When raising funds for your startup, you get “No” far more than “Yes.” You may not ever hear “Yes” and here's why.
Starting and building a successful company is one of the hardest things you can do.
Finding investors to fund and to help you navigate growth is part of the challenge of being an entrepreneur. Why is it that some entrepreneurs get funded while others encounter only “No” as they pitch investors?
I've written previously on raising funds and pitching, including:
- 5 Qualities Investors Look for in a Startup Team
- Creating Investor Demand
- The Top 10 Things to Never Ever Say in an Investor Pitch
- Take Your Elevator Pitch to the Top.
You can do everything right from a pitching perspective. You can build a great team. You can say all the right things. You can create scalable systems and processes.
…and you still will walk away empty handed.
Building an Attractive Investment
Successfully raising funds boils down to whether the idea you have and the company you are building is an attractive investment.
Below are ten reasons investors are ignoring you. Fix one or all ten of these reasons, and your odds of successfully raising funds improve.
- Your Idea Just Might Suck. Have you sought out potential customer feedback on your own? Do you have objective proof that the problem you are addressing is one that customers want to be solved? Is the solution you offer the one that customers will pay for to solve their problem? If you can't answer yes to these queries with data, do your homework. If you still can't answer yes after that, then find another idea. If customers show no interest, investors won't either.
You Pitch To The Wrong Investors. Investors have industry and other specializations plus personal interests. Have you done your homework on the types of investments those who you are pitching typically make? Does your idea fit within their areas of expertise and interest? If you are not in their niche, you won't be in their portfolio.
- Your Company Is Not Investable. If your business is not likely to grow like crazy without a corresponding growth in infrastructure, employees and costs (aka scale), then investors have no incentive to fund you. You must be able to scale for an investor to be interested because they rely on you to make them money and to make up for losses on their failed investments.
- You Love Your Idea, But No One Else Does. It's easy to fall in love with an idea and be so excited about it that you lose sight of reality. Make sure you have objective proof your customers love it too. If you are having difficulty getting investors excited about the potential of you idea, there are good reasons for their lack of interest.
- Your Don't Know Your Market. If you are thinking “If I can just get X% of the market…” Think again. It's never about the X%; it's about a realistic understanding of the Total Available Market (TAM) that enables you to develop concrete plans of reaching your Serviceable Available Market (SAM) that allows you to offer and sell products to your Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM). Understand your market and how to reach it before pitching.
Your Valuation Is Ridiculous. It's easy to pick a number, say “$10 million” or “$20 million”, call that your valuation, then fall in love with that figure. It is unlikely that your idea is worth more than the pen you wrote it down with, so before spouting off a number, do your homework. Seek the help of experienced investors in determining a valuation, and be able to back that number up with objective data.
- Your Pitch Lacks Clarity. Your pitch should lead investors on a quick journey that clearly describes the problem, solution, customer, market, competition, use of funds, etc. Every word used should help the investor understand and embrace the opportunity you are pursuing. When your pitch is unclear, unorganized or uninteresting, investors walk.
- You Want Funding For R&D. If you are still baking your idea – trying to figure out a market for your cool idea, not sure what the product will be, or you just enjoy tinkering, you are not ready to pitch for investment. Investors have no interest in funding your lifestyle while you try to figure out a direction for the company. Go to investors with a clear plan and realistic milestones or stay home.
- Your Numbers Are A Joke. Have you analyzed what it will take to get a company off the ground and a product launched? Filling a spreadsheet with numbers is not the answer. Each number you use and the corresponding time frames must be grounded in reality, and your plans must line up with your best estimates. You need to understand the interplay of the numbers – if a delay to one milestone happens, what's the impact? If you stumble on numbers when investors start asking questions, you lose credibility.
- You Fail To Follow Up. It's your job to keep investors informed of progress and accomplishments. Once you walk out of their office, they are on to the next opportunity. Plan to keep in touch. Relationships are foundational to investing, and you must nurture those relations before, during and after you pitch. If your approach to pitching is one and done, then don't even bother with doing the one.
It's Not the Investors; It's You
One final note. If investors are saying “no” or “not yet” or “maybe,” they are not the ones keeping you from being successful. It's you.
Investors are in it to make money, and if they can see a way to make money partnering with you, wallets will open, and they will want to contribute to your success.