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When you’re a startup, asking for money is complicated. So complicated that in recent years a cottage industry has formed with the specific purpose of helping companies go out for rounds.
Here to tell us about it is Zach Grosser, the founder & managing director of Zacht Studios, a presentation design agency that’s worked with clients like Nextdoor, Square, Adobe and Dropbox, among others. Zach and his team help companies prepare for the most important (and oftentimes, most secretive) presentation they’ll ever give. Today we shine some daylight on the process, answering questions like:
How big should the font on your fundraising deck be? What do investors want to hear in 2021? How has the pandemic changed the way companies fundraise?
Join us in finding the answers to these (and more) in this week’s episode.
“I think that with the smaller companies — or if it’s individual VCs and angels — the struggle is always the time constraint. It’s always like, I need this thing done yesterday that we really don’t have time for.”
🎙 Highlights include:
- What is a presentation design studio?
- Are most presentation designers in-house? How do you hire a presentation designer?
- How has COVID changed the way startups go out for fundraising rounds?
- What is it like running a global business during BREXIT?
This Week’s Guest
Founder & Managing Director @ Zacht Studios
Zach Grosser is the Founder and Managing Director of Zacht Studios. Based in Amsterdam, he wanted to blend his coveted knowledge of VC priorities and design to build best-in-class services in the medium of presentations, now known as Zacht Studios.
The Startup Stack’s Host
CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace
Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible.
Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:00] Why did the PowerPoint presenter cross the road?
Louis Beryl: I don’t know.
Zach Grosser: To get to the other slide.
Louis Beryl: [Laughing] As soon as I said, I don’t know. It’s like, I know this one. I know this one.
Zach Grosser: I have another one for you. What’s black and white and red all over? [Pause] My balance sheet.
Louis Beryl: [Laughing]
Zach Grosser didn’t set out to be the person startup turn to, to help them raise money. He worked at the Apple Store training people on Keynote. That Landed him at Square where he became their first in-house presentation designer. And from there, his reputation grew and grew. Zack’s industry, presentation design has become one of the most important parts of the fundraising process in recent years. SpaceX, NextDoor, Square, Figma and even myself, we’ve all hired Zach. It’s been a weird year for fundraising in a bunch of ways. Zach’s had a front row ticket to all the industries changes. All of this and much more in today’s interview. Let’s get into it.
[00:01:00] Yeah. I’m really excited about today’s conversation. So, you know, maybe, maybe just to start, tell us, uh, tell us a little bit about Zacht Studios.
Zach Grosser: Sure. Yeah. So Zacht Studios we’re a presentation’s design agency. Um, we focus on companies storytelling and, uh, investor fundraising. So if, uh, you know, most of our clients are anywhere from like pre-seed through series B approximately. We do work with some later stage companies, as well as for the fundraising. Usually companies a little smaller size needs, some help to do that fundraising. Uh, and we come in, we are usually the first people outside of their company, their advisor group, the people that are already like intimately familiar with the product and story are the first people that come in.
We have our outside perspective for the first time we, uh, help them tell their story better. Um, obviously most founders know how to tell their story really well, but for the specific audience, we work with VCs all the time and angel investors. So [00:02:00] we help them, you know, sort of cater their story a little bit better to the fundraising audience.
And then we do presentation design. So we’ll start with visual design, either matching their brand guidelines or with a lot of these pre-seed companies sort of starting from scratch, helping them build their brand with them. And, uh, and usually on a short timeline. So, you know, everybody is like, oh, oh, an investor wants to talk to me this week? Okay. And so that’s like a lot of the places where we start.
Louis Beryl: Yeah. [Laughing] Uh, when, when do you need this? Uh, I need this Friday or next month.
You have had tremendous success, you know, at least in terms of, you know, the companies you’ve worked with have raised billions of dollars. Um, And I’d love to hear a little bit more about how did you start Zacht Studios?
Zach Grosser: Yeah, so, um, uh, I have a background in presentation design from, I worked at the Apple Store in, about 10 years ago. And part of my role was teaching [00:03:00] Keynote. And never did I think that learning and then teaching Keynote from Apple was going to be part of my career path at all.
And then I, you know, I feel really privileged I got, uh, my senior manager left Apple and went to Square. And then like a couple months later I got the like Facebook DM of like, Hey, why don’t you, you know, come check it out. And I took a role at Square, uh, on the food team. So I was between every employee and lunch, we would swipe credit cards and, you know, using beta versions of Squares software, and then I’d write bug reports and fix the kegerator and pour champagne when someone’s assigned teams leaving or got promoted. That was like the proximity to the design team that I had.
And then the presentation designer left. And I was like, I just have one semester of design from university. I know how to teach Keynote which is part of the job. You’re like, you know, if all these internal customers that need help with their presentations. And so, uh, [00:04:00] Yeah, I served presentation designing at Square. I spent five years there. I feel really lucky for that both in that Square, you know, took the chance of like taking the kid on the food team and like giving him a chance to be a designer. Um, and also the network that I built while I was there.
You know, a lot of those clients that you mentioned came from people I knew at square. Just like every tech company, people work for a year or two and then they go work at some other startup. And so the, the luck of being in Silicon Valley and then all of your network goes and works at these other companies. And then they’re like, Hey, I don’t know that many people that do presentation design. I just know Zach that does it, or maybe two people. And so that’s how we get a lot of our inbound business.
Louis Beryl: Well, and so tell me, you know, um, that certainly kind of makes sense about how you transitioned into presentation, design and your background. But I imagine when you’re crafting pitch decks for example, which is a really big part of what you do. Yeah, you have to have an understanding for the VC [00:05:00] ecosystem, the differences between a seed stage and a series a and a series B company, and what venture capitalists might be looking for. How did, how did you get up to speed on all that and really become an expert?
Zach Grosser: Yeah, well, it did start at Square. Uh, I helped square through four of its fundraising rounds and then, uh, the IPO road show as well. A lot of the time I would get looped into a project at Square and didn’t know it was for fundraising. I was much younger. I didn’t know what these things were. It was like, hey, we need help with this presentation. Can you, oh, can you do this slide for us? It was a lot of those requests coming from, you know, the finance team or the investor relations team. So for awhile, I was just kind of making these investor slides without knowing what I was working on. And. As I was spending more time at my job and learning about like, Oh, it really is all about the storytelling. You know, it’s not just a visual treatment of one slide to the next. And really just how you craft these stories.
A big component of that is like, who are you telling this story to? And so I [00:06:00] started learning like, Oh, we’re talking to investors. Okay, well, what are they looking for? And asking a lot of those questions too. Luckily I had this captive audience of an investor relations team, Sarah Friar who’s now the CEO of NextDoor. She was the CFO at Square. Um, so I had these people that were experts in the field. I was like asking like, well, why would you want to talk to an investor like that? So that was one big part of it.
The other is, you know, sometimes our clients are actually VCs themselves. They’re either raising a fund and they need to put together a deck to raise a fund or they’re hiring us to help their portfolio companies. And so that’s also really nice when you have your clients pretty much telling you what they’re looking for when they see these decks come across their desk and they’re seeing hundreds and hundreds a year. So they’re exposed to a lot of bad decks too. And so you get, you know, a couple opinionated VCs to come, come through and tell you like what they hate seeing and what they’re looking for. It [00:07:00] really helps us over time, like build this deep experience of just kind of what our customers audience wants.
Louis Beryl: [Music begins] Hey, this is Louis here with my Rocketplace co-founder Ben.
Ben Hutchinson: Hello.
Louis Beryl: And we are talking to you today from inside our very own brand new rocket ship. [Sounds of rocket ship engine starting] Isn’t that right Ben?
Ben Hutchinson: Well, it’s kind of rented.
Louis Beryl: Nooooooo.
Ben Hutchinson: It wasn’t in the marketing budget Louis. And beyond that owning a rocket ship doesn’t really explain what Rocketplace is. That we’re a curated marketplace of top quality professional service providers.
Louis Beryl: I can’t believe this [in a fustrated tone].
Ben Hutchinson: Or that we use intelligence software to pair businesses with world-class firms from everything from finance and accounting to marketing and branding, recruiting, software development, domain name buying, product design, and more. [Pause] [00:08:00] Also it’s a podcast. They can’t see us.
Louis Beryl: So now what?
Ben Hutchinson: Now we enjoy the rocket ship.
Louis Beryl: How long do we have?
Ben Hutchinson: There’s a kids birthday party at three.
Louis Beryl: Can I fly it?
Ben Hutchinson: Aaahhh no.
Louis Beryl: Can I drive it?
Ben Hutchinson: No.
Louis Beryl: Can I press any of the buttons?
Ben Hutchinson: Louis [in a stern voice]!
Louis Beryl: Just this one.
Ben Hutchinson: No! [Sounds of buttons being pressed and computer noises and beeps] Hey, Hey, look, don’t do that. [Sounds of a rocket ship engine starting] We’re moving? Why are we moving? [Sounds of a rocket ship taking off] How do you stop this? LOUUUUIIIISSSS!! [Voice getting quieter as it flies away in the rocket ship)
Announcer: Rocketplace. World-class firms just a click away.
Louis Beryl: OKay. You’re at Square. You’ve worked from, you know, all these fundraisers all the way up through IPO [00:09:00] and I’m thinking to myself, well, how did you go and start your own studio? I mean, was it just kind of out of necessity? You’re like, well, we’ve IPO’d at this point. Nothing else to do. I got to go start my own thing or, or, you know, what, what was the thinking behind that?
Zach Grosser: Yeah, that’s a great question. So the, the step kind of in between is I moved to Amsterdam and that’s the reason I left Square. And I also started working at Figma. And if you don’t know, Figma is a design tool company based in San Franciso.
Louis Beryl: Sure. [Laughing] Of course.
Zach Grosser: [Laughing] But yeah. Yeah, yeah. Just in case. Um, and so part of that was, you know, to move to Amsterdam. Part of that was trying to figure out how to get a visa here and, you know, there’s the Dutch American friendship treaty, which is like a nice, easy way for people that work in many fields, including the tech field to move to Amsterdam or the Netherlands. And, um, so I had to form a company to do that. And my [00:10:00] company sponsored my visa.
And then Figma can, you know, was our only client for a while. And it was just me being the only employee. So, you know, it was a relationship like I worked at Figma and after about 14 months, I left Figma to freelance full-time and this was, I had a bunch of inbound requests to do these investor pitch decks from my network.
And, uh, you know, it just felt like the right time to just try to do this. And I really expected to do it for like a couple months and then, you know, have to find a job again. So I freelanced for maybe 10 months and was just doing sort of the same work that I’m doing now, but on a much smaller scale by myself. And I met Dona, our content director in Dutch class, and she was working a part-time job, which is very, very common to have part-time work in another ones. And so she was looking for some hours of work and I was just overwhelmed. I took on way too many clients at the same time and needed help. And so that was really how Zacht Studios started [00:11:00] was, uh, by accident. I would say, um, I never really left with the idea of I’m going to start an agency, but as soon as one person comes on board and you scale up work, and then all of a sudden everyone’s busy again, then I start bringing on more people. So now we’re, we’re a team of four right now.
Louis Beryl: Can you tell me a little bit more about the field of presentation design? You know, you’re talking about all these inbound requests you’re getting, you know, I guess what I’m hearing and it’s probably, it’s true is that, you know, firms need to do this type of work all the time, whether it’s fundraising, maybe it’s, uh, maybe you’re a public company.
You have, uh, an ongoing investor presentations. I know you work with, you know, Adobe is a big client, they’re a public company. I’m probably, I’m assuming they were public. The whole, you know, you’re there. Of course they were public the whole time. Um, You know, is this, is this the type of field that is kind of dominated by outside agencies or, or companies building big in-house presentation, design teams? Um, [00:12:00] you know, w tell me more about it and where you see it going.
Zach Grosser: Yeah, there’s definitely a couple of companies that have internal presentation, design teams. Most notably is Apple. They sort of have a team dedicated to making and producing their giant keynotes, but for the most part, yeah. I mean, um, companies have, uh, usually every employee has presentation software on their computer. Right. And this is sometimes you luck out and you’ve got someone, you know, over here in finance and strategy, that’s just really good at putting your deck together. Uh, other times you turn to your internal resources of maybe your marketing designers or a communication designer. And it’s sort of like another thing that they do.
Um, as far as actual presentation designers, I know of about a hundred of them. There’s a Slack group I was added to like two years ago. That’s there’s just about a hundred of us. Um, a lot of them do work at large companies. You know, there’s someone that’s, you know, producing for some of the bigger known [00:13:00] conferences that you hear about that run every year at these large public tech companies. Uh, but outside of that, like I don’t see every company having its own presentation, design team in house.
Louis Beryl: I would love to dive into some of the challenges and, you know, one challenge I’m trying to think of is okay. It’s like you work for Adobe, Square, NextDoor, Figma. I mean, gosh, it’s almost like, it feels like it’d be easy to produce a presentation for them. They have so much content. Their products are beautiful. They already, they have a team of designers that already work for them.
Well, one is that even true? And then two, what if you meet at, you know, you say you work for like VC firms. You know, you must meet firms that like, they send you over the last year’s presentation. It’s this awful PowerPoint. Ha. Is that more of a challenge than with the, with the, the companies like an Adobe or Figma, or, I don’t know. You tell me.
Zach Grosser: I think the smaller the company, or if it’s individual VCs and angels, that it’s [00:14:00] always a time constraint. It’s always like, I need this done yesterday that we really don’t have time for it. And those are that’s usually what makes the work the hardest. Uh, when you have companies like Adobe, they, they generally have a little bit more long-term planning happening, just I’m sure. You know, the large companies do, they’ve got their quarterly planning and their OKR or whatever they’re doing. So they have like a little bit further look into the future and that might be a little slower about releasing things so they can, they can plan ahead a little bit.
But a VC or a startup, someone seed round, you know, they have an investor that reaches out to them. Sometimes it’s like, I want in on this, send me your deck. And I think that’s probably like the bigger of the challenges that we face.
Louis Beryl: Tell me about some of the challenges and just in starting your own studio, it sounds like you had a lot of good connections from your previous work experience and you were getting tons of.Inbound interest. So it’s, and it doesn’t sound like clients were an issue, but [00:15:00] what have been the challenges and in running your own studio?
Zach Grosser: Uh, yeah, so, uh, especially early on, was just taking on too much work at the same time, just saying yes to every project that came along. I think the other big challenge is just living in a different country. Um, a lot of our clients are based in the United States, primarily in the Bay Area. Still. I thought that starting my own business and working by myself, I’d be really good at some of the, just running your business things. But doing accounting, when you have to take into consideration, you know, different currencies, uh, different tax rates, depending on where people are based. That’s a huge challenge I really didn’t expect.
And then the time zone differences too, we’re plus nine hours from San Francisco. And a lot of my clients are like, I want to get on a call right now. And so that’s, that’s also been a challenge. It’s just like, time-zones slash accounting and communication things that happen of being in a different country than your clients.
Louis Beryl: [Intro [00:16:00] music]
Hey, do you like our show? I do too. If you want to support The Startup Stack, the best way to do that is by subscribing and rating us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to us. Also send dad jokes, or if you have them actual good jokes to podcast.rocketplace.com. Feel free to send us feedback there too.
I’d love to transition to, you know, you’re giving advice to other companies out there, presentation, design, uh, pitch deck design is, is something that, uh, we do get requested on Rocketplace um, you know, I’m sure that you’d be like, yes, send them all to me. But I do think, yeah, as a company is thinking about maybe going out for their next fundraise, um, when, you know, what are the types of things like when would you recommend a company working with a firm like yourself? Um, what are the things that they should be asking when meeting, um, agencies like yours? Uh, in order to evaluate like, is this [00:17:00] really the right fit for, for me and my company?
Zach Grosser: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think I’m trying to understand a little bit of the industries that they’ve worked with before. We’ve, we’ve worked with some industries, sort of across the spectrum and healthcare, pharm techs, sort of everything you can think of, which has been really nice. I think when we get an inbound request, it’s sort of like, do you understand our business? Um, because a lot of the times with early stage companies they’re still trying to learn how to tell their story. Again, something that we work with and being able to really understand the work that is being pitched is really important because your presentation designer has to sort of understand the story to make it all come together. And so during that initial inbound conversation, it’s like, this is what we do does that make sense to you? Is probably like a really great starting place.
Louis Beryl: Are there things that you wish that companies knew maybe before [00:18:00] they, uh, contact you or, or work with you? Like, they’re just like we do this, but not this. Or there’s common misconceptions?
Zach Grosser: I mean, I would come back to the timing thing. A lot of people just think I can put together a PowerPoint deck in a week. Why can’t you do that? You specialize in this, you should be able to do that, but it’s sort of like putting together a really good pitch should take time.
Louis Beryl: And what type of time do you recommend? How, how, how far in advance should they be? Should companies be working on this?
Zach Grosser: I always say the more, the better, but I would, I would say like, for me personally, I like more than two weeks. Anything above that is really nice, but anything less than two weeks, you really always end up going over two weeks anyway. You’re like, hey, our first conversation with our VC is in a week and a half. It’s like, great. We can get you something done by then, but always it’s like they finish it. And then they want to add a couple more slides after they’ve had that initial call. So there’s kind of that iteration of like making it better, tweaking the story.
Louis Beryl: Yeah, of course, that makes, that makes [00:19:00] sense.
Zach Grosser: And, and I think that one thing that we get a lot is a lot of VCs always feel like they want to give something when they don’t give money. So when they’re like, oh, sorry, we’re not gonna, you know, in fast, they want to share their thoughts of the deck. So they always are like, well, you know, I’m sorry, we’re not gonna move forward, but you should add a slide on this. And so that’s part of the process too, is the deck really, like you said, as iterative after, after it’s done. It’s not really done.
Louis Beryl: Can you, can you give us an example of a client you had that, you know, might’ve been particular challenging, but ultimately, you know what that challenge was, how you worked through it and how you’re really proud of, of that outcome?
Zach Grosser: Yeah. I mean, this might sound like an obvious, one of like, who can you think of that’s a challenging personality, but I worked with Elon Musk on a SpaceX presentation. And I can’t really…
Louis Beryl: I’m so, despite whatever challenges of his personality, I got to tell you I’m so jealous. [00:20:00] Right. That sounds awesome.
Zach Grosser: Um, yeah, it’s, uh, he’s, he’s a very interesting person. And, um, I, uh, he’s, he’s very demanding as you can. I imagine from just his public persona, he has very high expectations for the people he works with. So, uh, it was always like the best work you can pull off. As quickly as possible available all the time, it was just like very high paced. What you would expect him to be like is he is like that he’s very intense and really has high standards. So, um, it was a very challenging project, but the result was awesome.
Louis Beryl: And, and so, and this could be more general. Um, how do you measure success when you’re working with clients? I mean, is it just dollars raised or, or how do you think about success?
Zach Grosser: So the most important part of a presentation, um, aside from like the story, but as like a concrete deliverable is that the person presenting it feels confident. It’s really what you’re doing is [00:21:00] building something that someone can be confident talking in front of a little bit different now that most of these pitches are happening over Zoom, but you know, the person has to feel confident. So for us, it’s like the founder or CEO or founding team member that is giving these pitches is really happy with the deck. They’re like, great. This is exactly what I’m looking for. So, and that’s one of those elements that makes it kind of fun is you’re not just building a deck off, here’s the story and here’s the visual design it’s done. It’s also like, is this, this person’s style of storytelling. And so we have to like, explore that a little bit too as we’re exploring the company.
Louis Beryl: You know, I didn’t. I didn’t even realize that. So are you, I mean, of course it makes sense now that you say it and I’m wondering, are you also working with the founders? It’s like, okay, here’s the presentation. Now think about, you know, work on this for a day and I want you to come back to me and pitch it to me. And are you, are you [00:22:00] then giving feedback to, is it a whole, is it kind of the full service process or is it just deck design?
Zach Grosser: I would say like probably 90% of the time we’re doing the story and deck design. We do help coach a little bit. And along the way, even if they haven’t asked us to, you know, like, Hey, let’s do a pitch practice together. Okay. You know, we’ll be implying a little bit of like, Oh, I really imagine you talking about this when you have this slide up. And some of those like tips that we can give, we just sneak them in and sort of like, this is just good practice. Um, Yeah. Yeah, I think it it’s, it’s definitely like one of those things where if someone came to us and they’re like, I just need help saying this confidently we’re there. But as you know, most CEOs or founders kind of feel like they have it down and are very kind skills.
Louis Beryl: We love to hear ourselves talk.
Zach Grosser: Yeah.
Louis Beryl: Yeah. That’s why we all have podcasts.
Zach Grosser: [Laughs] it’s true.
Louis Beryl: [Laughs] Okay. I, you know, I’d love to kind of move on to the trends you’re seeing, you know, [00:23:00] we’ve obviously seen an enormous shift to remote. Uh, you, your company has been remote the whole time. Um, but like, you know, what, what shifts have you seen in presentation design? You know, since you’ve started this and then, and then even in just like the last. You know what 2021 has 20, 21 different than 2020? I mean, what, what are you seeing out there? What’s changing.
Zach Grosser: Yeah, a ton of stuff, actually. So just general good practice advice, pandemic or not, uh, w was to have maybe two presentations, one that’s a little bit more content dense. That is the leave behind or the send ahead. And one, that’s a little bit more visual focused. That’s the one you stand in front of and present.
Now a lot of these conversations are no longer happening in person. And so as we moved to Zoom, I feel like that advice is still pretty good. You don’t want someone reading your slide instead of listening to you, [00:24:00] but we have seen that because the, your audience, the VCs and investors are sitting there looking at their screen instead of maybe at a, you know, a projector screen on the other side of the room, the design has shifted a little bit. We can go a little bit smaller in font size. We can stick a couple more things in there. Um, we’ve started experimenting with taking the same deck and using it well, and that’s, that’s sort of like a consequence of timeline.
Like I said, it’s ideal to have two presentations, but that does take more time. So there’s always that compromise presentation. That’s, it’s a little bit more content dense than it should be, but it’s also not too content dense. So we started in integrating that idea and doing like a one pager at the beginning of the deck that isn’t presented to, but when the person receives the PDF it’s in there and has that summary, that really dense information slide.
[00:25:00] Um, from 2020 to 2021, well, first off the pandemic, uh, I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot with a lot of people that you’ve talked to at end of March through may sort of all the work dried up. We had all these great projects and then literally for all of April and may, we just had NextDoor, which is one of our clients who are super, super lucky to have them. We do, um, non fundraise projects with them, you know, sort of support them as they have offices all over the world. They need some design help in the Netherlands, you know, we’re based here. So.
Louis Beryl: And let’s hit the pause button just for one second. I mean, were you thinking to yourself? Oh my gosh. You know, we focus on the fundraising process and no one’s fundraising anymore. You know, what are we going to do for a business? Did you, did you consider furloughing people or how did, how did you deal with deal with that?
Zach Grosser: A lot of panic, I had just brought on team members. So January last year [00:26:00] was the first person on my team by the pandemic. I had two people already. I know. And I was seeing my friends on Twitter, uh, people in the United States and employment unemployment rate was skyrocketing. I was like, I can’t be one of those people that like ruin someone’s life at the beginning of the pandemic. So I was like, okay ,do whatever you can not to have to lay off people. And like I was saying, NextDoor is, I’m just super lucky that we still work with them because they really were the only people that stood by us that whole time. And it’s, it was awesome.
Louis Beryl: But then if, I mean, clearly things changed. So yes. How long did it take for things to really start changing for you?
Zach Grosser: I would say by June things started picking back up and by the fall. I brought, I, you know, by then I’d brought on another person. It was so busy for us in the fall. And I think that there’s a symptom of a couple things. One people are at home now, and they’re either they have some distance for their job from their job. And they realize [00:27:00] that it’s not what they want to be doing. They want to start their own company, or there’s all these new opportunities for companies.
I mean, you’ve seen all of these companies pop up that serve. Remote work that exists for a healthcare system. That’s overburdened. So there’s all these new companies also. And so it was a little bit of both of those things are probably what I would say is the huge uptick. And then I also think a lot of investors were looking for more places to put money.
Um, once they realized that, okay, things are, things are not as bad as we thought in April. Now I want my money to grow in this unprecedented, we don’t know what’s going to happen with the stock market. There’s an upcoming election. There’s all these reasons that investors might want to look to invest in a company.
Louis Beryl: And I, and I’d love to understand like tactically, like has fundraising changed? I mean, you know, you talked a little bit about smaller font sizes, um, are [00:28:00] there, but, um, but I’m wondering like, are, when people are pitching today, are there more people because it’s all in Zoom, uh, in the room or are there topics that like, Oh, you have to cover like that. You’re advising founders. It’s like VCs are obsessed with these topics right now. You got to cover them.
Zach Grosser: Yeah. I mean the, probably mostly last year, less, so much this year is that’s. Another difference is as we had the COVID slide, like how has the…
Louis Beryl: EVery company had a COVID slide?
Zach Grosser: Every company had a COVID slide in it. It was always like, how is the market opportunity changed with COVID or how does your potential customer base, how, how are they affected or, um, what are the benefits that you can bring to. Your customers now that COVID exists. So that was like every company had a COVID slide and a lot of companies that were raising again.
So the year before they were raising in there, wasn’t a pandemic. And so it was how [00:29:00] are we pivoting because of COVID. Cause our business model is affected, you know, from. Everywhere from not at all. It actually benefited from it too. We have to change our business because our whole thing was in-person meetings. You know, so a lot of that, uh, had to be addressed and a lot of these decks were sort of covering for our business, kind of fell apart. So let’s, let’s look at our new business, all of these awesome opportunities to happen now.
Louis Beryl: And is, is the COVID slide still standard or have we kind of moved away from the COVID slide?
Zach Grosser: We’ve completely moved on from the COVID slide. Unless…
Louis Beryl: Well, when did we get rid of it? I’m just wondering.
Zach Grosser: Yeah, that’s a really, I feel like the turn of the year, it was about 2021. Um, really interesting though. All of January, all of our request were sales decks instead of fundraising decks. We moved kind of, I didn’t see a lot of inbound fundraising in January and then, which I think is cyclical. I think, you know, a lot of companies [00:30:00] do planning around that time, budget planning, all sorts of reasons that January is slow for businesses or different. Um, so now when they came back in February, all the investor decks, there’s no COVID slide unless it’s a health tech company. And most of those are we’re a new company and we’re here to address a specific problem caused by the pandemic.
Louis Beryl: Right. And what about obviously how both COVID and other international events, Brexit have have affected companies in different jurisdictions differently, internationally? You know, what trends are you seeing there that, that are, that are different across borders.
Yeah. So Brexit’s a huge road actually. Um, I mentioned a lot of our clients from the Bay Area that hasn’t changed too much, but over the past, maybe year and a half, we started to get more clients in Europe. And the first couple months of Zacht Studios being a team. So beginning of last year, a lot of that was still in the [00:31:00] UK and Brexit happened. Uh, it has been happening, I would say, but it was official at the end of March last year. And then it would go into effect at the end of last year, which it did. So a lot of companies, the big tech companies moved to their offices, you know, Facebook, Google a bunch of companies where like, we’re closing our London office, we’re going to move to Dublin. We’re going to move to Amsterdam. The startups that we work with. All left London. I, I know there are still startups in London, but so many less, a lot more in Berlin, uh, Amsterdam, obviously, but not too many of the Amsterdam ones we’re working with are the ones that left the UK, but it ton went to Berlin.
So we started working with a lot of German companies, um, that were from London that were working there for Brexit and, and it’s been harder to work with. Any British company now that Brexit’s been official because the Dutch government like sent me a letter that I had to [00:32:00] translate. That’s like, Hey, we believe you’ve worked with the UK before. Here’s a list of things you need to think about before you do it again. And it’s not like, you know, it’s not like here’s bullet point 1, bullet point 2. It’s like links to documents and all in Dutch, which is, you know, another struggle of just being and living in another country. But. Yeah, it definitely has. We have a lot of pause working with UK startups right now, but there’s a lot less of them than we were working with before.
I’m wondering if like, you know, what’s the new trend, the thing that you’re seeing right now, um, that VCs are asking about your, your clients are coming to you, maybe as you’re iterating through the fundraising process. And, you know, I don’t know that people are, uh, constantly. Um, needing to talk about what’s the, what’s the things that you’re seeing right now.
Zach Grosser: Yeah. I’m sure you’re aware. There’s a, a huge amount of consolidation happening in the tech world. Facebook, Google, Apple, [00:33:00] Microsoft, they’re just buying up companies and that really hasn’t changed. But a big thing that VCs are asking our customers are like, what is to stop Amazon from throwing a billion dollars at this and destroying your business in a quarter.
Like. what’s defensible about your business, um, that, that makes you so that if. Google’s competing. You’ll be fine. Um, so that’s a huge one and that’s something that VCs, I think have paid attention to for a long time. Uh, even from like the early two thousands there’s there was a lot of this like conglomeration of, of businesses. But, um, but yeah, definitely right now it’s like what? What’s to stop these companies from doing it because. As you know, it’s just happening all the time right now of Microsoft being like, Oh, we can do that.
Louis Beryl: Speaking of acquisitions. Right. Um, do you have a to clients come to you and say, Oh, we need it. We need [00:34:00] a acquisition deck. Like, is that a thing?
Zach Grosser: I feel like, my suspicions are, I’ve worked on a couple, but they never. Acquisitions are usually so secretive, even more so than fundraising. That a lot of times they disguise them and I’ll find out, you know, six months later I’ll be like, Oh, it’s a fun, it’s a fundraising deck. Exactly.
Louis Beryl: Secret , secret, they can’t even tell they can’t even tell you. Right. Yeah. That’s probably true. That’s actually, they’re super secretive. Um, okay. Last question. If you yourself could go back and. Give yourself some advice, you know, before you started talk studios, what, what would be the advice you gave yourself?
Zach Grosser: Yeah, this is a great question. One, I would be more thoughtful about branding my own company. I was doing paperwork.
Louis Beryl: Speaking of branding, we have to talk about what, what is Zachat Studios? Is it just named after you? Or what does, what does Zacht Studios mean?
Zach Grosser: Yeah, I’d never personally really liked businesses [00:35:00] named after the owner. And, uh, I just happened to have done it because when I was forming a company, The, you know, on paper sponsor my visa and then I could work for Figma. I was like, okay, I just need to fill this in. And they’re like, it just can’t be a company that already exists and another lens, so it can be anything. And the Dutch word for soft is zacht and it’s [spells out word] Z A C H T. My name is Zach [spells out word] Z A C H. And I was like, Oh, that’s kind of like a bilingual pun.
I checked with a couple of Dutch friends, like, is this. Is this weird? Is it funny? Soft studios kind of like sounds okay. So it was really just for paperwork and I was like, ah, it’s clever. Ha ha. And now it’s the identity of my agency and other people work at that company. And so I would probably be more thoughtful about that. Um, I’m not…
Louis Beryl: I like it.
Zach Grosser: Oh, thank you .Yeah. See, I’m not at the stage where it’s like, we need to change it. So. I [00:36:00] think it’s fine. Um, and then I would, I, you know, I mentioned like accounting, I think I’d also be more thoughtful if the accounting firm that I hire, uh, one that specializes in multinational business, I send invoices to several different countries and doing the paperwork on that is complicated. And yeah, I think I’d be more intentional also like just working with an accountant that that’s what they do already.
Louis Beryl: I mean shameless Rocketplace plug. We help firms find, uh, accountants and accounting firms that do all sorts of things like that deal with international bookkeeping and taxes all the time. So to all the listeners out there, if you’re looking for an accounting firm, uh, check out Rocketplace but awesome. Zach, um, you know, thank you so much for joining us and yeah, this was great. Um, it was really interesting hearing about the fundraising process and your studio and how it’s all come together. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Zach Grosser: Thanks so much for inviting me on the show and it was a great ad [00:37:00] placement that you snuck in there.
Louis Beryl: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly.
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Announcer: The Startup Stack. Written and edited by Hannah Levy, produced by Leah Jackson.