NZ Herald business editor at large

Study reveals top tips for pitching Kiwi start-ups

Entrepreneurs who ‘copy and paste’ US template when courting NZ investors risk missing out on funding.
A new study has advice for kiwi entrepreneurs. Photo / File
A new study has advice for kiwi entrepreneurs. Photo / File

Kiwi entrepreneurs are missing out on funding because they copy Silicon Valley style pitches which don't work with local investors, new research shows.

Massey University Researcher Hattaf Ansari has surveyed a group 88 early stage investors, angel investors, venture capitalists, members of crowd funding groups and other private investors and found they have a different demands from their American counterparts.

Ansari found that the size of the US domestic market made pitches there less focused on financial details and more concerned with the passion and visions of the entrepreneur.

The survey of New Zealand investors, however, found they were more focused on entrepreneurs who targeted the international market and who presented strong financial data.

They also took more time to build relationships rather than making judgments based on the first pitch.

It was such a new industry in New Zealand that there was very limited research and specialist advice, he said.

"So entrepreneurs are going online and the advice is based on the American investors, what they are doing in Silicon Valley," he said. "If they try and copy and paste that here they are going to be disappointed because it is not the same market."

"For example in the US, for a really early-stage pitch, you don't focus too much on financials because the US investors know that the domestic market is big so as long as there is a good product with demand the investor knows they will get their money."

But in New Zealand you ignored the financials at your peril.

Dorian Scott from Massey's e centre start-up incubator said they were holding events where entrepreneurs could pitch start-ups "but it was a struggle to get matches with investors."

"The pitching was not well targeted at the needs of the investors and the investors were looking for something different, he said.

"So if we knew more about what the investors were looking for we felt we could make a better match."

New Zealand investors were looking for something that can go global, he said.

"We talk a lot about global from day one, that's fine if you're a software business but for other businesses it is a lot more difficult to scale," he said.

"In the US, it all starts off with the word passion. They are so influenced by the passion and enthusiasm of the founder whereas here they are looking for a little bit more behind that. They are looking for a relationship, and the experience and expertise."

Also American investors were often more sophisticated, bringing the financial expertise with them so they were looking for a leader or visionary, he said.

Whereas in New Zealand a lot of the investors didn't have that experience in start-ups.

Entrepreneurs were the ones that could get the most advantage from the research, Ansari said.

"There are a lot who have a really good business but they are focused on the domestic market. If they have a look at the research and see what the typical investor is like they will save a lot of time."

According to the NZ Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) there are as few as 600 to 800 investors in this country looking at early-stage businesses.

But, Ansari notes, the country is experiencing an influx of wealthy migrants who could potentially grow the investor base.

So the aim was to repeat the research every three to five years.

Top tips for getting your investor pitch right

•Don't mimic American styles you see online. Kiwi investors are different.
•Talk about international sales, even a long term ambition. The NZ market isn't big enough to wow investors.
•Include detailed financial plans. Local investors are more focused on the number than on vision and passion.
•It's not all about the first pitch. Kiwi investors prefer to take their time and build relationships.
•Show off your experience and the experience of your team. Local investors like to see a track record.

- NZ Herald

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