Getting funding is vital for many businesses. Here’s Carl Reader’s top tips:
Know your business. This might sound obvious, but you really need to know your business beyond what you do today. You need to show an understanding of the marketplace, future opportunities and threats, your competitors, and where your business will be in the long term. This should be free of personal bias, and instead be a realistic view of the opportunity, as investors will want to see that you are aware of the wider playing field that you are operating in.
Know your numbers. I've attended countless pitches, and the single issue where most opportunities fall down is on the numbers. Whilst I can guarantee that you won't exactly predict every number in your projections correctly, you do need to have a reason behind the figures used, and understand each of them. You need to understand the basics, such as the difference between gross and net profit, and also have a grasp of your key ratios. Investors will look to pressure test ratios such as customer acquisition cost, churn rate, and margin - make sure that you have some supporting evidence for any ratios that you use.
Show some traction and an exit. Everyone has had million dollar ideas at some point - the reality is that investors also hear that every business idea will be the next unicorn. To have any chance of funding, you need to show a track record of actually performing, rather than just offering a promise. Try to attract a minimum level of customers so that you can validate your projections and ratios, together with the opportunity. You also need to show the investors exactly how they can benefit. Each investor will have a different expectation of return and timescale, and you should do your research on what is typical for the type of investor you are approaching to ensure that your proposition works for them.
Be confident. An investor is investing in two things - the concept and the entrepreneur. Whilst your business might be the next Facebook; if you can't explain the opportunity clearly and passionately, you will struggle to achieve investment. If you are not a naturally gifted presenter, invest in training; and regardless of how many pitches you have made, be sure to practice time and time again. Brush up on your body language too – it can make a real difference to how you come across. It's worthwhile asking someone with financial experience to play "devil’s advocate", so that they can ask the difficult questions that you might not have thought about, to avoid being flustered on the day.
Carl Reader is the author of The Start Up Coach, co-owner of dennisandturnbull.com