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For success in finding startup funds, think of an investment pitch in the same way as asking someone’s daughter or son’s hand in marriage. First, you have to work on yourself. Their money has plenty of suitors and you have to gain their trust more than others and show that you are fully committed. So, start by developing a business plan, one that is detailed with market and competitor research, financial projections, and your go-to-market strategy. You may want to take it one step further and create a brand, a website, and, if you have some money saved up yourself, a proof of concept.
Finding the right investor
There are plenty of ways to find startup funds, including investors. But what’s more important is finding the right investor for you. If you have worked on yourself and your corporate image, know that you have the potential to pitch to at least 40-50 different people in a relatively short amount of time. So make sure your investor shares in your vision and understands the challenges involved in your launch. Ideally, your investor is someone with industry experience who can give you mentorship and guidance as well as open doors for you using industry connections.
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Finding startup funds for your entrepreneurial venture can be more challenging than creating a product or operating the business itself. But the good news is, at least in good economic times, there is no shortage of opportunity to find investors.
The challenge is in finding the investor that understands your business, has industry connections, and will give you time to succeed and guidance when you need it most.
Family and friends
A very common practice for young entrepreneurs is to raise early investments through family and friends. Not everyone has the privilege of having that kind of access to capital but, on paper, your rich uncle should give you a better deal, whether on the interest on the loan or equity percentage, than a stranger.
But that isn’t why young entrepreneurs first turn to those they know. Professional investors look for operators with a track record and experience. It is much harder to gain their trust so, naturally, founders pitch their ideas to those most willing to trust them – family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with raising capital through your personal network. But, consider that your options for finding startup funds will begin to quantify as you work on establishing a track record in the industry, create a solid business plan, and a proof of concept.
Start at square one – you
Founders aren’t always the best executors of their own ideas. As a young founder, you can gain real hand experience by working for a competitor in your industry first, long enough that you learn the business well. No one likes to lend money to or invest in experiments. By having first-hand industry knowledge, you can mask your overall lack of experience due to your age, and pair up with investors that see potential in you while believing that your ideas have merit. Most early founders are investing in you, not your vision.
Founders are leaders, and leaders have certain traits in common – like the ability to make others believe in their ideas, and great communication skills. So work on yourself every day. Read books, join your local entrepreneurs’ group, perform community service, and follow thought leaders in your industry and try to connect with them. In other words, go above and beyond in making yourself a better visionary and business leader. Why? Because it is you that can ultimately determine whether the business will succeed or fail, and any experienced, high-level investor knows that.
Note: It is crucial that other co-founders also possess similar leadership qualities.
Write your business plan
Next, create a powerful business plan. Start by identifying your market, your competitors, the potential for the business, and why there is a need for your product or service. You must also include financial projections that show you have estimated the customer acquisition cost, customer lifetime value, and general forecasts for company sales and expenses. If you are meeting investors face to face or online, you will also need to create a pitch deck, typically done on a presentation slide like Keynote or Powerpoint. Take it one step further and create a brand with a logo and a basic website with your own domain. You want to show that you are market-ready.
Start your search for finding startup funds
Now that you have created a solid executive bio, a business plan, and a pitch deck, you can tap into additional sources beyond who you know. A simple Google search for “crowdfunding” will bring up a host of sites. This is where random people from around the globe can help you kick start your venture. Successful crowdfunding presentations usually start by creating a compelling video. It also helps if you are raising money that helps with a cause or solves a large scale problem.
Another powerful resource online is looking for Angel Investors on Angellist or similar platforms. You can create a startup profile and wait for proposals from multiple Angel Investors. You can continue to raise funds throughout multiple stages of the startup through the same platform, as well as recruit talent.
If you happen to be attending a university, reach out to your business school or entrepreneurship club. Ask for the best way to connect to the school’s investor network. You may also be able to apply for a grant from the university, typically chosen by a committee that reviews many other applicants.
Out of options?
Lastly, consider getting a low-interest loan with long term payback instead of giving away equity in your company; it may end up costing you a lot less in the long term. Again, friends and family or someone in your personal network may be a great source. They can give you a loan with a guaranteed payback for them, as opposed to the uncertainty of waiting for a return on their investment. And at all costs, avoid accruing credit card debt or high-interest short term business loans.
Every day, creative entrepreneurs utilize crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter to launch. While not every business idea can succeed on raising anything substantial on these platforms, you may increase your chances by finding a platform that is more related to your industry.
About the Author
CEO, Novia Marketing
Farbod is a serial entrepreneur having started 8 different companies in marketing, sales, and technology since graduating college. In 2015, he founded Novia Marketing, an innovative lead generation and full-service marketing agency. His clients have ranged from one-time data buyers to presidential candidates. He also owns a SAAS platform called SYNC Profiles for local businesses to help them gain better visibility online, manage their data across the Internet, and generate positive online reviews.
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