When it comes to securing investment, the overwhelming challenge for most entrepreneurs comes from trying to determine how to make a convincing pitch. Fortunately, it does not have to be that difficult.
As an entrepreneur and MBA who was schooled in traditional investment raising, I have always been told that to find investment capital for your business, you needed a comprehensive business plan, detailing (among other things) S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunties and threats), operations and marketing plans, and financial models showing projections, cash flow, return on investment, risk analysis, etc.
These days, I am working on a new startup idea with Startup.SC, a South Carolina startup business incubator that focuses on scalable technology companies. What I have learned over the past few weeks is that although there is no exact formula for successfully developing a pitch, start by asking yourself this simple question:
If you were an investor, what would you want to see in a pitch?
Quite simply, put yourself in the shoes of the investors you are pitching and focus on these things:
1. Customer acquisition, not revenue.
More than revenue projections, investors want to know how you are going to capture and retain customers. In a roundabout way, it is essentially the same thing (both deal with revenue), but while revenue projections can be formulaic and are for the most part completely pulled from the air, what speaks to investors is a clear, effective and executable plan for capturing customers and keeping them.
2. The jockey, not the horse.
Investors bet on jockeys, not horses. What investors want to see is that you are committed and able to fulfill the task of implementing your plan through challenges as well as successes, and that you are the type of person who is going to see it through to the end. Ultimately, a great idea is worthless without great execution. Prove that you are the person to carry out the vision.
3. Flexibility, not recipes.
You may have an idea of how you want to structure your company and your investments, but understand that every investor has different expectations, as do their partners and stakeholders. If you can be flexible during your negotiations and are fully prepared to handle any objection or counter-offer thrown your way, you will be much better prepared to find an amenable agreement that you both can live with.
4. Remember: Nobody wants to see you fail.
When negotiating with investors, entrepreneurs often get stuck in the wicked mind game of trying to determine who is making out the best. In reality, success depends mutually on two things: your passion and capabilities and your investors’ money. Successful investors understand this and will be more likely to work with you through the negotiation process and beyond.
In the end, everyone loses if you fail, so it is in nobody’s best interest to create a situation that erodes any chance of success.
Finding investors is easy. Finding good investing partners, then providing them with the right information, at the right time, and persuasively enough to convince them to invest in your idea is not. If you put yourself in their shoes, however, and consider their positions, concerns and expectations, you will find it much simpler to find an amenable outcome.