Last question to ask/answer at a startup pitch contest

I got invited to serve on jury panels of startup pitch contests from time to time. Most of the time I joined more as a service for the general startup eco-system, less for looking for a good startup. Some VCs spend their time there mostly for social purposes, to hang out with other VCs. It's safe to say that startup contests are not where VCs look for investment opportunities.

That said, time should be well spent on both the startups' side and the VCs' side. And given that usually the Q&A time per startup is fairly short and even shorter per jury member I usually prefer to ask questions that could really reveal the weakness of the business models or the defensibility.

Still, every now and then a fellow VC would ask a question - or more correctly, a certain category of questions - that would really lead me to question his or her investment strategy. The question is usually very short and it comes in the form of:

What’s your MAU (Monthly Active Users)?

Or replace MAU with whatever KPI you're interested in.

So why is this category of questions doubtful, or dare I say, meaningless in a pitch contest?

Because KPIs are material numbers that could be presented to any living human being that could read. They serve better being printed in the pitch decks or stored in the DD data rooms. If certain KPIs are key to an investment, DD to validate the numbers is more important then hearing the same numbers from the mouths of the founders.

Of course we ask and talk about KPIs in a call, during a meeting, etc. But during a pitch contest? Sometimes I feel that it's just certain VCs pretending to be hedge fund quants rather than a founder-seeking value-adding investor.

And as a founder, maybe you shouldn't spend too much time answering this question. There is more inspiration you could draw from other VCs and their questions, such as mine.

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