5 Essential Traits That Investors Look For in Startup Founders

October 31, 2016

7:00 pm

It’s pitch time. You’re preparing to go in front of some very important investors to get some much-needed funding for your startup. You know you have a great product, but the truth is that so do a lot of other people. Because of this, you need to be prepared to show potential investors that you and your team possess the traits that they are looking for. After all, smart investors care more about the team behind the product than the actual product.

So what are these smart investors looking for when it comes to a team that can get the job done? Take a look at five of them below:

A Willingness to Break The Rules

Investors are impressed by people who are willing to break the rules. In fact, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson once said that “You don’t learn to walk by following the rules.” It’s pretty hard to argue with that.

Does this mean you should feel free to abandon ethics and cut corners? Of course not. However, if you can show your investors that you made decisions that went against standard advice on how to develop your product or get sales, your unique approach could be the key to a huge funding round.

In addition to this, if you’ve broken a few rules to get your business on the path to success, you aren’t alone. Entrepreneurs like Sam Walton, Li Ka Shing, and even Paris Hilton are cited as entrepreneurs who broke a few rules.

The Ability to Pivot

Startup founders need to be able to adapt to change. Not just gradual change that can force you to adjust your plans over a period of time, but can you handle change that comes suddenly and abruptly? What will you do if you lose a major contract? What happens if a regulatory change leaves you scrambling to get the licenses and permits you need? You have to be able to demonstrate that no matter what your startup faces, you can change direction on the fly.

When it comes time to make your pitch, find a way to highlight your organization’s ability to be flexible. Talk about a sudden change or challenge that you faced, and then show what you did to triumph over that challenge.

Startup Founders Are Important And Unique

Recently, the following question was asked on Quora: What do VCs look for in founding teams (first time founder)? One point that was included in the most up-voted answer was that VC capitalists want to know what each person brings to the organization. There simply is not a lot of room for redundancy or excess baggage in a startup.

In order to earn investment dollars, startup founders must prove that everyone on the team has a reason for being there. Sometimes, this can mean making painful cuts to your organization. In other cases, you may need to clarify or redefine roles before seeking funding. Ownership is key to success.

“It can be painful to separate yourself from an original team member,” said Dr. Neeta Bhushan of Emotional Grit. “On the other hand, making that separation can make you feel antagonized or lied to. This is why every member must be very self-aware”

Necessary Experience

Your investors will want to know if your team has the experience you need to make their investments worthwhile. Ideally, you will be able to show them that you have started many companies and made them profitable. However, all is not lost if that is not the case.

Just be prepared to highlight the work and life experience that you have that makes you qualified to move your business forward. Then, convince investors of your capabilities.

Good Team Relationships

Friendship and teamwork really do matter. No investor wants to deal with the train wreck that can result when a team of startup founders falls apart. Get it together. Fix your internal issues, and present a united front. If you have previous connections and loyal friendships, highlight those in the stories that you share when you pitch your brand.

Knowing what your potential investors want to know is a huge part of developing your speech. Be sure that both you and your team mates deliver the pitch that will ensure that VC investors start paying attention to your brand.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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