Moonshot startups, those daring ideas that promise to reshape our world, are inherently about venturing into uncharted territory, giving us new superpowers and creating new markets. They’re high stakes, high reward, and, more often than not, deeply technical. As someone who navigates these waters, I see firsthand that when securing funding, it’s just as crucial to mobilize generalist VCs as it is to mobilize sector-specific investors for your round.
Yes, having sector-specific investors on board is invaluable. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the generalist perspective. They provide something different — a broader, more expansive viewpoint. Yet, convincing generalist VCs to bet on these ambitious ideas is an art.
The task is doubly daunting in a strained economic environment. Just look at biopharma. The industry is projected to have raised the lowest tally in four years. When purse strings tighten, VCs — particularly those without a deep understanding of the specific technical domain — often revert to a more conservative approach to investment. This conservatism can inadvertently sideline the most transformative ideas that promise financial returns and significant societal impact.
So, how do founders of highly ambitious, deeply technical startups navigate these choppy waters? How do they convince generalist VCs to invest in ideas that demand a leap of faith and, perhaps, a leap of understanding? Drawing from my experiences raising for my reproductive technology company Orchid, I’ve outlined key strategies to help founders navigate this journey.
Tell an epic story of how the world will be better if you win
First and foremost, the key lies in effective communication. Translate your complex, technical vision into a narrative that resonates with a broad spectrum of investors. It’s not about diluting technical aspects or dumbing down the science; instead, it involves crafting a story that highlights the potential impact and value of the idea. Investors need to see not just the brilliance of the concept but also its practical implications — how it addresses a real-world problem, the scale of its potential market, and its feasibility.
Translate your complex, technical vision into a narrative that resonates with a broad spectrum of investors.
Every great venture has a story — a story of challenges, breakthroughs, and visions of a changed world. Telling this story in a compelling way can capture the imagination of generalist VCs, who are often looking for the next big idea to disrupt the market. A general guide to follow:
- Why now: Start by contextualizing the problem your venture is solving. Explain why this problem hasn’t been solved to date and what has changed, making it a good time to solve it now. Paint a picture of the current landscape and the gap your technology aims to fill. This is especially important for moonshot ideas, which often have higher R&D and CapEx (capital expenditures) costs but are now possible only because of other recent tech breakthroughs.
- Humanize the tech: At the heart of every technical solution is a human problem. Relate your technology to real-life scenarios and potential impacts on people’s lives. This human connection makes complex ideas more relatable and compelling.
- Show momentum and speed: Share the story of your company’s evolution — the challenges faced, breakthroughs achieved, and lessons learned. Show that you can punch above your weight regarding who you can attract and what you can do. Show you can do more with less. You want to showcase resilience, innovation, and the progressive realization of your vision. Generalist VCs hear many pitches from software companies that promise breakneck growth. Your moonshot company needs to build momentum to compare.