How To Attract Investment To Get Your Idea Off The Ground
Seed rounds, venture capital, angel investors… what does it all mean? Finding investors can be daunting for any start-up, but with a little practice, you’ll be comfortable in no time.
You might have the best business idea in the world, but without the funding to pursue it, it’s not going to become the next unicorn. Making things trickier again is the world of investment itself: networks can be hard to break into, and even the language used by investors can be difficult for first-timers to understand.
The good news? It’s not as difficult as it may seem. If you dedicate a bit of time and effort, you’ll be able to get your ahead around it, and start to get out there to bring your idea to life.
Firstly, invest your time in research
Don’t resign yourself to a lifetime of confusion about investment lingo. Understanding different categories of investment and the types of investors that exist will be of major benefit in the long run. Think of your knowledge in the area as being the foundation on which you will eventually start making decisions: how much capital does your start-up need right now? Once your start-up receives investment, how much capital will you need for long-term sustainability? Are there other businesses that have a funding model you can look to for guidance? Be realistic with your goals, and look for people in your network who may be able to help you answer these questions at this early stage.
There are plenty of resources online to help you out. Y Combinator’s glossary-style guide to different types of investors and their incentives is particularly useful, as is this Forbes round-up of investors for start-ups, and Investopedia’s explanation of how Series A, B and C funding works.
Decide on the investment you’re seeking
Your idea is only as viable as those who believe in it, so you’re going to need a solid business model to convince others to be a part of your start-up journey. Investors want to see projected revenue, how you plan to grow your customer base, what makes your idea different to others (which is often a question of marketing more than the actual idea), and what value this could add to their investment portfolio. Make sure you are clear about what you’re asking for and why.
This guide from StartupNation is a useful introduction to five of the most common types of investors: banks, angels, peer-to-peer lenders, venture capitalists and personal investors.
Have your elevator pitch down pat
Crafting the perfect elevator pitch is often time-consuming, and this is particularly true if your idea is complicated or technical. Firstly, know the audience you’re pitching to: are you talking to an investor who is a former founder in the same space? They’ll probably understand the technology you’re talking about. Or does the investor have a portfolio of companies that have nothing to do with the industry your start-up falls under? You may have to give a little more background.
Look at some elevator pitch examples for inspiration; then think about your goals, how you’ll explain what you do, your ‘USP’ (unique selling proposition), how to engage the listener (for example, by asking a question) and how you’ll go about pulling all of that information together. Then practice, practice, practice.
Find investors and build your professional network
If your existing professional network consists mostly of fellow start-ups, you’ll likely need to look further afield to find connections that can help you with investment.
Consider events or festivals in your city or town that aim to connect investors with start-ups or solo professionals (or would attract those audiences), and make a point of asking the people you already know about how they look for investment, or whether they know anyone who can help you in your search.
Also, make sure you’re using LinkedIn effectively. Don’t dismiss potential sources of investment on the platform: Anand Daniel, an early-stage venture capital investor, writes of the benefits of this approach: “The investor can quickly browse through your profile to get a good sense of your professional background… [and] check for mutual connections to do a quick reference check.”