If you’ve tried to get an investor to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) before you pitch them, you’ll often be waved off with something like, “We don’t do that.”
That is somewhat sensible: Investors talk to a lot of startups, so signing an NDA could open them up to liabilities in many ways. For example, an investor could agree to not share anything you’ve disclosed, but it’s possible they heard another startup doing exactly what you do, with exactly your approach a couple of weeks before they spoke to you. That puts them in an awkward position.
This practice is therefore so widespread it’s become something of a rule.
There are times when you should push back against such conventions, though: When you’re discussing the details of your technology.
If an investor says they don’t sign NDAs, here’s what you should do: Take the meeting anyway but move the slides that talk about your technology to another part of the presentation deck, behind an interstitial slide saying, “Beyond this point, an NDA is required.”
Your job as the founder — using the market size, your unique team and traction — is to tell enough of a compelling story that the investors choose to sign an NDA ahead of your next meeting.