Last week, I attended my first ever pitch meeting. My client is seeking their seed round investment and wanted me to attend. It was an eye-opening experience. Personally, I’ve never had the desire to build a business that required outside investment. And after seeing the pitch process firsthand, I understand why more clearly now.

We walk into the building and sat down in the lobby next to a few other people eagerly waiting to give their pitch. All filled with hope of landing part of the $15 million or so that this fund had available. There’s an uncomfortable silence in the air. We make a little small talk, but this provides little relief from the pressure of the moment. Even though I wasn’t the one pitching, I felt like an actor waiting to audition for a role.

One by one, the people in front of us get called in to deliver their pitches. Eventually, we’re the only ones left. At last, the office door opens, a guy in his mid-twenties exits, and we’re called in. There are two older gentlemen waiting for us, plus a third on the phone. Our slide deck is already loaded up on the presenter. Introductions are hastily made, and my client starts to talk before one of the guys cuts her off.

“Excuse me, but let me quickly run down how this is going to work. You’ll have 15 minutes to deliver your presentation. I’m setting this timer for 12 minutes, and when it goes off, you have 3 minutes to wrap up. After that, I will set it for 15 minutes which we will use for questions. Once you leave, my partners and I will discuss your pitch and you will get a call from me later today letting you know if you’ve made it to the next round or not. Any questions, or may we start?”

And away we went.

My client did an excellent job with her pitch. She can sometimes be long winded and in all her practice sessions she said she never got it under 20 minutes. Yet she was able to pull it off when it counted and finished the entire presentation within the allotted 15 minutes. When the sound didn’t work on a video embedded in our deck, she smoothly handled it by providing live narration. Afterward, the investors said they were impressed by that.

Still, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. My client has 30+ years of experience in her industry. She has regularly closed deals ranging from 10 to 90 million dollars. And yet when trying to raise a comparatively small amount of money, she has to prove herself like a new grad fresh out of school.

The Bootstrapper Way

This experience made me realize how fortunate we are to have the ability to create.

We can build our business without having to seek permission from someone else just because they have money.

We don’t have to drive 2 hours each way for a 30 minute meeting, hoping to land a small handout that will give our business maybe another year of life.

We can put all of our time and energy into creating and improving our product, instead of into trying to raise money.

We can focus solely on making our customers’ lives better, not our investors.

We get our products to market faster and let our customers be the ultimate judge of whether or not our businesses are valid.

Bootstrapping isn’t for everyone or every business, but I know it’s the only way that I want to build a business, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do so.