Obtaining financing for a business is not easy. There are many actions you need to take to maximize your chances of success before you approach your first investor.
The keys to success are preparation and practice. You should have all of your documentation completely prepared and ready for a professional presentation. Practice your presentation to the point it flows naturally. In other words, it shouldn't sound like a presentation at all.
Remember, trying to obtain seed funding puts you in a selling position. You are trying to get a company, or individual, to buy into your company. Your goal is to convince them you have a valuable idea and a viable plan.
The competition is fierce. According to Statista.com, there were over 4,500 venture capital deals in the United States in 2016, and those deals resulted in financing that exceeded $59 billion.
That is a lot of people vying for a lot of money, what can you do to make your company stand out? At a minimum, have the following steps completed before you begin.
- Have a thorough and professionally prepared and produced business plan and pitch deck. This step alone takes time, and you shouldn't rush it. Investors want to know you have put thought into your business, its future, and how you plan to develop and grow.
- Know what financial forecasting investors expect to see and make sure it is in the format they are accustomed to. Be prepared to to dive into the accounting data if needed.
- Form a business structure or legal entity. Your choice of whether you want to be a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation or one of the other options is not just dependent on you and your co-founders. Investor preference matters and they prefer to strike business deals with companies, not individuals. You should always consult with an attorney that specializes in this space, so you cover all angles of establishing your business and protect yourself legally and financially.
- Create a capitalization table. A capitalization table lays out the current owners and their types of ownership in your company. The classes of ownership would be the types of shares and bonds you have sold to people. The table should also list who owns what and when they bought into the company and how much of the company they own.
- If you are producing something you consider proprietary to your company, make sure you have secured all the necessary property rights, copyrights, trademarks, and anything else you feel required to establish your ownership of the property. This is another time when will want to consult with an attorney specializing in the space.
- Develop and practice your sales approach. This cannot be emphasized enough, too many entrepreneurs have an "I'll just wing it approach," and that is not a good idea. Create a plan for how you will speak with them during the initial and subsequent meetings. Map out your responses to questions, critiques, and objections. Practice your approach with colleagues and family in front of a mirror and keep practicing it till it flows naturally, like a conversation.
- Have hard copies of everything. Yes, this is the digital age, but people are still more comfortable reading paper instead of digital. However, have everything available digitally in case somebody would like copies to store on a hard drive.
- Lastly network and research VCs you want to talk to, much of their investment history is discussed online. Knowing their industry preferences and average round size can be a good indicator if you are a good fit. Find out when their funds started as this could give you some insight into how soon they are expecting exits to liquidate their investors.
These steps are only the beginning of the tools you will need when approaching investors. If all goes well, and they show an interest in your company, you could end up having to do multiple presentations and provide further documentation.
If it seems time-consuming and laborious to take all of these steps, but that's because it is. But, obtaining funding depends on your approach and presentation. So, spend the time to complete these steps and practice, practice, practice.