After sitting through hundreds of pitches and listening to requests for money, advice, and help, you learn a few things. Mostly though, you develop a mix of empathy and frustration, punctuated by occasional delight. There is no shortage of advice and tips out there on how to raise money for your big idea, so here’s some thoughts from the other side of the table:
Rarely does anything start with “a coffee”
Most of us are caffeinated enough. Spare the opening, “Can I buy you a coffee?” Instead, just come clean with what you’re after. You’ll save yourself days of meetings with people not in the market to invest, not interested in your sector, or just too time-taxed to give your idea the attention it is due.
Use a rifle, not a shotgun
While most founders will have a standard pitch deck ready to go for their investor meetings, you need to adjust each presentation to fit the audience. Too many people pitch far and wide without addressing the particular investor sitting in front of them. Each investor will have varying focuses, mandates, and interests. Do your research and appeal to those nuances.
If you won’t bleed for it, a good investor won’t invest in it
Above almost anything else, investors are looking for unequivocal commitment and passion. If you can’t demonstrate that this is your dying purpose, why would an investor risk his or her hard-earned cash on you? One thing Xero founder Rod Drury often speaks about is “bleeding blue.” Building a beautiful cloud accounting system is almost all he thinks about—it’s in his veins. When asked if he would like to invest in a company, his response is clear: “Sorry, I’m all in on Xero.”
Smart money is better than dumb money But some money is better than none
Sure, there may be people who can’t add substantial value to your business, but that doesn’t mean those investors—or their money—is dumb. Be thoughtful about what investment you take and pitch for the relationship you’d like to have. Not all investors need be equal.
Engage from the outset
You need to be compelling. If you’re not, either partner with someone who is or learn to command a room. A big part of this is being subject-matter deep: Do your homework. One way to engage attention is through conversation. If you’re just speaking at everyone you’ll get less interest than if you’re speaking with them.
Figure out if you’ve earned the right to pitch
Just because you’ve got a meeting with an investor doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to pitch them. In fact, if it’s a meet-and-greet type situation, you could actually do yourself more harm by coming on too strong, too early. Over-pitching an investor is like being on a date where all the other person does is speak about how good he or she is. If you find yourself doing that, you’re unlikely to get a call back. Keep your pitch deck short, address any concerns you think they may have upfront, and be receptive to feedback.
Surround the opportunity
Your pitch doesn’t end when you stop talking. You need to lead the process, bundle up a few action points, and give your audience their next steps. This can include pointing them to where they can go for references, data points, or customer testimonials. If you do your job well, they will do their job well, the first step of which is fact-checking everything you said.
Seriously, no stretching the truth, presenting warped metrics, or lying. It’s likely this isn’t the first pitch your audience has heard, and if you start off sounding a little iffy, alarm bells will sound. Tell the truth and spotlight the opportunity with integrity. Too many entrepreneurs lie or base assertions on lousy facts. Google search results will slap you unconscious. Being confident and honest. Targeting your presentation to your audience and handling any concerns you think they may have upfront will help you build solid investor relations.
(adapted from my latest piece over at Fortune Magazine)
Induction cooking is an amazing thing to experience – at least it was for the first two weeks.
Our 30 day old Miele Induction cooktop has been inoperable for 2 weeks and counting.
Despite diagnosis from authorised technician (recommended by Miele because they had a backlog of more than 2 weeks), Miele insisted on sending their own technician to confirm. The Miele technician quickly blamed the electrician and joiner for problem (“incorrect wiring and lack of proper ventilation”) but was unable to diagnose, fix or offer solution. Five days and no response from Miele (despite calling and being promised a call back) until our electrician calls to question technician’s assertions about electrical wiring.
Miele then calls to apologise – their technician was wrong and talking out of turn. And a search of Miele product photos fails to find a single image showing the “proper ventilation” technician asserted was necessary – namely an unsightly grill or ventilation holes between oven and countertop. Kind of ruins the entire aesthetic they are trying to sell.
So here we are. Still no working induction cooktop – easily the most expensive appliance in our new kitchen – and only current hope is that original authorised technician was right and the part they ordered will fix it.
Funny how Miele called almost daily when they wanted us to take delivery but now that they have the sale they want nothing more to do with us.
So my advice is simple – don’t every shop at Winnings Appliances. Don’t ever buy a Miele product of any kind. Deceptive – frankly dishonest – marketing and lousy service just make what was a great product experience for two weeks not worth the money or effort.
And hey Shannon Bennett, you want to rethink having your brand attached to one which has so far, for us, been comically bad.
When we talk about properties like Facebook and Twitter as a homogenous mass, we don’t accurately reflect where major events, conversations and moments are happening. These aren’t little places anymore. With massive populations and quite different characteristics we largely mischaracterise what is happening when we talk about them as one.
So, as much as Facebook would like to say the Wendy’s vs. Burger King Twitter fight happened didn’t happen in Twitter, but in an otherworld called “Social Media”, it didn’t. Adam has a point.
While the behaviour on one side is silly. And the overall conversation a fine piece of navel gazing by the social elite, the reality is it reflects a broader hot-point for all of us living in marketing.
And that is social media’s days are numbered. There is no social or digital anymore. There is just media. There is just marketing.
And the more we view properties like Facebook and Twitter as individual media properties, the better we are likely to do on them.
Interesting read on transparency in marketing. Transparency and radical honesty go hand-in-hand.
SaaS companies should be setting the benchmark for transparent reporting – already seeing the hybrid players (legacy software + SaaS) deliberately muddy the waters with all kinds of weird reporting and numbers. The great thing about being a pure SaaS marketer is that you always know how and where you stand. You can’t hide from the numbers.
Years in Silicon Valley teaches you a few things about how to compete – scars, tears, lawsuits, shame and frustration are wonderful educators.
Attacking competitors and letting no claim stand unchallenged is a way of life. The trick is to do it subtly. Never market your competitors products. Never appear defensive. Always front-foot, never back foot. Never market their brand. Use their name, never their identity. Break these and other rules and you are marketing your competitors.
Baiting is a popular pastime as start-ups look to get incumbents marketing their brands for them.
And so it is with Jetstar right now in New Zealand. They’ve successfully lured Air NZ into a defensive position and got them marketing their brand. Smart move from an airline many wouldn’t have given the time of day.