Once a business owner has decided that they would benefit from some external investment for their business, what are the next steps in finding a suitable investor and how do you approach pitching to them to get them on-board?
The first thing to mention is that, as well as a good business plan, you’ll need oodles of determination and resilience; many successful business owners have had numerous rejections but kept knocking on doors and eventually obtained the investment they required. The first question to ask though is where are the doors you need to knock on? Here are the main ones:
Business Angels are basically private individuals who will either invest individually in your business or jointly with others in a syndicate.
There are many national or regional Angel Networks where investors listen to pitches from business owners (a bit like Dragons Den but with less drama and confrontation!). A good place to start is the UK Business Angel Association: http://www.ukbusinessangelsassociation.org.uk
Crowdfunding is a concept whereby individuals collectively pool their resources, typically via the Internet, to raise capital for businesses.
There are many excellent crowdfunding sites, many of which have their own specialisms e.g. start-up/seed capital or growth funding.
Private Equity/Venture Capital
These are typically specialist investment companies looking for high growth within a period of three to five years. Private equity firms tend to invest larger amounts than business angels which can run into multi millions depending on their fund size and individual objectives.
The funding market can be a confusing place and there are great merits in taking professional assistance from professional advisors brokers or some firms of accountants which are able to introduce you to appropriate investors.
This won’t be a free service and may appear to be a cost you could do without, but if it gets you the investment you need it can be money very well spent.
Friends & Family
You may be surprised who has surplus cash to invest and has confidence in you, and wishes to back your idea. Hopefully you know someone wants to help you succeed whilst benefiting themselves too by making the investment.
Ensure they understand it’s a relatively high risk investment and, if you obtain the funding, ensure everything is set up correctly and legally for the protection of all parties. If they decline your offer, accept their decision graciously - don’t risk losing friends or falling out with your family members.
There are numerous online professional networking sites which can help you connect with a wide range of investors. Start-up Launch Platforms are another useful online service which can locate investors.
Working with a business incubator can help put in touch with the right people. Also, don’t forget to market yourself through social media, blogs, networking and other more traditional forms of marketing.
Once you’ve identified which investors to approach, the next step is to perfect your pitch. Sometimes you may only get 10 minutes to present your business opportunity to a prospective investor. Here are some short, sharp tips to ensure that you get it right first time:
Tell your story in a positive, concise and compelling way. Avoid a dry and boring presentation. Provide a short summary of your background and your successes to build credibility.
Explain what your product or service is, why it’s unique and what problem it will solve. Keep it simple and ensure the audience can understand it, especially if there’s complicated technology involved. Demos are a good idea if feasible.
Describe your target market and why. What market research has been undertaken? Avoid saying that everyone in the world is potentially your market – be specific.
Sales & Marketing
Summarise your strategy for reaching your customers.
Detail who your main competitors are and why your product or service has advantages and benefits over theirs.
Investors invest in people, so this section is key. Explain who’s involved and what their strengths are. However, if there are gaps in knowledge or weaknesses which need addressing, don’t shy away from this. Perhaps you may be looking for an investor with complementary skills?
Investors will focus on the finances and will be looking for a clear and concise summary detailing:
- Profit budget: historic and realistic projections (3 to 5 years) including turnover, gross profit margin and bottom line profit.
- Funding: how much funding is required and for what purpose. Summarise your cashflow forecast to substantiate the figures.
Investors will be interested when you’re looking to exit the business and when (typically 3 to 5 years), be it a trade sale, flotation or something else. They will want their money back with a good return!
As mentioned at the beginning, chances are you’ll need a thick skin and an ability not to let rejection get you down. As the old saying goes: “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”. You may not find the perfect investor immediately so keep kissing frogs and hopefully eventually you’ll eventually find your prince.
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