Never Do This When Pitching Your Business to Investors
Nicola Corzine, published in Fortune magazine
It’s not just about selling your company.
You did it. You took an idea and turned it into a tangible product or service—a functioning business. That deserves a hearty “congratulations,” since many aspiring entrepreneurs will never even make it to this stage. But this is where the journey begins—the hard work of raising money and approaching investors so your fledgling business can soar.
Fundraising as a budding entrepreneur is never easy, particularly in a climate that’s becoming increasingly saturated with startups. But the reality is, at the startup level, investors aren’t simply looking for “the next big thing.” Aside from your business, investors are investing in, well, you. They’re looking for an entrepreneur who can see a company through unexpected twists and turns, and whose vision is a good fit with their firm’s goals.
So, how can you be that entrepreneur when you pitch your startup idea to investors?
Know your audience
Showcase that you know and understand the pain felt by your customer. This is how you can bring real value to your future investors, because at the end of the day, it’s not about features, and it’s rarely about the technology. The companies that succeed know how to make their customers’ lives better. Those are the solid investments.
Less is more
Investors don’t want to see a 30-slide deck, and they don’t want to read a hybrid novel. What they do want is to know your expertise, first and foremost, and to understand how you’re poised to successfully execute the plan you have in place.
Along those lines, a pitch to investors isn’t just about selling your company—it’s largely about selling yourself as an entrepreneur. How does your experience, knowledge, and team give you an edge over your competitors—known or unknown—in this field? What makes you more likely than others to scale this into a venture-backed business?
Believe it or not, most investors aren’t just looking for entrepreneurs with a get-rich-quick plan. They want to see that you have a fire in your belly, and that you’re passionate about the idea you’re pitching them. When the going gets tough (and it will get tough), what’s going to make you stay the course? Why will you be able to give it your all, even in the darkest hours?
As an entrepreneur, finding the right investor for your business is an essential part of the pitch process. Does the firm typically invest in startups in your industry, geography, or stage of growth? Do your homework and tell investors why you’ve selected them as a good fit for your company. Hint: It should never be about the size of their fund.
And last, but certainly not least, don’t necessarily let a “no” be the end of your journey. Listen carefully to the feedback you get. If you can, get more feedback to put your “no” or “not right now” into perspective. Maybe you’re just a little too early. Maybe you just need to make a few small tweaks before approaching another investor. Or maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
But remember this: Hearing “no” is part of being an entrepreneur. It’s a chance to improve, strengthen your resolve, and eventually get to “yes.”
Nicola Corzine is executive director of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, a nonprofit that provides entrepreneurs with access to mentors, training, and networking, where she brings over 15 years of strategic business development and entrepreneurial thought-leadership programming experience. Ms. Corzine was previously a partner at Band of Angels, Silicon Valley’s oldest seed funding organization.