Entrepreneur Jeff Pulver wears many hats. The internet pioneer, investor and tech startup founder has launched several companies and invested in more than 400 startups since 1998.
Last year, cloud communications company Vonage, which was co-founded by Pulver, was acquired for $6.2 billion. Three months ago, he co-founded his latest endeavor, Web3 startup AgreeWe.
“I’ve done many things. At any given point in time there’s not a noun or adverb that accurately describes who I am or what I do,” Pulver says. “I helped change the way the world communicates. I also changed telecom policy in America. Not only did I help create the voice over IP industry and help it grow, I also created a few companies in the space and protected its future. It’s a story of how when you don’t know you can’t do something, anything becomes possible.”
On April 20, Pulver shared that story at a Founders Network event. As part of the April global keynote, he took Founders Network members and guests through his journey as a tech startup founder and provided lessons he’s learned along the way.
Here’s a sneak peak of what guests learned.I never ask people for projections because companies that do projections I typically won’t invest in. Click To Tweet
Pitch Deck Don’ts
As an early-stage startup investor, Pulver has seen a lot of pitch decks. And when you’ve seen as many pitch decks as Pulver has, it’s easy for them to start to run together if they don’t stand out. He says oftentimes the pitch decks he sees have a lot of similarities, and not in a good way.
“Every pitch deck seems to have what I call a BFN. For whatever reason, people think they have to show some huge number in their deck to keep people’s attention. The other thing every deck has is subtle or direct, hockey stick growth,” Pulver says. “Additionally, if someone includes a Gartner [Magic Quadrant] graph, I’ve never seen someone with the strength to put themselves in the lower right hand corner, as opposed to putting yourself in the top right hand corner. It’s all so predictable, it’s useless.”
In a survey looking at the most commonly used financials to include in a startup pitch deck, only 1.9 percent of investors recommended including ROI. That’s likely because many investors don’t believe that financial projections are going to be accurate.
“I never ask people for projections because companies that do projections I typically won’t invest in,” Pulver says. “They don’t realize that the only thing they can possibly predict is expenses. There’s no way they can guarantee income.”Some of the most successful companies in the world didn’t figure themselves out until two years into it. Click To Tweet
Thinking Outside the Box
There are a number of reasons startups fail. According to one report analyzing more than 100 failed startups, one-fifth of startups fail because of a flawed business model and 6 percent fail after a pivot gone bad. Pulver says in order to be successful, startups shouldn’t be wedded to a single channel and need to be able to pivot effectively when the tide changes.
“Most companies who figure out their business model early will fail because they’re not open to seeing what happens when the road changes in front of them,” Pulver says. “Some of the most successful companies in the world didn’t figure themselves out until two years into it.”
That’s why Pulver is drawn to early-stage tech startups. He says they represent unlimited potential, opportunity, and innovation; and often advises founders to let go of preconceived notions and open themselves up to possibilities.
“I look for people who are unbounded,” Pulver says. “I believe in dreams. Nothing is impossible. I learned that. I didn’t know I couldn’t do it so it happened. I didn’t necessarily start out on a journey thinking it would have the impact that it did. You don’t give up, you just do, and magic will happen.”
At the global keynote, Pulver covered:
- His journey as a tech startup founder and investor
- How he shaped the telecom industry
- What investors really want to see in your pitch deck
- How to standout as a tech startup