The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the best way to pitch a startup idea to investors?” is written by Avery Roth, founder and CEO of The Startup Consulting Group.
Fundraising mirrors the entrepreneurial process in many ways. Founders must research the investor market, figure out which segments to focus on, reach out to the relevant contacts, and present a compelling solution. You can maximize your chances of fundraising success by following these four steps:
Investment parameters are hard guidelines for factors like sector, stage, and geography. For instance, within the “tech” domain, there are specialists in hardware vs. software, and further granularity within the software space. Some organizations only consider investing in early-stage companies (angel or seed), whereas others will filter for startups that have made it to an institutional funding round (e.g., Series A) or surpass a certain valuation.
Investment style describes risk-taking attitude. An investor’s primary goal is to maximize returns while minimizing risk, but there are various ways to achieve this end. For instance, given a portfolio of $100 million, one investor might choose to invest $10 million in only 10 companies, whereby another investor might choose to invest $100,000 in 100 different companies. This style difference will have an influence on factors such as investment ticket size and prospective face time (those running a more concentrated portfolio are often more hands-on). Incorporating these factors into a rigorous evaluation of the investor landscape will provide clarity on which organizations may have interest in your startup.
You will now want to filter your list of firms to the ones with whom you would proactively like to partner. Remember: Investors are long-term partners, and in order for the relationship to be healthy, the interest needs to be reciprocal. Assessing cultural fit is a great way to narrow the field.
Cultural fit is all about the working dynamic between investors and their portfolio companies. Is the relationship collaborative and based on an operating partnership, or is it purely financial? Are they a big team with whom you’re likely to have multiple touch points, or will you only have access to a few key people? Do the investors have connections and experience in your niche market, or, if you are disrupting a market, do the investors have experience working alongside trailblazers? The definition of the “right” cultural fit will differ for each startup founder.
You have curated a shortlist of potential matches, and now you have to convince them to meet you. The truth of the matter is that most investors are more likely to take a meeting with a founder if they have been referred by a trusted contact. Your mission is to network the heck out of everyone you meet in order to get warm introductions to your target investors. If this is a struggle, it’s okay to reach out to them cold. You will still have a shot at getting a meeting if you did your diligence and lead qualification properly and your offering is compelling enough to pique their interest.
The challenge of the venture investor is to source big opportunities that are likely to pay off. And there is a rough formula: opportunity x probability of success = score.
You can maximize your chances of fundraising success by convincing investors that your startup offers a high score.
Opportunity is a function of the market (size, growth, competition, barriers to entry, etc.), your company’s product and positioning, and track record (validation, user growth, etc.). You can bolster your impact with investors by presenting them with your financial model and the assumptions underlying your growth estimates.
Probability of success is a relatively softer metric, but just as important. Investors want to feel confident about the leadership team—that they are passionate enough to stick it out for the long haul, have relevant experience, get along well, can ride out the inevitable challenges that will arise, and can manage a business as it grows. Much of this comes across tacitly through executional confidence and your conviction that your forecasts are attainable. However, explicitly drawing attention to these “soft” factors can also be additive in pursuit of a high score.
Thinking strategically about investors and creating a granular plan of attack is key to fundraising success. Founders will find that the groundwork required is a great use of time, and the dollar returns will be the evidence.
Avery Roth is a startup strategist and the founder and CEO of The Startup Consulting Group. She works with startup founders to achieve product-market fit, scale, and prepare for fundraising.