9 Differences to Keep in Mind When Pitching to Investors on the East Coast and the West Coast

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Question: Is there a difference in how you should pitch investors from East Coast to West Coast (or Silocon Alley vs. Silicon Valley)? Please be specific as to what might be different and why.

Beware of ‘Dress Code’ Differences

“One thing to be aware of is the difference in formality between coasts. In cities like San Francisco and Seattle, dress is often more casual, while on the East Coast, business attire is more formal.”

Be More Modest on the East Coast

“Risk-averse East Coast investors prefer small but sure gains over gambles. The more grandiose your claims, the more relentlessly East Coasters work to sniff out hidden downsides. Meanwhile, West Coast VCs go for multiple high-stakes bets and don’t need your modesty; show them a twinkle of unicorn potential and your fact-based recognition of the slim odds you aim to beat.”

Consider Both Coast and Timeline

“Keep your pitch honed to both the coast you’re talking to and the time horizon. East Coast seed round? Pitch the small story about how you’re going to hit a few million in revenue in months and reach an exit point. VC in California? Pitch the biggest, baddest version of your pitch that still represents your core business.”

Emphasize Tradition in New York

“Having lived in both Silicon Valley and New York and having been able to pitch at top-notch VC firms, I found that there was much more of an emphasis on the industry opportunity, your growth rate and the revenue you’re currently generating in The Valley. New York, at least in my experience, tends to be more focused on profitability and the traditional measures of a successful business.”

Keep Culture in Mind

“With Silicon Valley, it’s important to be aware of and discuss company ‘culture,’ where East Coasters are much less likely to care, and may even be suspicious of any presentation that distracts from the numbers. By culture, I mean try to craft your company as an interesting story when working with West Coasters. They still want the numbers, but a dream is important.”

Focus on Traditional Growth Metrics on the East Coast

“The majority of investors in New York and on the East Coast (Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia) are traditional and rely mostly upon traditional valuation metrics such as Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortization (EBIDTA), growth profit and/or revenue to value companies. In contrast, West Coast investors are less traditional and focus on total users and viral coefficient.”

Pitch With Investor Expectations in Mind

“East Coast investors care about revenue above all, both yours and theirs. They’ll want a complete rundown of your revenue model, and valuations and funding rounds are typically lower. West Coast investors tend to be more open minded and interested in whether you have a clear vision. This typically correlates to larger checks, larger rounds and a smaller focus on metrics right away.”

Focus on the Market You Want to Be In

“If you are creating a startup that will resegment an existing market or create a new market, the odds are better if you pitch VCs on the West Coast. Most Silicon Valley VCs are product managers-turned VCs that are looking for disruptive technologies even when no revenue model exists. VCs on the East Coast are often more conservative and look for established markets with sustainable revenue.”

Focus on Revenue Growth on the East Coast

“I’ve pitched more than 100 times to investors on the East Coast (New York City, Boston, Philadelphia) and West Coast (San Francisco, Greater Palo Alto Area, Los Angeles). In both markets, you need a compelling idea, strong team and traction. On the other hand, East Coast investors focus much more on revenue growth (and potential), while West Coast investors focus more on user growth (and potential).”