In the third of a six-part series, Rod Drury looks at how to make an impression on potential investors.
Having started your business - shareholders are in place, and you have a few runs on the board - you now need to think about how to present your business for funding.
You need to put yourself in the position of the person you're approaching. What do they want?
If they are financially motivated, then they want the biggest return in the shortest possible time. Your business is a vehicle to do that, so a large part of your pitch needs to be about how you will give them a return. Many business plans I see are all about what a great idea it is - but an investor will be looking for return, so focus on that.
Many ideas get shot down because someone knows another business in that space. Positioning yourself against competitors shows that you understand your market. An ecosystem diagram, showing where you sit, is a great way to add interest to your presentation and pack a lot of information in a small space. And it gives you a platform to talk to.
Investors will judge you on your ability to concisely present your idea. They have a very short attention span. Having the discipline and skill to pare your life's work down to a three or four page document that gives the investor the ability to understand your concept quickly speaks volumes.
It demonstrates you understand the process and have thought about their needs and it gives you a much better chance moving to the next stage in the discussion.
It is worth investing in a designer to lay out your document, preferably with a few diagrams because the format and presentation of the document has a disproportionate impact on your first impression. The investor's default expectation is that it will be stunning. Anything less and you already have a few points dropped from your scorecard.
Never send a document in Word format. You do not have control of how it will open on the recipient's computer, and what's worse, you may have forgotten to clear your document changes. Documents should be sent as an Adobe PDF so you have complete control of the format - it looks more professional, and makes you appear more professional also.
Before approaching investors, you should have your document ready to go. You must be ready to strike while the iron is hot. So many times an investor will hear from someone at a function that they have a great idea, and there is no follow-up.
New Zealand is a very small place and the investment community is very connected. Once your document goes out, it's likely to be forwarded around for comment and advice. Quite often I see the same deal from four or five different parties over the course of a few months. Deals get tarnished. It's obvious that earlier investors have passed.
Therefore, it is important to polish your pitch because you have to be successful in your first few approaches or you won't get it funded at all.
Preparing your pitch document is one of the most important things you can do. You need to work on it to get to the essence of your idea in a way that is attractive for investors. Test, pare back, clarify, and test. The process may take as long as a month.
When you think it is ready, you're ready to start looking for investors.
* Rod Drury is CEO and founder of leading NZX-listed accounting software provider Xero (xero.com)By Rod Drury