Wooing investors to secure funding is probably right there in the list of top-3 toughest challenges every founder faces while launching a new venture. Forget newbies, it can be one heck of a challenge even for serial entrepreneurs with years of experience — unless of course, you are talking about someone of Elon Musk’s stature (in which case, investors will knock on your doorstep and not vice versa, figuratively speaking).
Fortunately, with a favorable and ever-improving startup ecosystem in place, startups in Bahrain and the broader GCC region no longer have to sweat it over to gain access to local and international investors.With the establishment of Al-Waha Fund of Funds in 2018, a $100 million venture capital fund that aims to fund Bahrain- based startups, gaining access to investors has never been more achievable.
The scary part about engaging investors in such a cut-throat competitive business environment is that you will only ever get one chance to woo them. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to leave a good first impression. That’s what it is.
So what do you do in such a scenario other than twiddling your thumbs while hoping for the best outcome? Well turns out, there are a few tried and tested strategies that come really handy while pitching your business to potential investors.
How to win over investors
1# Don’t waste time on small talk
There’s a reason why it’s called “small talk.” Rather than wasting time asking about if someone’s enjoying the weather or telling them how the karak place next door serves the best karak in Bahrain, get to point straight away.
At the end of the day, investors are only concerned with how you’re going to build and nurture a successful startup, which in turn will earn them hefty profits.
Your focus should be on educating your prospective investors about the merits of your product(s) in a skillful and engaging way. By the time you’re done, they should have a clear insight into your vision and business plan.
2# Be sure of the market value of your product
We get it, any new innovation or product you come up with is bound to have a special place in your heart. There’s nothing wrong with it so long as you don’t confuse the value it holds for you with the value it holds for the target market.
That is why you should never go meet an investor without first carefully assessing the market opportunity your product has in an empirical and unbiased way. Doing so will also give you an insight into any scope for further increasing the target market-size, which in turn will make your pitch more appealing to the investor.
This is precisely why experts always advise up-and-coming entrepreneurs to focus on big ideas. Making a product that makes it easier for users to keep track of their luxury yacht’s engine health and fuel consumption is a noble idea — one that certainly requires some serious skill and innovation.
Unfortunately, however, the prospective investor might reject your proposal fearing that there are not enough luxury yacht owners in the world to create a large enough business. Rather, they would invest in a startup that makes health products for diabetic or sickle cell patients.
3# Be authentic like you usually are
Never try to answer a question half-heartedly unless you’re sure what you are talking about. Just say something along the line “I am not sure, but I can check and get back to you.” This is an acceptable answer by all standards and will add to your credibility.
However, do make it a point to brush up your knowledge about at least the basics of your business and the industry you are dealing in, whether it be artificial intelligence, blockchain, or any other field. For example, if an investor asks you what’s the projected growth of your target market over the next XYZ years and you don’t know the answer, it will most likely paint you in a bad light.
4# Don’t go overboard
It’s advisable that you don’t delve into unnecessary details while pitching your business plan to a prospective investor. Unless of course, they themselves show an interest in digging that stuff.
The best way to go about this is to confine your talk to the executive level and see if they’re genuinely curious about some of the finer details. There’s no point discussing how you’re saving 1% annually by sourcing your raw materials from Southeast Asia.
5# Accept rejections as high-value market feedback
Now here is something inevitable — unless you’re working on a sure-shot cure for cancer or building a new technology that could forever end the GCC’s water shortage, odds are high you will face rejection every now and then. And that’s perfectly fine.
Many entrepreneurs face rejections by the dozens before finally tasting success. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided to sell Google to focus on their studies for a low amount of $1 million, and were rejected. Five months later, two companies decided to invest $25 million in Google, and the rest is history.
In conclusion, we would like to stretch again that the fundraising journey is always an uncertain one for the vast majority of entrepreneurs all over the world.
Rejection is inevitable, but then, everyone would take up entrepreneurship as the default career choice if running one’s own business was a cakewalk. Don’t forget to reflect on that as you move up the entrepreneurial ladder. Good luck!