Over the past few years, it’s become harder and harder to get seed or venture capital funding as a startup. Since the recession, the number of VCs has shrunk by 50%, and people are more and more hesitant to invest where they perceive risk. As a result, fewer new companies are being funded. For the startups that can catch the eye of investors, however, things look good. Even though fewer startups are being invested in, those that do find investors tend to get much more capital now than previously.
Venture capitalists and angel investors are looking for companies they perceive as low-risk, high-reward investments. That means they need to see your company’s potential clearly, connect with your product, and feel comfortable with the risks involved. And even though YOU know your company is worthwhile, in order to snag those much-sought-after investment dollars you’re going to have to convince would-be investors of that.
So how can you do that?
1. Show a High Potential
Demonstrating potential is twofold: investors are going to be looking both at you and at your company.
Remember that VCs are ultimately investing based on how much faith they have in your potential to succeed. Show them your drive and complete dedication. If you are a startup veteran, speak to your past successes and explain why you know you can do it again. If this is your first startup endeavor, show why you have both the experience and passion to succeed based on past projects or work.
You can also show your potential by branding yourself. Use Quora, LinkedIn and Google+ to establish yourself as an expert in the specific industry or field you plan to enter with your company. Join discussions, answer questions, and show your general level of expertise. Your Twitter and Facebook should also reflect a high level of professionalism, so be sure to clean it up if you haven’t already.
Show potential for your company by generating buzz around your idea. Pitch your startup to media publications, bloggers and journalists. When VCs and angel investors see that others are excited about your idea, it clearly demonstrates the traction of that idea.
2. Pitch the Product
First off, make sure you’ve got a well-thought-out description of your startup. Think about if you were to have to tweet what your company does and why it’s unique — would you be able to say it in 140 characters or fewer? Work on fine-tuning your description until you can get it to this point. A concise, clear way of explaining your product is much more memorable and packs more punch than a longer explanation.
Once you have a concise description, you can then clearly explain why they should choose you and your product. What burning problem are you solving that hasn’t already been solved before? Detail how you will succeed where others haven’t, and why your idea is better, unique, cheaper than previous attempts or existing solutions.
A great way to make sure you’re pitching your company in a way that distinguishes it from competitors is to listen to your friends. If they’re constantly comparing your company to something that’s already out there, focus on being clear about what it is that makes your product different and why you’re not just creating a slightly different iteration of something that exists. In that same vein, know who your competitors are and have a deep understanding of their products and business models. You have to understand them in order to come out first.
As important as knowing your competitors is showing that you know your audience and the market that exists for your product. Provide a detailed analysis of your audience members, demonstrating that you know your potential consumers’ behavior inside and out and that that group will be able to generate sufficient and significant profit. Make it clear that you’ve done your homework and researched them thoroughly.
3. Alleviate Concern Over Risks
The best defense is a good offense. Anticipate the hesitations investors are likely to have before investing in your company and address them head-on. Analyze those risks and clearly explain why they won’t materialize into problems. Make sure to show how you’re already prepared to address and deal with the risks.
You will also comfort investors about the low-risk of investing in you by showing them that you’re far-enough along. Before you begin looking for funding, be able to demonstrate that you’re at a stage in the development of your idea where it’s tangible. If you can make it clear that your idea is already becoming a reality, and all that’s left — the very last step before you can launch it — is capital, then they’ll be much more eager to invest in you.
If you focus on creating a presentation for potential investors that demonstrates your startup’s potential, clearly and effectively explains the product and the market that exists for it, and shows it is low-risk, you’ll be able to stand out in the challenging funding climate.
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