Three questions to answer to ensure your business is ready for investment

So you want to raise investment? Rather than leaping straight into action writing a pitch or talking to investors, take a moment and ask yourself three questions.

How much money do you need?
What will you do with the money you raise?
How will your business change and grow as a result?

If you can answer these questions properly – not just in an off the cuff manner – but by providing real detail, facts and figures, then you probably are ready to raise investment.

But the devil is in the detail.

Investors don’t back ideas, hunches or broad-brush thinking. They want proven products (or services), thoughtful plans and evidence to support your approach. These things aren’t just conjured up by brainstorming, desk research and theoretical plans. They are created through action, hard work, persistence and a lot of iteration.

I touted my theoretical business plan around VCs and angels before the penny dropped that I needed to get the business going before anyone would back me.

I learnt that the hard way. I touted my theoretical business plan around VCs and angels before the penny dropped that I needed to get the business going before anyone would back me. The next time I tried to raise investment, (just six months later – but six incredibly busy months) I had not just a web platform but paying customers and a detailed marketing strategy. I raised £150K in one week – from pitching to money in the bank.

The proof was in the pudding. Investors call this “traction” and it speaks lounder than words.

Traction speaks louder than words

Be honest, ask yourself what stage your business is at:

If you have a business idea but nothing tangible yet, don’t waste your time talking to investors. Instead invest your time into creating your product/service/app. It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles but it needs to deliver the essence of what customers are looking for. This is often called an MVP or minimum viable product. It allows customers to trial your product, give feedback and for you to understand what needs to change to meet your customers’ needs better.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to develop an MVP. In fact, it’s better if you don’t

How do you fund this? Invest your own money (if you can), talk to family and friends to see if they will lend/invest money or explore a start up loan (but be aware that you will probably have to start making repayments immediately so be sure you can generate revenue quickly or negotiate a repayment free period). You don’t have to spend a fortune to develop an MVP. In fact, it’s better if you don’t – the chances are your MVP will change when you get customer feedback.

If you have got an MVP, focus on getting your first customers – whether they are paying you or not. Being able to demonstrate you can attract paying customers is best, but honest – hopefully positive – feedback can be just as valuable. Work on really understanding your customers – who they are, why they like the product and how you could find and sell to similar customers. This information is gold dust for your marketing strategy. Tried and tested marketing strategies do attract investment.

Work on really understanding your customers…Tried and tested marketing strategies do attract investment.

And then? Well, it’s back to the three questions we started with. To gain investment, you will need to explain in detail how much money you need, what you will do with it and how that will grow your business.

Growth is the key here. Investors don’t want you to stand still. They want you to create value by finding better ways to work, developing new products, attracting more customers. Investment isn’t philanthropy. Investors want a financial gain and that is created when the business grows – fast.

Investment isn’t philanthropy. Investors want a financial gain and that is created when the business grows – fast.

If you’d like to speed up the process of getting investment, it’s worth talking to a professional. Someone who understands the process, someone who has “been there, done that”. Investors are looking for specific information when deciding whether to invest and it pays to get the inside track on what you’ll need to provide – as well as having someone to help you prepare, to challenge you and give practical advice on how to improve your pitch.

If your business is ready for investment, sign up to Fast Track to Funding – designed to save you time and make it quicker to attract investment.

If you’re not sure if your business is ready to raise investment and you want to learn more about your funding options, reserve a free place on the live and interactive webinar “Everything you need to know to raise funding – quickly”

Why your executive summary is your most important investment document

*** Book a place on the masterclass “How to write an executive summary that attracts investors” ***

When seeking investment for your business (or, for that matter a social enterprise or creative project) it pays to think like an investor, giving an investor the information they want rather than telling them everything you want to say.

The most important document when you first start talking to investors is your “one-pager” or executive summary. I don’t literally mean an executive summary that summarises your business plan, but rather a short, specifically written document that summarises your investment opportunity and acts as a calling card when approaching investors and angel networks. It is best to keep this to one page. Some founders opt to send their pitch deck to get a meeting with investors, but this makes no sense. If you use the pitch deck to secure the meeting, what will you actually use to discuss the opportunity when you do meet the investor?

Why keep it short and sweet?

Investors (especially the serious ones) are very busy people. They have lots of potential investment opportunities hit their in-box every week. Most investors will make up their mind in less than five minutes whether your business is of interest to them.

“You have to give investors the information they want quickly and succinctly to be in with a chance of getting their attention.”

So how do you get the attention of an investor in just a couple of minutes?

The key is to give then what they want! Whilst individual investors will have their individual “sweet spot” for investments, in assessing an opportunity all investors are looking for certain key information:

  • A brief, no nonsense description of what the business is and does.
  • An explanation of the market opportunity – the problem you solve for your customers, the size of the market and the share of the market you feel you can realistically address.
  • An overview of your customers – who they are, any different groups of customers and how you find new customers.
  • How your products and services differ from the competition (and rest assured there will be competition whether you recognise it or not so, please, don’t say there is no competition!)
  • What you’ve achieved to date – investors look for businesses that are already delivering on their business model so highlight key milestones in your company’s development.
  • An introduction to your management team – who the key personnel are; their skills and experience and what they have achieved in the past.
  • Details of your business model – how you make money and whether you have a number of different revenue streams.
  • Your financials – revenues achieved to date, as well as a forecasting growth expected over the next 3-5 years.
  • Details of the investment you are looking for – how much money you want to raise, what you will do with that money and how much equity you are selling in return for the investment.
  • Oh, and don’t forget to add your contact details. If you do “hook” your investor you want him or her to be able to contact you quickly and easily to discuss the opportunity in more detail.

Think of getting a meeting with a potential investor like applying for a job

A good executive summary does the job of a strong CV. It helps you stand out from the crowd and ensures you get called for interviewWhen you are applying for a job the first step is to send a strong CV to secure an interview. You’ll review the job description and tailor your CV to demonstrate how you are the right person for the job. So it is with an executive summary. No investor will meet you until they have first understood a bit about the business – and that’s where your one page summary of the investment opportunity comes in.

A good executive summary will position the investment opportunity so that it piques the interest of potential investors and gets you that all important first meeting. When you meet you can go into much more detail, and start to assess whether you want the investor on board. The discussion and negotiation really starts – but that’s another blog.

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and receive detailed advice on what to include in an executive summary, a ready-made template that investors love and a free review of your executive summary.

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