investors who took the time to answer these questions in such detail! If you’re an early-stage investor who wants to be included in future columns, email with “How to pitch me” in the subject line.

Here’s who participated:

Brian Backeen, general partner, Lightship Capital

What kind of investment opportunities are you looking for in March 2023?

Like many investors, we are bullish on AI. We made two AI-related investments in April and continue to look for opportunities in that space.

How do you prefer to be approached by a founder with their initial pitch: a cold email, a warm intro or another method?

We have an online portal at that founders can use to apply for investment. We do that to prevent an issue with VC investors called “network bias.” Founders should apply on our portal and follow on Twitter.

What’s one traditional fundraising tactic that founders should remove from their toolkit — something that no longer works but is still a common practice?

Asking for warm intros and trying to “build a relationship” with investors. Spend your time building a great business and you will gain investment. I don’t need new friends.

Tell us about the best pitch you’ve received recently. When during their presentation did you realize you were going to invest?

I was pitched by a firm called MuseTax recently. Excellent founders, subject matter experts, the real deal. They made me want to invest in the first 10 minutes. They are in diligence now.

Can you share one piece of advice that can help a first-time founder stand out?

Don’t focus on investment; focus on design. Don’t let your engineers build you an ugly product with a great password reset function but limited user value.

Don’t let the engineers tell you it’s not ready; it is. Push it out and learn.

Design it well and users or investors will follow. Engineer the first version well and you will end up with lots of engineering bills and no progress.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

I keep rewatching season 1 of “Billions.” You know, before it got weird ????. Great show.

Masha Bucher, founder and general partner, Day One Ventures

What kind of investment opportunities are you looking for in March 2023?

During a healthy fundraising environment, the founders that do the best often lean into their storytelling prowess and can convince investors with their charisma. They’re the ones who are naturally good speakers and are articulate with their vision.

There’s a second type of founder with a different background. They’re often heads-down, scrappy and resource-oriented. I call them “survivors.” Survivors are often immigrant founders, people of color, women or others from underrepresented backgrounds.

I believe the survivors are the types of founders to back during a downturn. They’ve been pushed to be scrappy and survive their whole lives; they’re especially equipped to handle what the current times demand of them. They’re good at making something out of nothing and are extremely cost-efficient.

I’m looking for paths to monetization, business models and avenues to profitability. Investors are paying much more attention to numbers, business models and how well founders manage finances. Expect many more questions challenging the business model.

I’m looking at how much revenue comes from product quality versus marketing. Founders who generate virality based on the product’s quality show they can make money with little marketing spend.

We love companies with high EBITDA. We love companies like Quinn, which grew to millions in revenue in just a year from launch with viral, zero-cost marketing on TikTok.

How do you prefer to be approached by a founder with their initial pitch: a cold email, a warm intro or another method?

Cold email works great, but it’s surprising how few people can do it right. In a cold email, every single sentence should be convincing me to take a meeting. With every word and every sentence, you need to create the desire for an investor to meet you in person. You have to show a clear reason why they need to meet you now, not next month.


Just 7 days until the TC Early Stage early bird flies away



Budget-minded entrepreneurs and early-stage startup founders take heed — this is no time to procrastinate. We have only 7 days left of early-bird pricing to TechCrunch Early Stage 2023 in Boston on April 20.

Don’t wait…the early bird gets the…SAVINGS: Buy a $249 founder pass and save $200 before prices increase on April 1 — that’s no joke.

TC Early Stage is our only event where you get hands-on training with experts to help your business succeed. No need to reinvent the startup wheel — you’ll have access to leading experts across a range of specialties.

During this one-day startup bootcamp, you’ll learn about legal issues, fundraising, marketing, growth, product-market fit, pitching, recruiting and more. We’re talking more than 40 highly engaging presentations, workshops and roundtables with interactive Q&As and plenty of time for networking.

Here are just a few examples of the topics we have on tap. You’ll find plenty more listed in the event agenda.

How to Tell Your TAM: Dayna Grayson from Construct Capital invests in the rebuilding of the most foundational and broken industries of our economy. Industries such as manufacturing and logistics, among others, that formed in an analog world have been neglected by advanced technology. Dayna will talk about how, beyond the idea, founders can pitch investors on their TAM, including how they will wedge into the market and how they will eventually disrupt it.

How to Think About Accelerators and Incubators: Founders often hear they should get involved with an incubator or accelerator, but when is the “right” time for early-stage founders to apply to these types of startup support ecosystems, and how can they best engage if accepted? In this talk, Harvard Innovation Labs executive director Matt Segneri will cover everything from the types of incubators and accelerators available to early-stage founders, to what startups should consider before applying, and tips for getting the most out of these ecosystems.

How to Raise Outside of SV in a Down Market: Silicon Valley’s funding market tends to be more immune to macroeconomic conditions than elsewhere in the world. So how do you raise outside the Valley bubble? General Catalyst’s Mark Crane has ample experience on both the founder and VC side from all over Europe, as well as a firm understanding of the funding landscape in the northeastern U.S., so he’ll give practical advice on how to stay alive and thrive.

At TechCrunch Early Stage you’ll walk away with a deeper working understanding of topics and skills that are essential to startup success. Founders save $200 with an early-bird founder ticketcollege students pay just $99!

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Twitter will kill ‘legacy’ blue checks on April 1



Twitter has picked April Fool’s Day, otherwise known as April 1, to start removing legacy blue checkmarks from the platform.

Despite the significance of the day Twitter chose, the removal of legacy checkmarks has been anticipated for months now. Musk tweeted in December that the company would remove those checks “in a few months” because “the way in which they were given out was corrupt and nonsensical.”

Since then, legacy blue checkmark holders have been seeing a pop-up when they click on their checkmark that reads, “This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.”

Before Musk acquired the company, Twitter used checkmarks to verify individuals and entities as active, authentic and notable accounts of interest. Verified checkmarks were doled out for free.

Today, Twitter users can purchase a blue check through the Twitter Blue subscription model for $8 per month (iOS and Android signups will cost $11 per month, due to app store costs). There are also other checkmark colors and badges available for purchase to denote whether an account is a business or a government, for example.

Twitter says the purchase of a checkmark gives users access to subscriber-only features like fewer ads on their timeline, prioritized ranking in conversations, bookmark folders, and the ability to craft long tweets, edit tweets and undo tweets.

The news comes within hours of Twitter also announcing the availability of the Blue subscription globally.

Twitter did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for more information about how many users have already signed up for Twitter Blue.

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Roofstock, valued at $1.9B last year, cuts 27% of staff in second round of layoffs



Proptech company Roofstock has laid off about 27% of its staff today, according to an email sent to employees viewed by TechCrunch. The cuts come just five months after the startup laid off 20% of its workforce.

The company’s website states that it has 400+ employees, or “Roofsters” as they’re dubbed, but it is not known if that figure is current.

Roofstock, an online marketplace for investing in leased single-family rental homes, one year ago raised $240 million at a $1.9 billion valuation. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led that financing, which included participation from existing and new backers including Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and others. Roofstock has raised a total of over $365 million in funding since its 2015 inception, per Crunchbase.

According to the email seen by TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Gary Beasley said today’s reduction in force (RIF) was “in response to the challenging macro environment” and the “negative impact” it is having on Roofstock’s business.

He added that the company was not expecting to have to cut more staff so soon but that it needed to “right size” in an effort “to reduce cash burn rate” and ensure it has “adequate capital runway until the market eventually turns.”

Beasley sent the email because apparently, the Zoom meeting where it was addressed “maxed out on attendees.”

Oakland, Calif.-based Roofstock lets people buy and sell rental homes in dozens of U.S. markets. The premise behind the company is that both institutional and retail investors can buy and sell homes without forcing renters to leave their homes. Meanwhile, buyers can also presumably generate income from day one. 

At the time of its raise in March 2022, the company said that it had facilitated more than $5 billion in transaction volume, more than half of which had come from the last year alone.

Just days before its last round of layoffs last year, Roofstock made headlines for selling its first single-family home using NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

Rising mortgage rates and a slowdown in the housing market led to challenges for many real estate technology companies in 2022 that continue this year. Opendoor, Redfin, Compass, and Homeward were among the other startups that also laid off workers. IBuyer Reali also announced it was shutting down after raising $100 million the year prior.

TechCrunch has reached out to Roofstock but had not heard back at the time of writing but multiple sources confirmed that layoffs had taken place today.

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