How to present your startup to investors

In 2010, Sam Pillar and Forrest Zeisler met at a coffee shop in Edmonton. They got talking and learned that they were both computer scientists interested in helping small businesses.

Zeisler had a friend at a local painting company who needed help organizing paperwork. Seeing the potential of the market, Pillar and Zeisler founded Runnera software platform that helps small home service businesses (plumbers, electricians, landscapers) manage and automate back office tasks.

They started the business with small family investments and took on some credit card debt. Pillar participated in a pitch competition through the AccelerateAB Alberta technology conference and presented how Jobber worked and what problem it solved to potential investors.

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He got there first, he won a trip to a startup conference in Kelowna, BC. The experience allowed Pillar to hone his presentation skills, leading him to meetings with investors, resulting in a $250,000 fundraising round in 2012. “He didn’t know anybody. before that competition,” says Pillar. “It was great to be in the same room as the investors involved in the ecosystem.”

In 2013, the company had reached its peak, serving nearly 1,300 customers in 24 countries. In the early days, Pillar would meet with all the investors who would talk to him. But as the company grew, he became more selective about the meetings. He investigated whether companies had invested in similar companies to assess whether they were serious about seed funding. “As the CEO of an early-stage company, you want to spend as little time as possible on fundraising, because your time should be spent growing the company,” he says.

The strategy paid off. They raised $12 million in 2018 and $80 million in 2021 during Jobber’s B and C rounds. By 2022, most investment firms knew what the company had to offer. Pillar was considering another round of fundraising to pump money into marketing and research and development.

“As the CEO of an early-stage startup, you want to spend as little time as possible on fundraising, because your time should be spent growing the company”

In November, I had a list of about 10 serious potential investors. He zeroed in on General Atlantic, a New York-based private equity firm with more than $72 billion in assets. He explained how Jobber had tripled his income since 2021 and relayed how much he wanted to raise and how he intended to spend it.

In December, executives from Jobber and General Atlantic met in Toronto for a full day to discuss the investment. Then they went to a steakhouse to get to know each other on a personal level. They finalized a deal in early 2023. General Atlantic invested US$100 million backed by Summit Partners, Version One Ventures and Tech Pioneers Fund.

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Pillar says it’s important for startups to focus on growing a customer base and providing value, ultimately creating a business that attracts investors. “If you can show consistent growth, it will be much easier for you to raise capital.”

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