28 July 2020|Fundraising, Pitching Skills
By Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO, Cypher . Every entrepreneur dreams of ventures that can make a difference, with long-standing growth and success. In order to achieve these aims, many businesses turn to raising investment and, whilst it’s not crucial for all businesses to raise money, it can certainly help ideas become reality by scaling more quickly.
Raising investments may seem like a mountain to climb for those new to the challenge, but anyone can do it. The key is to find people who believe in your vision, and having confidence that you’re the right person to deliver it.
In today’s society, the world of pitching has become virtual, so embracing technology and digitising is vital for every entrepreneur. I know this myself as my company, Cypher, has just completed a £225k round without a single face-to-face meeting.
The challenge of pitching, though, seems to have altered significantly. Things you would never have considered have come front of mind – will the Wi-Fi drop out? Will the dog bark or postman knock?
The shift from in-person to online pitching requires a different approach and, although I am by no means an expert, I believe Cypher’s recent funding round has given me a unique insight into some of the best practises for pitching online:
Prepare your technology
New and unfamiliar software platforms can provide unexpected problems, even for the most tech-savvy among us. I’d strongly recommend anyone pitching virtually familiarises themselves with the software being used ahead of time. With so many platforms, from Zoom, to Teams, to Whereby, you need to know what you’re doing. I also always check basic things like my internet connection, microphone and video quality to ensure I am giving the best impression, in our new world of home working.
When setting up for your video call, choose an environment that is quiet and distraction-free. I have been pitching with two children, one toddler, a dog and my husband working in the other room, so I know this can be difficult! There will always be things going on, but make sure you are managing your environment as best you can, even if it means bribing your kids (or partner) with a lollipop every so often.
Investors want to focus on what you are saying and why they should trust you with their money, so it’s important you give them your full attention, with no distractions.
Do your homework
This tip should be done regardless of where the pitch takes place. A personal touch can make a huge difference, so research the people you are meeting with. You can easily listen to old interviews, look up LinkedIn profiles and familiarise yourself with a person’s portfolio. Start by establishing answers to these basic questions:
- How involved do they like to be with companies?
- Do they invest in specific industries?
- What is their typical investment size?
- What is their preferred valuation range?
I like to create a crib sheet ahead of meeting new potential investors to remind myself if and when it’s needed.
It can also be useful to prepare introductory, ice breaker-type questions if it is your first chat with an investor. Given my business, for example, I always ask if they have any children and if not, why their current feelings towards edtech.
Networking and finding the right investors can be tricky, especially whilst we’re all working remotely. I find attending events, either in-person or online, helps to speed up this process. There are a variety of meet ups specifically for startup investment where numerous potential investors are attending with the desire to find the ‘next big thing’. Rather than having to search for and speak to hundreds of contacts through LinkedIn, you can find them all in one place, saving you and your business a lot of time.
With any potential investor that you speak with, always keep an open mind for their insight and suggestions, but remember it’s your business and no one will know it better than you do; don’t feel as though their input should force you to alter your plans. It is important to build a strong, trusting relationship with investors which aligns on your end goals, and you should be open in communicating that.
When speaking with a potential investor, I like to share some of my previous shareholder updates with them so that they can get an idea of how I will be communicating with them moving forward. It’s this transparency with my investor relationships that is helpful to set the scene as to what they should expect – from how and when I plan to update everyone involved in Cypher.
It’s because of this that I believe many of my investors have followed me from round-to-round, venture-to-venture. We’ve built that trust, aligned vision and idea of success.
No one wants to spend time chasing up, only to find out it’s a waste of time, but many investors are involved with dozens of businesses and so require that gentle nudge every so often. Keeping in dialogue with someone can be the difference between them choosing to invest, or not. I like to share a press article about us or the industry, for example, or have a mutual contact get in touch. These subtle messages help to keep Cypher front of mind.
That said, I usually have one or two (max. three) interactions, whether that’s meetings or calls, with an individual before they decide to commit or not. Anymore than that and I doubt they’re serious on this occasion. It’s a fine line, but be prepared to let go of those you think are taking up too much of your time.
Every new meeting is unique and, whilst there are no ‘rules’, I genuinely believe that investors are buying you as an individual, not your company or product. The ability to convey your passions, beliefs and your expertise is often the deciding factor. Make the investor see the opportunity for everyone and they will be with you for life.