When Jessica Toh, co-founder and CEO of Huckleberry Labs, was pitching a venture capital investor recently – via Zoom video naturally – Toh glanced at her computer screen and worried something seemed off.

"The other person looked so still," she said. "I thought she was frozen."

Toh was forced to make a split second decision. Should she pause and see if something was wrong or keep going as if nothing was amiss? She opted to plow ahead with the presentation she had delivered hundreds of times for her app that helps monitor the sleep patterns of babies, but it was hard to concentrate when she thought she might be speaking to herself.

"What I didn't realize is how that was coming across in the way I was talking," she said. "It turned out the investor wasn't frozen but just was really still."

Toh did not receive the check. And, when she asked for feedback, was told she did not come across as passionate about what she was building. "That was a shock because everyone else can see how passionate I am," said Toh. "I realized when it's over Zoom it's so hard to have that personal engagement and things come across in a different way."

Toh's experience illustrates the pitfalls of fundraising in the COVID-19 era. After a decade of ever rising valuations put founders in the driver's seat, everything suddenly changed in March when investors literally locked their doors and retreated to triaging their existing portfolio.

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