Demystifying the Key Vocabulary VCs Use when Evaluating Startup Entrepreneurs!

Abhishek Shah
7 min readJul 3, 2023

In the dynamic and competitive world of startups, securing funding is often a critical step for entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into reality. Venture capital (VC) plays a pivotal role in providing the necessary financial resources, industry expertise, and network connections to propel startups towards success.

However, navigating the complex landscape of VC funding requires entrepreneurs to be well-versed in the key vocabulary used by VCs during the evaluation process. Let’s try & demystify the terminology VCs commonly employ when assessing startup entrepreneurs, equipping them with the knowledge needed to engage effectively in funding discussions.

I. The VC Landscape:

To grasp the significance of understanding VC vocabulary, it is essential to gain insights into the VC landscape itself. The VC industry has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, with numerous funds actively seeking investment opportunities in promising startups. These funds, managed by experienced investors, aim to generate substantial returns by identifying and nurturing high-potential ventures. Understanding the motivations and investment strategies of VCs is crucial for entrepreneurs to align their startup goals with the expectations of potential investors. Moreover, acknowledging the competitive nature of the VC landscape helps entrepreneurs prepare themselves to stand out among numerous applicants and secure funding for their startups.

II. Key Vocabulary Used by VCs:

A. Pre-Investment Stage:

  1. Market Opportunity: One of the first aspects VCs consider is the market opportunity that a startup aims to address. VCs assess the size, growth potential, and competitive landscape of the target market to determine the viability of a startup’s business idea. Entrepreneurs should be prepared to answer questions about the target market, target customer segments, and how their product or service uniquely solves existing problems.
  2. Total Addressable Market (TAM): VCs often inquire about the total addressable market, which represents the potential revenue opportunity available to a startup. TAM estimation involves determining the number of potential customers, their willingness to pay, and the expected market growth. Understanding the concept of TAM and being able to articulate a compelling market size is crucial in demonstrating the scalability and potential impact of a startup.
  3. Business Model: A well-defined business model is crucial for attracting VC interest. Entrepreneurs should be able to articulate their revenue streams, cost structure, and value proposition effectively. VCs assess the scalability, profitability, and sustainability of a startup’s business model, and entrepreneurs should be prepared to provide evidence of market traction and growth potential.
  4. Financial Modeling: Financial modeling is a critical tool for both startup entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. For entrepreneurs, it helps analyze the financial performance of their businesses, forecast revenue and expenses, and make informed strategic decisions. It enables them to assess feasibility, understand profitability, and secure funding. VCs rely on financial models to evaluate investment opportunities, assess financial viability, and make informed funding decisions. By utilizing financial modeling, entrepreneurs and VCs can align their expectations, facilitate communication, and work towards mutual success in the startup ecosystem.
  5. Pitch Deck: The pitch deck is a crucial tool that serves as a bridge between startup entrepreneurs and venture capitalists (VCs). From the perspective of the entrepreneur, it is an opportunity to present a compelling vision, market opportunity, and growth strategy in a visually appealing and concise manner. It showcases the uniqueness of their product or service, highlights the competitive advantage, and presents financial projections that demonstrate the potential for scalability and profitability. For VCs, the pitch deck is a valuable resource for evaluating startup opportunities. It provides insights into the entrepreneur’s ability to articulate their business model, market understanding, and strategic thinking. A well-crafted pitch deck can captivate VCs, generate interest, and open the door for further discussions and potential investment, creating a win-win situation for both parties.

B. Investment Stage:

  1. Valuation: VCs evaluate the worth of a startup through valuation, which determines the percentage of ownership a VC will receive in exchange for their investment. Entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with valuation methods such as discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis and comparable company analysis. They should be able to justify their valuation by presenting key financial projections, growth metrics, and competitive advantages.
  2. Due Diligence: Due diligence is an in-depth examination of a startup’s operations, financials, legal status, and overall viability. VCs conduct due diligence to gain confidence in the startup’s potential and assess any risks involved. Entrepreneurs should be prepared for this process by ensuring their documentation, financial records, and legal compliance are in order. Maintaining transparency and addressing potential red flags proactively is essential during this stage.
  3. Runway: Runway refers to the length of time a startup can operate before running out of funds. VCs evaluate a startup’s runway to determine if it has sufficient funds to achieve key milestones and attract follow-on investment. Entrepreneurs should have a clear plan for utilizing the funds raised and extending their runway through revenue generation, strategic partnerships, or subsequent funding rounds.

III. Common Questions Asked by VCs:

During the evaluation process, VCs pose a range of questions to gain a deeper understanding of the startup’s potential. These questions often cover various aspects, including market dynamics, competition, team composition, product or service differentiation, and financial projections. By anticipating and addressing these questions, entrepreneurs can demonstrate their expertise, strategic thinking, and preparedness, which enhances their credibility in the eyes of VCs. Understanding the most common questions asked by VCs empowers entrepreneurs to anticipate and address potential concerns, presenting their startup in the best possible light and maximizing their chances of securing the necessary investment for growth and success.

  1. What problem does your product/service solve?
  2. How large is the market opportunity for your product/service?
  3. Who are your target customers, and what is your strategy for acquiring and retaining them?
  4. How do you differentiate yourself from competitors in the market?
  5. What is your unique value proposition?
  6. How scalable is your business model?
  7. What is your go-to-market strategy?
  8. How do you plan to monetize your product/service?
  9. What is your revenue model, and what are your projected revenues?
  10. What are your projected expenses and profitability?
  11. What is your customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLTV)?
  12. How do you plan to allocate the funds raised in this round?
  13. How much funding have you raised so far, and from whom?
  14. What is your burn rate, and how long is your runway?
  15. Who are the key members of your team, and what relevant experience do they bring?
  16. What is the role of each team member, and how will you attract and retain top talent?
  17. Do you have any intellectual property protection in place?
  18. How do you plan to scale your operations and handle increased demand?
  19. What is your customer feedback and satisfaction level?
  20. What is your marketing and sales strategy?
  21. How do you plan to adapt to changing market trends and customer needs?
  22. Are there any regulatory or legal considerations for your product/service?
  23. What are the key risks and challenges you foresee for your business?
  24. How do you plan to overcome these risks and challenges?
  25. Have you conducted any market validation or pilot studies?
  26. Do you have any strategic partnerships or collaborations in place?
  27. What are your short-term and long-term milestones?
  28. Are you planning to raise additional funding in the future, and what is your exit strategy?
  29. How do you plan to maintain a competitive advantage in the market?
  30. Have you analyzed your customer acquisition channels and conversion rates?
  31. What is your customer retention and churn rate?
  32. How do you handle customer feedback and incorporate it into product development?
  33. Can you provide examples of your product/service’s success stories or case studies?
  34. What is the total addressable market (TAM) for your product/service, and how did you arrive at that estimation?
  35. What is your growth strategy for expanding into new markets or geographies?
  36. How do you plan to build brand awareness and establish a strong brand presence?
  37. Have you faced any significant challenges or setbacks in the past, and how did you overcome them?
  38. What is your competitive landscape, and who are your main competitors?
  39. How do you plan to protect your market position and fend off competition?
  40. Are there any potential regulatory or legal risks associated with your industry?
  41. How do you ensure data privacy and security for your customers?
  42. What is your sales cycle, and how long does it typically take to convert a lead into a customer?
  43. Do you have any recurring revenue streams or subscription models?
  44. How do you plan to adapt to technological advancements and changes in your industry?
  45. Can you provide a detailed breakdown of your financial projections, including revenue, expenses, and profitability?
  46. What are your key performance indicators (KPIs), and how do you track them?
  47. How do you plan to build and maintain a strong company culture?
  48. How do you measure and track customer satisfaction and feedback?
  49. What is your long-term vision for the company, and how do you plan to achieve it?
  50. What sets you apart as an entrepreneur, and why should we invest in your company?

IV. Best Practices for Startup Entrepreneurs:

To effectively engage in discussions with VCs, startup entrepreneurs should consider adopting several best practices. First and foremost, thorough preparation is essential. Entrepreneurs should research VCs’ investment focus and track record to align their pitch with the VC’s interests. Clear and concise communication is crucial, ensuring that entrepreneurs can articulate their business concept, market potential, and growth strategy effectively. Additionally, entrepreneurs should be receptive to feedback and demonstrate a willingness to learn and adapt their business model based on VC input.

Understanding the key vocabulary used by VCs is a fundamental step for startup entrepreneurs seeking funding. By demystifying the terminology employed by VCs during the evaluation process, entrepreneurs can engage confidently in discussions, effectively convey the potential of their startups, and increase their chances of securing the necessary funding. Embracing transparency, honing presentation skills, and maintaining open communication throughout the funding journey are all integral components of building successful partnerships with VCs. By equipping themselves with the necessary knowledge and implementing best practices, entrepreneurs can navigate the VC landscape with confidence, turning their startup dreams into reality.



Abhishek Shah

Nomad | Early Stage Investor | Wannabe Anthropologist | Technology Evangelist | Curious, Inquisitive & Experimental Entrepreneur