Noam Toister is CEO and founder of Bookaway, an online ground and sea transportation booking platform that connects travellers with local suppliers worldwide, creating a more positive experience for those exploring new corners of the world. Here, he shares his top tips for working well with investors and navigating change.
Taking a business from start-up to scale-up
When working with investors for the first time, there are a number of business fundamentals to consider. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before approaching. First and foremost, prove that your concept works and has merit, whether this is demonstrated by a pilot customer, data that indicates that your concept can work, or a product market fit.
Once you are satisfied the business is viable, you need to simplify the components of success to the bare bones; create a crisp one-liner that embodies your vision, highlight the problem you want to solve, and explain your solution.
For example, when we created Bookaway and its mission to digitise the ground transportation industry, we showed that the industry market value is over $157 billion, and yet only 5%-10% percent of its transactions are made online. It was clear independent operators are missing out on huge opportunities for success and weren’t reaching potential customers.
Look at current players in the market, and why and how you will become the top player. Being able to tell your story and make it almost obvious to why this is worth doing, is a craft you want to master. The larger the market and the less saturated it is, the more likely you are to jumpstart your mission.
The last and probably the most important element of your pitch deck, is your team members. You need to be able to demonstrate why the chosen few you have selected are the ones that will turn the vision into a measurable reality, within a reasonable number of years. Once you have these elements and you are able to explain, in the simplest way and within 2 minutes and 30 seconds, how you plan on building the company, you’re ready to approach investors for funding.
Working with investors who share in our goals values was paramount for Bookaway, and we pride ourselves on our strong relationships with investors. Finding the right investors for your mission is a craft of its own, as it is all about the fit between your vision and the investor’s own strategy. Ultimately we want to use our business for good – improving the travel industry not just for customers but for independent businesses worldwide who rely on tourism.
Our leading investor, Aleph (one of the first investors in WeWork and House Party), has been a loyal supporter since 2019 and we’re lucky to have worked with a group of angels led by Elad Kushnir (investor in Karma and early-stage start-ups) as well as Corner Ventures (investors in Yelp, Grubhub and Wix.com), and Entrée Capital (investors in monday.com, Stripe and Snapchat).
I’ve learned that each investment we have successfully secured is a result of the thorough research we carried out before the approach. Find out the investor’s personal interests, professional background, and the industries in which past investments were made. This helped me find investors who fully understood the goals behind our brand and could relate us to other successful businesses within the industries they excel in.
Sustain long-term relationships
Investments are never one-off transactions and it is essential to create long-term partnerships that benefit both parties. Investors can be utilised for more than financial support – start-ups can go to them for advice, based on their own experiences of running a business and witnessing other companies go through crises. We can learn so much from their success and how they handle challenges. It’s not just about proving yourself, it’s also about being open and willing to learn from and listen to them.
We manage our relationships by keeping investors informed and engaged – sharing updates with them on a regular basis and utilising their help, strengths and connections to keep growing. Transparency is key – always remain open and honest about your current status and what your future predictions are. Be rational, be transparent, and listen. When you go to your investor, remember that you’re in the same boat.
About The Author
Noam Toister is CEO and Founder of Bookaway. The company’s mission is to digitise the industry – making travel seamless by providing customers with in-depth details about each available route, comprehensive descriptions, reviews from other travellers and access to a 24/7 support system.
In July 2021, Bookaway launched the Bookaway Group, the world’s first global ground and sea transportation group. After securing £32.4m investor funding since launch, Bookaway teamed up with like-minded businesses to unite operators around the world and work collaboratively. The Bookaway Group is opening up access to even more transport routes, offering more than 100,000 routes in 14,600 cities, with plans to expand further.