Things to consider when you’re applying for investment...

You’ve submitted an application for investment, you’ve hit the button and now you’re waiting to hear back. It’s usually a nervous time, you’re not sure when you should chase for an update and you’ll tend to overthink whether or not you forgot any key details.

Here’s a few things to consider while you’re waiting, so you can prepare for when the investor gets in touch to take things forward

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Create a presentation

If you haven’t created one yet, take the time to put together a pitch deck. The goal is to create a presentation that is easy for you to work from and gets investors, collaborators and potential partners excited about your business.

It may be worth creating a mother-deck, containing every conceivable piece of info you may ever be asked for, alongside a more condensed version you can run through in 10-20 minutes. There are plenty of free pitch decks available on the internet. Remember, this doesn’t have to be an expertly designed, over the top exhibition of graphic design talent. If you don’t believe us, have a quick look at this deck from DropBox.

Practice your pitch

If No matter how much you think you know your business, you need to practice your pitch. Without a succinct, hard hitting pitch from you, the rest of the help in this guide won’t help you Many people think that just by knowing their business they can quickly and succinctly explain its value, so they go into pitch meetings unprepared.

Instead of only taking the 10 minutes you allowed for, you’ll soon find yourself rambling, having only made it through slide 5 after 20 minutes. Take the time to practice, simplify your messaging, and only keep in elements that really exhibit your business.

Tell a story

Stories sell, it’s common knowledge. Yours should address the problem you’re solving in the marketplace. This will engage the audience right out of the gate. Include any relevant, tangible data you’ve got through testing.

If you can relate your story to the investor, even better. What industries have they invested in previously? What pain points do their previous businesses solve? Do some research about the investor, so you have a good sense of what they care about and can tailor your story to them - while remaining true to your cause.

Your solution

What’s unique about your product? How it will solve the issue you shared in the previous slide.

As ever, keep it short, concise, and easy for the investor to explain to others. Avoid using buzzwords unless your investors are very familiar with your industry. Attempting to baffle them won’t win them over and convinc them of your expertise. Again, if you’ve done any testing beforehand, detail your results here to give your solution more credibility.

Your target market

Be realistic. It may well be that everyone in the world is potentially your target market. Great, that may be true in a few years, but where are you starting?

Be realistic about who you’re building your product for currently and break out your market into the total available market, how much of this market you’re able to service at any given point, and finally a realistic obtainable market share. This will show not just your ambition, but how strategically you’re forming a business plan. Remember that this investor won’t want to be needing to coach you endlessly if they’re also supporting your business financially.

Your revenue or business model

Let’s be honest, investors care about this slide. A lot. If your financials are way off, then the rest is moot. If your revenue hockey sticks in year three without explanation, then it’s clear you’re just too much of an optimist, and you need a healthy dose of realism

Your success

Here you get to blow your own trumpet. What have you accomplished to date (sales, contracts, key hires, product launches). You’ve possibly mentioned bits and pieces of this early on, but this is the point where you can really hit home how great the idea is, and how good you are at what you do.

Customer acquisition: Marketing and sales strategy

Your financials should easily allow you to calculate your customer acquisition costs. But you should also mention how you intend to reach customers, which channels you’ll be advertising on, and even present an example of messaging.

Your team

People matter to investors. It doesn’t matter how great an idea is, if the wrong people are steering the ship then it’s doomed to fail. Highlight who is in the team and what they bring to the table.

On the flip side, be sure to share what skills you may be missing on your team. Most startups are missing some key talent—be it marketing, management expertise, developers, sales, operations, financial management, and so on. Let them know that you understand your current limitations.

Your financial projections

Show what you’re projecting in revenue over the next three to five years. Back up your numbers by sharing your assumptions and reasonings. You’ll see investors doing rudimentary maths calculations on scraps of paper or their phones, give them the information they need to see that your calculations are accurate.

If your financials show hockey stick growth in year three without corresponding uplifts in sales and marketing spend, be prepared to give an A* explanation about how you’ve solved a prime problem facing most fast scaling companies. Be succinct, but be prepared to deep dive when pressed for more information.

Your competition

Don’t be scared of competition! Running a pitch and pretending there’s nobody else out there as competition won’t ever work in your favour. Often enough, being candid about competition is a really beneficial thing. It shows you’re realistic, you know you’ve got some work to do to break the market. It shows you understand the market conditions and intricacies. And it shows that you’re in tune with the pain points you mentioned and how you’re going to do it better.

The best way to do this is using a competitive matrix format. Similar to when you compare the latest phones side by side with a tick list of features.

Funding needs

Clearly spell out how much money has already been invested in your company, by whom, ownership percentages, and what you need to go to the next level. Do you need cash to live on until you start selling, do you need to pay wages before you hit the breakeven point, or do you need cash to pay for professional services like design, marketing or financial analysis?

Remind the investors why your management team is worth the investment, and why their support alongside your expertise is the perfect recipe for business success.

Exit strategy

Many investors will want to know what your long term plan is. Do you have an exit strategy for three, five, ten years time? Are you planning on getting acquired, going public (if you suggest this, again be prepared to answer some detailed questions on the subject), or something else? Show you’ve done some due diligence on your exit strategy, including any companies you’re targeting, and why it would make sense three, five, or ten years down the road.

Business plan

A pitch typically doesn’t last very long. Even if it actually took a full working day to present and ask subsequent questions, the investors will need time to pore over the details (unless you’re on Dragon’s Den and they’ve got a stack of cash on their chair). Have a well thought out business plan to hand to share, so investors can read more if they’d like to.

Take feedback and refine your pitch

No matter the outcome of your pitch, whether you receive funding, another meeting, or rejection, look for areas to improve. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and take that into account for the next time you pitch, just like a job interview.

You’ll really never know how good your pitch is until you actually do it. Don’t stress yourself out, and treat every investor pitch as a learning experience for you and your business. You’ll only continue to get better and better and can apply those learnings to every area of your business.

Stick with it

Finally, don’t be discouraged by rejection. It’s a fine balance to strike between taking the advice of people who continually don’t believe in your idea, and sticking to your guns because you absolutely know you’re on to a winner, but if you need a lesson in resilience, remember that Melanie Perkins of Canva got rejected by over 100 VCs before finally securing funding for what is now a £35billion company.