Pitching Advice from Sukhinder Singh Cassidy

September 12, 2012

1:00 pm

Tech Cocktail’s Angel Spotlight Series is a weekly feature of prominent angel investors around the country. We give you the lowdown on their investing strategy, top advice, and deal breakers, and hopefully reveal that, just like you and me, angels are people, too (with deeper pockets).

This week we chat with Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, the founder of Joyus and a veteran executive of companies like Google, Amazon, and News Corporation. She was recently CEO-in-residence at Accel Partners.

Investing philosophy

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy: In the early-stage/angel space, my investing philosophy is invest in who you know or what you know. In the first case, you are betting on a team that you have insight into – have worked with before, know someone who knows the founders deeply, etc. – and really the idea may morph, but it’s your knowledge of the founders that gives you confidence.

In the second case, you are investing in a thesis where your gut/unique insight is driven by your own domain expertise. It could be in a sector where you’ve had enough experience to see what adaptations of a model might work; or it could be a functional area where you have deep insight into the one or two differentiators that could make for a killer app or approach to building the company.

Top piece of advice to entrepreneurs 

Singh Cassidy: Iterate iterate iterate. I think that you can wait to have the perfect thesis, the perfect product, but really it’s about the rate of your ability to execute and learn/gather data that will inform/improve your next steps, and continue iterating until you’ve found product/market fit.

Common advice that you disagree with

Singh Cassidy: That your best way to network is to be aggressive and bold at networking events to meet someone impressive and have them hire you/fund you etc. Of course I always believe in selling yourself and your skills, but most importantly, I believe your best network is the inner circle of folks for whom you’ve done great work who know you well. They will be the ones more anxious to refer you to new opportunities, VCs, people you could hire, who could hire you, etc. – because they know you well and what you can do, and will use their own reputation to recommend you. That is your most powerful network.

Top mistake entrepreneurs make when pitching to you

Singh Cassidy: The deck is too long and they’ve yet to launch a product. For first-time entrepreneurs who I don’t know, the thing an angel investor wants to gauge is your ability to execute, iterate, pivot – and quickly. A pretty deck with a great thesis does not give me the confidence I need to write a check (unless I’ve known you, worked with you before, and the bet is really you). But if the bet is the idea, what I care about is that you can get something up, out the door, launched, and gathering feedback quickly.

Even if all you’ve launched is a form website with a “proxy” of your concept on the cheap, show me that you’re on the path to execution and not waiting for the first check to be written before trying anything.

Most cherished accomplishment (as an angel or otherwise) 

Singh Cassidy: I think being a part of building amazing teams – at Yodlee, Google, and now Joyus. I’ve had the opportunity to recruit, work with, and in some ways I hope accelerate or contribute to the success of very talented people across all those companies.

I feel proud of being able to bring people together to build a business or company from scratch, and then see them amaze themselves with what they accomplished and how they grew themselves in the process.

In your free time you can be found

Singh Cassidy: With my kids or skiing, or hopefully skiing with my kids 🙂

The Angel Spotlight Series is a weekly Q&A with angel investors. Are you or do you know an angel investor we should feature? Send an email to [email protected] and [email protected].  

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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