Entrepreneurs often seek out venture capitalists (VCs) to seek early stage fundraising for their startup. The process of finding the right VC for your startup, managing to get through to them, and leaving a worthy impression often proves challenging. Below is a set of guidelines to prepare you as an entrepreneur, for when you seek funding.
FIND THE RIGHT VC
Do proper research and focus on identifying firms that have a preference for investing in your stage, industry and technology. Research the investor/firm you plan to pitch, figure out their background along with the companies they invest in, and curate your approach accordingly. Google is a great resource to finding such information; look for VC blogs and discuss with others who may have pitched to the investor/firm recently.
Avoid presenting to investors who do not understand the scope of your industry and/or technology.
REQUEST A MEETING
How to get to an investor in the first place?
One way is to be where they are: attend the conferences they speak at or apply to competitions they may be judging. ArabNet conferences for instance are attended by many investors, and include initiatives geared towards helping entrepreneurs meet them.
Another way is to find common contacts and work accordingly so you may be introduced.
Or you may simply email the company/investor requesting a meeting and include your elevator pitch and presentation. This gives them a chance to go through your product/company, think about it and do the required research ahead of meeting you.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
The Founder/CEO must attend the meeting; they can be joined by a co-founder as well as 1 or 2 valuable team members, provided they are good with people and have a significant role to play during the meeting.
YOUR BACKGROUND IS IMPORTANT
Start with who you are and how you came up with the idea for your company. Highlight your relevant background, your past experience and those of your key team members. This will give the VC an idea as to how you and your team are capable of implementing the next steps.
Make sure you are so well prepared that you have a fully refined, as they say “bulletproof” presentation. Rehearse your delivery and all potential questions prior to attending the meeting. Do not make it too lengthy and over-detailed, do not disregard questions that may pop up, and do not exaggerate. For tips on what to include in your presentation, take a look at the basics of pitching, and how to deliver the perfect pitch.
Also, if you have any web-based business, they might expect you to have an alpha version running. Be prepared with a cached version of your service to walk through in case something goes wrong.
TIME MANAGEMENT IS CRITICAL
Spend a fraction of your time focused on your presentation, while being flexible in your approach. Have an agenda but listen and know your audience. If the VC wishes to run the meeting a certain way, be flexible and go along while maintaining focus. The remainder of the time can be used for discussions.
ASK QUESTIONS & SOLICIT FEEDBACK
Listen and ask questions; try to get feedback about your business and the available opportunity. Try to figure out whether they like you, the company, your style, and if they are actually looking for something similar. Be ready to ask questions by preparing in advance. You may question them about the industry and what not, but be specific as to what you wish to know. Use your homework to ask about potential benefits your company may have with their other portfolio companies for example, and request to be introduced to other VCs that may be a good fit, or a candidate to fill in a position at your company.
See if investors have any thoughts that may help you guide your business.
DO NOT EXPECT FUNDING
Do not try to use the first meeting as a way to immediate funding, but a way to a second meeting. VCs would rather study your presentation, discuss it with the team, and contact you for a follow-up meeting.
Email them post-meeting to thank them for their time and attention. Do not keep calling; you may politely call/email a week or two later to follow up. The intent of a first meeting with a VC is for them to explore whether what you offer is interesting enough to seriously consider investing in. If you have left the meeting having given them the necessary information, you would have succeeded.
Do not be late, do not be arrogant, and do not ask for a non-disclosure agreement before you start your pitch.
Bottom line; prepare, be honest and be genuinely curious; you will do just fine.