Finding financing is not easy, so looking for backers requires attention and networking. Financial lawyer Alex Kaplun suggest these ways to find funding.
Talk to people you know. “If your start-up needs money, talk first to people you know,” says Kaplun. “Ask your advisors, your lawyers, and accountants. Making connections does not come naturally to many people. When I meet with new companies that are looking for finance, I tell them, first ask people they know. If people you know will take 15 minutes to open their Rolodex, they’ll find one or two who are in the investment field, investment bankers, or wealthy individuals. When a company comes to me looking for money, and I have a client I think might take interest, I refer the company to the investor. If the investor takes interest in the company’s idea, I’ll make the connection and see if there will be a deal.”
Go to angel clubs. There are groups of “angel investors” that come together to hear companies give presentations and showcase themselves. The “angel” investor, an early-stage investor, is so called because he comes to the rescue of start-ups. It’s usually a high net-worth individual who has cash and likes to invest his own money. This angel usually invests in the company before the institutional venture capitalist steps in. There are networking events all over. “Find a website that sponsors networking events and attend to meet people and talk about what you do,” says Kaplun, “though it’s a lot of legwork.”
There are professionals who will find investors. These are either business brokers or investment bankers. These companies require a commission, but their job is to raise capital and, often, you do not pay them unless they produce the results you bargain for.
Here’s a few windup exercises for a business pitch. Once you find interested investors, avoid these mistakes when giving a presentation to venture capitalists:
• Don’t spend a long time discussing your technology. Get to the commercialization part in the first 15 minutes. If you don’t have his attention in those first crucial 15 minutes, you have lost their interest. Always keep in mind that you are talking to an investor seeking an “exit.” Your technology may be interesting, but it is the commercialization aspect that will be of interest.
• Acknowledge the competition. It’s a big mistake to say there is no competition for your invention. “There is always competition or an alternative,” says Kaplun. Competition is not bad. It means there is demand in the market for the product. However, you must describe the alternatives, the competition, and how your product is better. Why would your product be bought by end uses as opposed to your competition’s, or the alternatives, and especially if your idea is more expensive. Your logic will demonstrate that you understand the market, which is important to a venture capitalist. “Here’s an old saw: What’s most important to the VC? Management, management, and management,” he says. “The VC is not only investing in an idea but also in the team. So show you understand the industry.”
• Be clear regarding what you are looking or asking for. “Don’t ask for about a million dollars or maybe two if you need more or less,” says Kaplun. “Be clear about what you want and what you’ll use it for.” If the VC asks what are the risks or obstacles, never say there are none. Be sure to recognize the risks and obstacles and how you plan to overcome them and how you are going to use their money.