Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to Make Your Startup Attractive to Angel Investors

Angel investment is one of the most common capital sources for both startups and relatively new companies looking to expand. But drawing high-net worth individuals toward an early-stage enterprise or business proposal requires well placed effort. First of all, angel investors can’t fund something unless they know it exists, which means you’ll need to focus on getting the word out in the right circles. Second, they’re unlikely to bet on a venture unless it offers a substantial return. So a sound business plan and credible growth and revenue strategies are key.

However, according to research by Shai Bernstein (Stanford Graduate School of Business), Arthur Korteweg (University of Southern California Marshall School of Business), and Kevin Laws (Chief Operating Officer of AngelList), arguably the most important factor is the quality of the personnel that the candidate organization has assembled.

Exceptional founders, and a reputable team.

Bernstein, Korteweg, and Laws’s analysis indicates that the presence of visionary founders and reputable staff on a startup’s team is a big draw for angel investors. The data further suggest that experienced angels are likelier than inexperienced ones to emphasize the importance of the people factor. Angels with a lot of investing background are also likelier to take a chance on a promising startup or fledgling enterprise than are newcomers to the profession, who may prefer to “play it safe” by betting on companies that already have some traction.

Seek out promising angels, and do research on them.

Many angels specialize in a particular industry or niche, and it’s a good idea to seek out individuals whose areas of interest or specialization accord with your own, particularly if your proposal is esoteric or technical. Find out what sort of endeavours those investors have funded in the past. You can even attempt to contact previous beneficiaries of the angels you’ve identified as prospective funders of your project, to ascertain what worked in the past and what those angels tend to look for.

A strong pitch.

If you’ve ever watched a full episode of the American network television program Shark Tank—or its Canadian counterpart, Dragons’ Den—you may already have a good idea of how to distinguish a high-quality funding pitch from a lousy one. If angel investors invite you to pitch to them, you need to be ready.

Aim for a duration of around ten minutes—enough time to cover all the essential information without rambling or rushing. If your presentation is in digital format and consists of slides, anticipate spending around one minute on each slide. However, make sure you also have an analog Plan B in case of technical difficulties, which have a nasty habit of cropping up unexpectedly right at the moment of truth.

Unconventional ideas can be powerful in the business world, but in the context of a funding pitch, a pair of conventions are worth observing. One is appropriate attire—you should strive to portray yourself as a consummate business professional and/or choose an outfit that’s suited to your line of work. Another is the hook—you should begin the pitch in a way that piques the investors’ interest. Present them with a problem or dilemma they can relate to, and offer them an innovative solution.

 Answer the following questions in your pitch:

  What have you and your team accomplished so far?

  What does your target market/demographic look like?

  Who are your competitors?

  What is your strategy for both marketing to customers and delivering your product or service to them?

  How do you generate revenue?

  What do you anticipate your revenue stream would look like over the next five years if you met your funding goals? Is your assessment realistic?

  How much money do you need from the investors to whom you’re pitching?

  What is your endgame? Do you plan to eventually take your business public, sell to an established firm, or something else? (Angel investors like to know how they will recover their investment.)

Finally, rehearse your pitch until you know it like the back of your hand. Run it by a trusted friend—if s/he would invest in your business or proposal, there’s a good chance that an angel would too.