You sat at home, you formulated an idea and began to actualize it by building a team and examining the feasibility of it, and now you are ready for the most critical stage – a meeting with the investors and raising the first seed money. Entrepreneurs of young startups compete for the attention of investors, but from the many first meetings that I have had with entrepreneurs I have encountered often the repeated issues which their essence results from the lack of understanding of the purpose of the meeting with the external investor (who is not a relative to the entrepreneurs), and the true meaning of the request to jeopardize his money.
The super goal of an entrepreneur's meeting with an investor is to induce a feeling of confidence in an investor, who has a team of potential to create and implement sustainable and lasting business mechanisms.
Every action in the interaction between the entrepreneur and the investor should serve this super purpose.
As you know, the risk levels accompanied with investing in start-up companies at the beginning of the road are high with no comparison to any rates and statistical investment, one can reasonably assume that the investor will lose his money. When the entrepreneur seeks an investor's investment, he must transmit to him that all the dangerous bets in the sector where the company operates, the entrepreneurs who are standing before him are the bet with the lowest risk. The presentation should be simple and clear for if the investor does not understand in the first few minutes what you are offering, this will take him to the regions of too much risk that he just won't be able to take. Misunderstood = no investment.
Therefore, the simplicity and accessibility are the winning cards in raising capital.
In order to serve the super purpose and help the investor make risk estimates in the most optimal way, the developers must put an emphasis on the following topics in particular.The Entrepreneurs Team
I accompanied many investors in early stages of startups who testified that they had not been persuaded in depth regarding the solution or market in which the venture was about to operate, but still chose to invest because of their belief in the ability (and charism) of the team to carry out a successful execution of their vision, and yet be attentive to the market and adapt themselves to the changes in circumstances (competitors/regulations/feedback from consumers and more). That is, the investor will decide whether to risk his money which will correspond directly to his assessment of the founders' team, their background and relevance to the project, among other things if they have worked together in the past, the positions they will assume, years of experience relevant to the position and their ability to execute their vision of which they speak about so passionately. A team who has worked together in the past and comes with a track record, significantly reduces the risk of founders' quarrel, which is one of the main reasons that startups fail.
It should be noted that the division of roles in the team is most accurate and correct. Remember, the CEO will always be the best sales person on the sales team with a priority as one with the broadest managerial experience. The CEO's job is to sell, all the time and everywhere. He sells to investors the worthwhileness of the investment, to the employees (to himself) the promise and vision and to customers the solution. A CEO who is not a good salesman, carries a higher risk of losing investment money. The Need
Plato said "Necessity is the mother of invention" and indeed, one cannot speak of a solution or vision of a company without characterizing and defining the need it seeks to answer. Presenting just the product/solution without the definition of the need, impairs the ability of the investor, who sometimes comes from different worlds of content than what is intended in order to operate the venture, to gauge the necessity of the venture and to connect with the entrepreneur's vision. The definition of need is doubly important because it also leads to defining the market, customers, and potential users and competitors. In addition, a correct and accurate definition of the need connects the investor to the product and teaches him of its necessity, especially if it is a need arising from the personal experience of the entrepreneurs themselves. In most cases, personal experience will give greater credibility to the need and a deeper commitment to supplying a suitable response by the entrepreneur team. One must define the need in one sharp and clear sentence
, without any buzzwords, and it is best to include a quantitative statistic that will give it credibility and a deep understanding. If we go back to the overarching goal for entrepreneurs to instill relative confidence in the investor, then the surefire way to fulfill it is by working ahead and demonstrating seriousness. The entrepreneur would do well if he were proficient in the content world of the clients he is addressing, and should reach the investor after having several meetings and in-depth analysis with future clients and thus understood the need from their perspective.
I am surprised by ventures who seek to jeopardize my clients' money without first having one conversation (Dear God – One!) with potential clients. To me, this is a disrespect of the money that the entrepreneur seeks to jeopardize and a material damage to the overall purpose of the meeting.The Solution/Product
Just as you have defined the need or problem that you are trying to solve, you need to define simply what the product/solution is so that it is clear what the product is – is it a hardware, software, or an integration of both? In my experience, there is nothing better than visual presentation (visualization) for the investor. Presenting the product and demonstrating it to the investor so that he can experience the solution, will connect the investor more effectively than an idea on a piece of paper and will allow him to assess whether the product does meet the need you have defined. To fulfill the overall goal also here, of course it is of outmost importance to show at least a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and if possible, to also check the Proof of Concept with a select few customers (whether paying or not). Such proof lowers the risk that all of the investor's money will be allocated for developing a product that does not meet a proven need of the market.The Technology
It is important to note what technological aspects are the base of the proposed solution, but make no mistake, there are a large number of companies without significant Deep Tech, but they still harnessed technology, digitalization and/or mobilization to change the way of consumption and incorporate a great user experience. This fact does not detract from these companies being excellent companies to invest in. Here too, try to avoid all sorts of trendy word combinations that you think will sell, such as the pair of words Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the like. It is worn, general and has become a common phrase for tickling investment glands (as was "blockchain" in 2018). I will make the allegory to a doctor who when asked what his area of expertise is he replies "making decisions based on my experience." Speak to investors at eye level, whose money you are seeking to risk, and clearly define the technological aspects of the solution.
In order to assess the risks of certain investors, and pay attention to the field of the venture, it is important to note whether the technology is protected by patents and if so, where. For the most part, patent protected technology creates a feeling in the investor that this is a real innovation and leads to a reduced risk that competitive entities will try to copy the same technology component.The Market
The size of the market that the company is turning to, in numbers. The market of course, teaches of the need – the larger the market and the impressive growth represented, the more real and established the need is and the more resources will be allocated to find a suitable response. Surprisingly, it is very common to find founders whose market characteristics are incorrect. The market is the total turnover that comes from the type of customer that the venture appeals to in a specific geographic area, in order to meet the exact need that the venture intends to address.
In other words, point to the exact cake (budget) that you want a piece of that your potential competitors are now biting at.
Make no mistake that if you present global information and put it in really large numbers, that it will make the investor feel more comfortable. On the contrary. The more you sharpen your segmentation, this will reflect to the investors that you have a better understanding of your target market, relevant target audience and the way to refer to them. The market analysis should also give expression to who the key players are, among others, competitors, customers, partners to strategic collaborations and other parties of interest. Pointing to an incorrect or irrelevant market impairs the investor's ability to analyze your venture's chances of success thwarts the achievement of the super goal - reduction of risk and security guarding.
In a research on the market, note that the market you have chosen does not turn out to be too small and as a result it will "chill" investors because of the risk and the probability (for example a market of fifty (50) million dollars a year). In other words, the investor must believe that the company is addressing a large enough market and accordingly, presents a high enough chance to balance the risk of the investment. The potential return on the investment (ROI), after a number of future investment rounds and dilution of his holdings, should be high enough to justify the very high risk it took at the outset.Marketing Strategy (GTM)
We have reviewed the market, and now we have to show how we intend to penetrate it. In other words, you must clearly sketch what the strategy you are relying on is in order to reach customers, drive sales and create a breakthrough quickly for the product or the service in the international market.
Questions to which one must consider, among others, include a rationale for your future decision to drive sales directly or through local third parties? How will you motivate customers to act and what are the relevant digital channels? Companies working with the B2B model (Sales for Enterprises and Businesses) must understand who the relevant contacts are in the organization, who makes the final decision to purchase the service/product and how you plan on making them aware of your brand? It is important that you become an expert on how your competitors reach relevant clientele, and as long as you plan on deviating from this strategy, you should be able to justify why.
When demonstrating your penetration strategy and explaining it in an eloquent way, the investor's confidence increases, as does the likelihood of the investment accordingly. In too many meetings I have seen entrepreneurs take the size of the market and multiply it by the percentage of penetration that they believed they would reach in a given year. Beyond the fact that this is a forecast that is more than an unfounded wishful thinking than a serious Bottom-UP research, this is not the intention of a penetration strategy.
Often I have come across entrepreneurs who use the phrase "market education". Market education is a complex task that does not
suit the entrepreneur at the outset as it is a way that requires many resources in order to explain to potential customers what the product or solution is. If there is an element of primacy in the company's solution, try to look for a parallel in the field or other existing solutions in order to get an idea of how that company managed to change attitudes and perceptions. Remember, an investor wants to get into a revenue generating company as quickly as possible in order to get certainty and to lower the risk – not to embark on discovery adventures. Competitors' Slide
You must address the largest competitors (and most direct) who operate in the same market, address the same clientele that the venture appeals to, claim to meet the same need, and fight for the same "budget" that the venture will fight for. There is no worse news for an entrepreneur than an investor coming out of the meeting and revealing a relevant competitor who was not mentioned in the short research paper that you could have discovered and brought up. At this moment, you have lost your investor's confidence. Also, if you have come to a situation (very unusual!) in which you claim that the company has no competitors (Blue Ocean), understand immediately that you must re-examine the premises of the venture and in particular the existence of a real need, among other things, is there a technological difficulty? Is the solution too expensive? Is the idea ahead of its time? Is the market small? Etc. Take into consideration that a market without competitors creates a high degree of uncertainty for the investor as to why a need exists and it is very important to indicate alongside which ways and methods the need is addressing today.
The entrepreneur's competitive advantage analysis is one of the most important components in an investor's ability to gauge the chances of a successful venture. In order to raise the level of the investor's confidence that the subject of discussion is a serious entrepreneur, he must show that he has done his homework, studied and researched the market and his competitors, and knows exactly what added value he offers to innovate that market. Always remember, the language you need to adopt is that you sell value to customers, and not feature.
It is very important to analyze in depth the launch points and the differences between the venture's product and the competitors' products in an organized table and where exactly the entrepreneur creates real differentiation. Differentiation that is significant enough that it will divert resources from the customer. Business Model
Many beginner entrepreneurs sink into the dream and vision of the venture, and sometimes forget that this is business, and that is how the entrepreneurial team should address it. Before the venture is considered a big promise that will change humanity, you must describe the business model of the venture and from where the money will come. It is important to address the direct competitors' business model, and if there are gaps, the team must analyze and explain why it chose to deviate and not base itself on a familiar model and how the company intends on implementing the new model.
It is very important for you to understand and analyze the financial meaning of the business model which you chose. For example, the accepted business model of Marketplace is advertising, but implementing the business model in advertising goes through a user traffic through your platform which is very significant (otherwise the advertisers might not be interested in you). In order to reach a traffic level that is attractive to advertisers, you must invest in marketing costs, at least, millions of dollars before the model can be implemented. This is your opportunity to show the investor that you are not just dreaming, but you also actually understand that you are starting a business and not a charity. In other words, show the investor "where's the money?", and he will show you where his money is.
In a number of meetings I attended, the entrepreneurial team not only showed the initial product, but even increased and signed potential customers on pre-sales of the product thus demonstrating the business model, proving the need and also showing that it can grow organically even without investor money. Proof of the sustainability of the business model in this case does wonders for corporate recruitment efforts so that the staff can focus on the growth of the scaling business in the early stages of the company's life.
*Pay attention to the days that we are living in today, the investors have sobered up and are not only seeking a promise of growth and world takeover, but rather are returning to a more conservative measure of, may such a thing not happen to us, profit.
We are all witnessing now the beginning of the inflation recession of companies that have sanctified a growth over another index. I expect this trend of disillusionment to continue and the concept of "profit" will again be the important index and leading index in the analysis of the business model at the base of the venture. Traction
Continuing with a direct example of the above, it is important that you emphasize what is being done to promote the venture until the moment you enter into the conference room to meet with the investor. The investor must have the feeling that the venture advanced prior to him, and will continue to progress also without him.
In other words, the entrepreneurial trait of the entrepreneur should also be expressed regardless of funding.
In today's world, quite a bit can be achieved and reach the right people at relatively low costs. It will be difficult if not impossible to convince an investor to risk his money if you have not shown yourself, to some extent, the taking of a risk position and faith in the venture by investing your money and private time. As long as you arrive at the meeting with the investor with more impressive achievements, thus, in a direct relation, the investor will assess the risk as lower, and will be willing to invest a higher amount, at a lower dilution for the entrepreneurs.
This is the time to mention significant development milestones, pilots, various collaboration agreements, first-time paying customers, revenue etc. I always recommend reaching out to first-time investors when there is at least MVP and POC. In many cases, these too will not be satisfactory to many of the investors who I accompany, and they will want to see revenue first. Money always talks, especially here.
Today's sober investors are already expecting maturity. Only in rare cases is an idea able to raise money if you are not an entrepreneur with proven success behind you. Your mission here is to prove true business programming and reduce risk of a non-Product Market Fit. Fundraising Amount and KPIs
Ending a meeting with investors without saying how much money it takes to sustain the venture is akin to an Olympian sprinter who stops just before reaching the finish line. The presentation is not a National Geographic designed to teach the investor about a new world that he does not know but rather serves as a visual tool for the actual investment request.
Notice that the amount you have calculated which is required, is accurate and fits the financial forecasts. Avoid words like "about" or "maybe". Using these words transmits a lack of seriousness and prior financial work. Your role as an entrepreneur is to broadcast exactly how much
you want, why
you want to and what goals it will help you fulfill.
Come prepared with the amount of time that the money will suffice (Runway) and where it will bring the venture in terms of achievements (Milestones). Know that the only thing that an early-stage investor wants to know is that his investment in the venture will bring you to a milestone where the company can exist without outside capital, or more feasibly, be attractive enough for continued investments by professional investors (venture capital funds or strategic investment bodies).
In order to enable the investor to analyze where the company is going, he needs to understand exactly what goals the company will achieve with his money. If he concludes that the goals are not attractive enough for continued investors, then he will of course choose not to invest.
Set the milestones in a realistic way and take a significant margin of security clearance regarding time, for companies at their outset have proven that Murphy was right when he said that in any given situation, everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Keep in mind that if you are planning another fundraising, plan it with a security clearance of, at least, six months before the end of the company's life – or in other words – when the cash runs out. The amount you are asking for in this investment round should bring the company to the desired milestone and allow it another six months for additional fundraising.
There is no problem in talking about the big vision and how you want to change the world. However, try to avoid exit strategy terms, public offerings (IPOs) or if you would present hundreds of millions of dollars in the first years of the financial forecast. These early stages are mainly indicative of business and may deter the investor by presenting the lack of understanding of the execution timetable, costs or income and unplanned events. I propose to keep this dialogue for coordinating business interests in subsequent rounds of funding with venture capital investors after you have based the data on actual company conduct information.Conclusion
These days we are witnessing the sobering of investors who are not looking for promises of growth in investor presentations, but rather are looking for a strong and cohesive team information based programming evidence, comprehensive market research, understanding the competitive advantage of an innovative and preliminary product of paying customers. However, entrepreneurs who do extensive preparation work, understand the market in which they operate, and rely on proven practices (both business models and market penetration processes) significantly increase their chances of success in fundraising and in general. David Wolpert
is the CFO of a startup company and a consultant for private investors and entrepreneurs.