Writing for Business Advice, James Oakes, director at ZEAL Investments, offers five lessons to help entrepreneurs approach a funding pitch confidently, arming them with the techniques needed to impress investors.
Getting a business off the ground isn’t purely a matter of having a great idea and the vision to implement it. These things are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. No matter how game-changing your idea is, or how much money it stands to make, without cash reserves or an extremely lean business model, you’ll need money – and that means you’ll need to court and impress investors.
In the early stages, the pitch is everything. The trouble, of course, is that it’s far from simple. Making sure your pitch captures the imagination of would-be investors requires significant effort, preparation, and foresight.
Here are my five tips to wow and impress investors:
Articulate your vision
Help them see, how your idea will change the world.
But, before you can do that, you need to thoroughly audit your idea and your business model. You must poke holes in it wherever possible: why might it not work? What kind of customer doesn’t it serve? What potential issues might be immediately identifiable to a seasoned investor?
This may sound unduly negative, and that’s because it’s supposed to. Investors are always looking for reasons to not give entrepreneurs money. Everyone has different levels of acceptable risk, so all you can do is minimise them.
Criticising yourself and working out ways to fix any potential issues in advance of your pitch will make your vision much more appealing.
When you’ve dealt with these problems, the next step is to practice the arguments for your business idea.
Don’t get bogged down in minutiae here: this needs to be a showy, big-picture presentation on the myriad virtues of your product or service – why it works, what it does, who it’s for, and how it’s going to shake up the market. Have an answer to any question your investors might have, and give them every reason to believe that your company has to exist.
Stay on track
Excitement is the default mode for many entrepreneurs, but don’t get carried away. When you lose sight of the details, you lose track of the business.
A persuasive pitch must be controlled as well as creative. If you are to persuade investors to give you money, you should be able to persuade them that you will use it wisely and judiciously.
So, if you have ideas for expansion in the distant future, several offshoot companies, or 32 new product lines, keep them in your head. Entrepreneurship is about managing priorities. Show them that you can.
That said, in maintaining a strict focus, you should never give off the impression that you’re unwilling to change. Market-dominating products don’t emerge fully formed: they react and adapt to the will of consumers.
Investors need to know that if the first version of your idea doesn’t work, you’ll do whatever you can to change it until it does. Embed contingencies into your initial pitch: think of parallel universes and alternate scenarios, and demonstrate a willingness to pursue any profitable and legal avenue that appears before you.
Get end-users on board
A natural worry for many investors is giving money to an idea that’s unproven and, as far as they know, unfeasible. Accordingly, nothing gets them onside like proving your idea to be viable.
Get your product live as soon as possible, even in extremely rough form. Having a willing target audience shows that people want it. Changing it to suit their feedback irons out many early kinks – and shows your flexibility. If it’s popular, then you’ll impress the investors; if it isn’t quite there yet, you should still be able to demonstrate where their investment will make a difference.
Assemble your squad
The last step is arguably the most important. You may have the vision, but the people you hire are the ones who will bring it to life. Get them involved in the pitch: it will ease the pressure on you, and it will show that you’re able to attract competent, interested people to your business.
Diversifying your pitching team also gives you more opportunities to form rapport with your investors: if you aren’t rubbing them up the right way, maybe your head of marketing or business development will.
A successful pitch is more than the above five tips, of course: it’s a matter of blood, sweat, research, tears, practice, and additional practice. It can be a tiring and frustrating process, and you will doubtless endure disappointments before the final triumph.
But the more you prepare, the more likely you are to succeed – and the more options you’ll have at your disposal. A great pitch can ensure that you attract the best investors, not just any investors.
James Oakes is director at ZEAL Investments
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