Finding the right investor, who is interested in your company and you, begins long before you actually may need money. Preparations include thinking about businesses that investors want to invest in and then modeling yours accordingly, maintaining up to date financial data, and building a strong consumer base. Once you’ve made the decision to search for capital to grow your business, you create two pitch decks (yes two), and the clock is now ticking. Your goal should be to secure funding within three months from making this decision. And the best way to do so is to have targeted contact list.
First, Some Introspection
Before you can ask anyone for money, you should first ask yourself some important questions. First and foremost, why are you raising money? Be very clear as to why you are doing so, why now is the time, and what the funds will ultimately do for your business. These answers should be weaved into the fabric of your business’s story and included in your decks and any accompanying materials you may present to potential investors.
You should also do a check on your core values. Are they aligned with the company’s vision and mission? Are they still as relevant as when you developed them? Are changes needed? Only when you are confident in what you stand for can you try to find someone who shares …
Who Should be on the List?
Your targeted list may include any combination of some or all of the following: family and friends, angel investors, angel groups, venture capital firms, private equity firms, and corporate investors.
Gather data by performing research on Crunchbase or Pitchbook, and simply networking with others. You should identify vertical industries to see what is happening there. Startup accelerators are also an invaluable resource. Follow groups on social media to see what they’re talking about and what they’re interested in.
Keep in mind that you are not just looking for money. You are looking for someone (or a group) who shares your values, will be excited about what you offer, and who fits with what you do and who you are. Identify who has money and is actively investing.
Factors to Consider in Building Your Contact List
Industry. Who is investing in your industry? Why? Is there some personal connection or is it just about the potential profit? Note that those interested in one particular type of industry often have a background, experience, and connections that can help your business.
Location. Some investors want to be close to the businesses they are investing in. Others give preference to local startups. It’s important to understand if this is a priority for them.
Amount. How much do they typically invest? Some may invest only smaller amounts than what you are looking for, whereas others may invest amounts that are larger that what you need. Ensure there is a good fit.
Longevity. Are they looking for long-term or short-term relationships? Will they be involved for your next round of fundraising or will they want out before then?
Track record. How many successful exits do they have? How many businesses they’ve invested in have failed?
Value. What value do they bring? Investments into a venture are rarely just about money. Do they have operational experience? Industry experience? What are their connections and network? Will they provide advice based on their knowledge and experience? All of this will factor into how quickly you scale.
This process is about targeting the right types of investors, focusing on quality over quantity. You want the best fit to bring the most value. As is with much in business, and life, it is about networking and cultivating relationships.
Once you’ve identified some strong potential investors, gather as much contact information as possible, including email, social media accounts, website, phone number, and address. Understand that they will want to see your pitch deck to determine if it is a good fit with their investment thesis before moving forward. Being prepared sets the right expectations from the start.
Your list should be an ongoing concern. Contacts will fall off and new ones will be added. By keeping it up to date, you can ensure that you will be ready for each round of funding in the future.
Your most limited resource is your time. And the time you spend finding investors is less time you have to focus on operations, marketing, or sales. Protect that time fiercely by targeting the right investors from the start. With increased focus comes increased efficiency and clarity on what and who you really need. You may need to talk to 100 or more contacts to get some interest, but you don’t want it to be thousands. That’s where your targeted list comes into play. So you’re not spending too much time and energy and burning out before the right person comes along.
Ultimately, if you need money for your business, you need people to pitch to and the more targeted your list, the more possible yeses you’ll have, and the greater ROI on your time.
Financial Literacy for Raising Money The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
As we continue to discuss increasing our financial literacy, we must also consider the ways in which a company increases its chances for securing money for growth. The list of possible ways to obtain money to finance the growth of a company is extensive, including multiple forms of debt and equity instruments. The question of which is right for you is dependent upon your particular situation and your level of understanding of each. In order to navigate through this scenario, we have come up with a list of questions you need to be able to answer to make the best decision for you and your company overall.
Do you really need money for growth?
While there are many professional organizations that make endless promises to help you raise capital for your business, and while they all sound tempting, you must first understand whether or not you actually need money for growth. Contrary to popular belief, you will not always answer this in the affirmative. If you decide your organization requires capital for growth, then begin the process by speaking to your trusted advisors about their opinion on your plans. This discovery process should happen with professionals you already have a relationship with and who know about your company. Think about your attorney, CPA, outsourced CFO, or someone in a similar situation who has previously advised you in these matters. Only after this discovery and pertinent conversations can you then move forward with first designing a strategy, and then executing that strategy in a way that does not allow the fund raising process to consume the C-suite and deteriorate the business itself. These results can occur whether you are a small start-up or a large organization.
How do you know in which direction to go?
If you’re the decision maker and have governance over an organization, the first step is to evaluate your ethics and check your ego at the door before you begin to have the necessary conversations. Raising capital has become so sensationalized that those with decision-making authority tend to think of fund raising as a necessity. However, that is not necessarily the case. While raising funds is a common impetus to growth, it isn’t for every company.
Start by looking at the historical and projected financial information. Ensure the use of funds you expect to raise is clear, and that the financial strategy for growth is viable. This initial step will require that you have quality up-to-date financial information. Click here to see my blog about the need for financial infrastructure.
How do you know who to trust?
Many entrepreneurs tell me about situations where a third party offers to help them raise capital, but charge them a percentage of what they raised. Keep in mind, if the person who made that statement is not a broker or investment banker, that arrangement could be illegal and cause issues as the company grows. My biggest piece of advice is to ask if the person if he or she has a license to effectuate this type of arrangement.
The other issue is that some of the investment bankers have had a difficult time getting clients in the pandemic environment. As a result, they have started consulting to assist with cash flow and to provide themselves with additional companies to move into the investment banking sales funnel. The issue with this is that these companies are signing up to be with the investment banker before they even know if that is the right fit for them or not.
As a true professional, both of these instances are painful to witness. Before executing a contract or providing a deposit to anyone to assist with fund raising, proceed with caution. Make sure their culture and track record are consistent with your goals and strategy. If you have partners that have different goals and ethics, it could be catastrophic to the organization. Do your homework to make sure it is the right partner from the outset!
Do you need debt, equity, or a combination of the two?
Banks are conservative, and it is difficult for any size corporation to secure debt these days. This form of capital is, of course, cheaper than equity overall as you do not have to give up ownership and the interest rates are currently so low.
Equity partners can potentially have in-depth experience with the industry you are in and can actually help you build a larger and more robust entity. The saying is, “You can have a smaller piece of a big pie and actually have more value than a larger piece of a small pie.” If you do your homework and make sure your equity partner is aligned with your values and the right fit overall for your company, you can accomplish this goal.
In a scenario with a combination of convertible preferred stock, it provides the investor with a liquidation preference. In the event a few unlucky events happen, this could mean the common stock investors could wind up with nothing in the end, which is exactly what happened when BlackBerry liquidated. In that case, the company emphasized to employees that they should buy in while they could. When they were granted stock, they had to pay the taxes at the value at the time, and then when they sold the stock, it was, at time, at 1% of the value on which they paid the taxes. So, that could mean they were granted stock worth $45 per share, paid the taxes on it at their rate, let’s say 20% or $9, then they sold it for $.40, which was all the cash they received for that share, despite the taxes they paid. If they had a number of shares, that is a lot of money wasted.
In the situation with a SAFE combination, there is a debt instrument that converts to equity at the next round of investment. This is a great instrument when companies are at an early stage and the discussion over valuation is difficult. When valuations increase quickly for successful companies, this can actually turn into an uncomfortable conversation that can hold up an exit transaction under certain circumstances.
Just as with our previous financial literacy articles, it’s not just about improving your financial knowledge of the present, but about strengthening that knowledge to predict a brighter future, especially as it pertains to the growth of your company. If you would like to discuss various growth strategies and what makes the most sense for your business, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute free consultation. NOTE: beginning May 1, 2021 consultations will no longer be free.
The Pitch Deck Something so Important, You Need Two of Them
As someone who regularly helps others prepare to pitch to investors, I see one situation far too often. This may all sound a little too familiar to you as well. You are an entrepreneur who has done everything right. You developed a product or service and turned it into a successful business, that business began generating revenue, and now you are ready and willing to scale, but need investment money to do so. Then, you seem only to hear a resounding NO from the investors you approach.
Why? More often than not, it’s because the investors have no indication of what you are actually offering them. And understanding what you offer comes down to two simple words, with not so simple connotations … “pitch deck.” Yet, if I can share one piece of advice with you, as I do in my book, Pitching to Win: Strategies for Success, it’s that one pitch deck is never enough. If you are serious about scaling your business by pitching to investors, then you must have two pitch decks – one to send to investors and one to use in your presentation (or pitch).
Let me explain. Some investors will not agree to meet with you until they have first reviewed your pitch deck. As such, they may ask you to email it to them before scheduling an actual pitch. And just as much as an email is not the same as standing in front of someone delivering a presentation, your pitch decks likewise cannot be the same.
Understanding how they are similar, and how they are different, is key to getting that next phone call, presentation, or meeting. To that end, I have put together the Top Five Tips for ensuring you have two pitch decks that will get you the right attention when you need it.
Pitch Deck Creation: Top Five Tips
1. Be Proactive
Research the investors who are already investing in similar products or services. If they have similar interests, they are the ones most likely to invest in you. Try to determine what types of questions they asked before and incorporate the answers into your pitch decks from the start.
2. Create Pitch Deck #1
This is also called the “Handout Pitch Deck.” It is the one that you will email to investors when asked for a copy. The key to this pitch deck – it must stand alone.It cannot rely on your verbal explanation of the content because, quite simply, you will not be there to explain it.
The Handout Pitch Deck must quickly communicate with words (but not too many), numbers, and graphics your “Why me?” to potential investors.
3. Create Pitch Deck #2
Use Pitch Deck #1 as a foundation to create Pitch Deck #2. Pitch Deck #2 is the “Presentation Pitch Deck.” This version is based on you delivering your pitch, aided by high-level slides with few words and many images. It does not, and should not, stand on its own. Pitch Deck #2 will have very few words and numbers, if any. Instead, it will function much like a television or movie screen, as your priority is having the audience focus on you and your messaging, rather than reading slides. Remember, at the end of the day, this pitch deck is a sales presentation.
4. Ensure that Both Decks are Concise, Professional, and have Visual Appeal
Pitching is never the time to get into the intricate details of your past experiences or even your product or service. Get to the business of what investors want to know:
(a) what your business is all about and
(b) most importantly, how it is going to make enough money to return
multiples of the amount of money you are asking them to invest.
5. Update Both Pitch Decks Regularly
Consider this scenario: a potential investor asks you to send your pitch deck via email or present it to a group of investors. You respond that you will get it to them in a couple of weeks. Chances are that when you finally prepare your pitch deck, the investor will have already moved on to other projects and entrepreneurs who are ready to take their money.
You want to be able to distribute Pitch Deck #1 or present Pitch Deck #2 at a moment’s notice. Just as every professional has an up-to-date resume to present at any time, a growing entrepreneurial company should have both pitch decks ready to email or present at any time.
The creation and management of your pitch decks are critical parts of the capital raising process. Remembering that the difference between the two decks comes down to your voice is of the utmost importance. Pitch Deck #1 must stand on its own, capturing your voice, without the benefit of you speaking, while Pitch Deck #2 exists to bolster your voice as you present. Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in preparing their pitch decks. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.