What the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Get Right About Angel Investors
The Entrepreneur Insiders 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 for young startup owners to develop relationships with angel investors?” is written by Jodi Goldstein, managing director of Harvard Innovation Labs.
The ever-growing number of AngelList done deals can make it look like getting funded is about as easy as applying for a job on LinkedIn: Post your startup’s profile, do some research on the best angel investors for a particular industry, send a few personalized notes to the right investors, and let the money come pouring in.
Securing an early-stage investment is rarely this straightforward. While young founders looking for initial funds should certainly have a presence on sites like AngelList, this is by no means a silver bullet for getting to know angel investors.
The entrepreneurs who are most successful in developing angel connections complement their robust online presence with a series of in-person actions that are focused on not only expanding professional networks, but getting their networks truly excited about the venture. For young startup owners looking to build relationships with angel investors, here are a few of the most important steps I’d suggest taking:
Never be in stealth
While there are extremely rare cases where keeping quiet about your startup might make sense, don’t kid yourself that your idea is so unique and novel that you can’t tell anyone about it.
See also: This Is What Makes a Great Investor
Share your idea with as many people as you can, as often as you can. When you’re developing your idea, tell your friends and family about it, and go to relevant industry networking events to pitch your idea to anyone who’s willing to listen. If you’re at a point where you have a minimum viable product and can present at a local meetup, go for it.
Don’t wait until you need to raise money to start networking. Building a strong network of potential mentors, customers, and investors before trying to raise puts you in a much better position to connect with the right investors when the time comes.
Turn your existing contacts into promoters
When you are looking for angel investors, take the time to send customized notes to everyone in your network—friends, family, past colleagues, and people you’ve met at networking events—letting them know that you’re raising money. Ideally, these are people who you’ve told about your startup and are genuinely excited about what you’re building.
While the vast majority of your contacts won’t be investors themselves, some might have connections to investors you don’t know about. When you have a large group of people who believe in you and are aware that you’re raising money, you’ll find that a few will make introductions to people who could be willing to invest.
When meeting angels, make clear that you don’t just want a transactional relationship
Young founders often view interactions with angel investors as purely transactional. They think they’ll have one pitch meeting, get a little cash to get going, and send occasional business updates via email.
As your earliest backers, you need to view your angel investors as true partners in your business. With this in mind, you might not even want to talk about money the first time you meet an angel, but instead get to know the person you’re speaking with. You can also say in this initial meeting that you’re looking for investors who believe in what you’re doing, and can help guide you in developing your product or service.
Remember that when you’re raising an angel round, it’s impossible to predict whether your business will succeed. Angel investing boils down to people investing in people, which is why it’s so important to focus on building a relationship with investors before discussing financials.