Melissa Wong spent more than a decade working for major retail brands before founding Retail Zipline. That kind of outrageous advantage — a complete understanding of the industry — is something that investors struggle to resist in a vertical SaaS company. At least, according to Emergence Capital investor Lotti Siniscalco.
Wong and Siniscalco joined us on a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live and went into detail on why Emergence was eager to finance Retail Zipline’s Series A round, walking us through Zipline’s Series A pitch deck and sharing which slides and bits clinched the deal.
Extra Crunch Live is a weekly virtual event series meant to help founders build better venture-backed businesses. We sit down with investors and the founders they finance to hear what brought them together, what they saw in each other and how they work together moving forward. We also host the ECL pitch-off, where founders in the audience can pitch their startups to our outstanding speakers.
Extra Crunch Live is accessible to everyone on a live basis, but the on-demand content is reserved exclusively for Extra Crunch members. You can check out the July slate here and see the full ECL library here.
Stand up, stand out
During Wong’s fundraising process, Zipline was also attending a big industry conference. Emergence suggested that they do a virtual pitch meeting while Wong was at the trade show, but Wong pushed back, insisting on an in-person pitch meeting. Not only did she know that she would deliver a better pitch in person, but she didn’t want to squander the limited amount of time she had at the trade show with potential clients and partners.
“She pointed to the screen projected behind her to help us stay on the most relevant piece of information. The way she did it really made us stay with her. Like, we couldn’t break eye contact.”
Once the in-person meeting did take place, Wong surprised the Emergence team. For one, she stood up to pitch. Wong explained that her co-founder is a bigger guy, and she’s a smaller woman, and she feels more confident and comfortable presenting from a standing position.
“She was one of the few or maybe the only CEO who ever stood up to pitch the entire team,” said Siniscalco. “She pointed to the screen projected behind her to help us stay on the most relevant piece of information. The way she did it really made us stay with her. Like, we couldn’t break eye contact.”
In terms of delivery, Wong had already made an impact. But the content of the deck, and her experience in retail, clinched the deal.
“I look for an unfair reason for a founder to be the perfect person to build this product,” said Siniscalco. “Wong gave us her background in the first slide, and I knew quickly that she was a credible person in the retail industry. Then, what I look for in a pitch, is customer love.”
Siniscalco said the combination of that unfair advantage and intense customer love is highly correlated with a very positive outcome for a company.
“When we first started out, I was really insecure because I came from the industry versus coming from a lot of Silicon Valley knowledge,” said Wong. “In retrospect, I really underestimated the competitive advantage of coming from the industry. People said it to me, but I didn’t understand what that resulted in. But it resulted in the numbers in our deck, because I know what customers want, what they want to buy next, how to keep them happy and I was able to be way more capital-efficient.”
The Zipline deck
Zipline’s entire deck (with some minor redactions) is embedded below. You can swipe on through at your leisure, but the real value here (in my humble opinion) is Siniscalco’s breakdown of how she reacted to the information in the deck. I’ll relay that here in text, but I also strongly suggest you watch (at least) the first half of the episode below to hear the founder/investor duo walk us through this deck.