Cutting through the noise: attracting investors to your startup

On Wednesday, Lauren went to her first talk at Google Campus in London’s Silicon Roundabout to learn how startups should attract investors, and of course to network.

With several hundred startups in London, and many of them clustered around the Old Street roundabout, it can be hard to get your startup noticed by investors and by potential users of your product. The aim of the evening, hosted by the award-winning financial and corporate PR agency Citigate Dewe Rogerson, was to share knowledge on making yourself heard and getting your investment pitch right.

The first panellist was Oscar Jazdowski of Silicon Valley Bank UK, whose top tip for the evening was when meeting with investors, you are not looking for money. You are looking for your next meeting with them. Unlike Dragon’s Den, they won’t be parting with wads of cash straightaway; they want to hear your progress (particularly true of institutional investors), so keep them up to date and keep your promise of meeting them a few months later. For now, engage them with your story, tell them what makes your idea unique and exciting, and get them enthused about it. Angel investors are more interested in this core idea and the team behind it, and you should therefore approach them in early rounds of funding.

Keep it snappy

You need to be able to explain your whole idea in less than 60 seconds. Investors often find themselves five minutes into a pitch wondering what the product is – it’s easy to accidentally omit details because you know your own brand so well. City Meets Tech, an initiative to link up the financial district in London with Silicon Roundabout, runs events where startups only have three minutes to pitch to angel investors. CMT co-founder Steve Karmeinsky told us that most startups make the mistake of preparing 10 text-filled slides (10 is the maximum allowed), which is a slide every 18 seconds!

You also absolutely need to know how you will monetise your product, as investors aim to make 5-10 times their money back in 3-5 years. However, bringing in sums early on won’t be necessary – they’ll know you’re just making it up. Just be prepared to explain how you will generate shareholder value, and how costly your customer acquisition is likely to be.

Fail small, fail fast

It’s something you will have heard many times already, but this is only because it’s true. Oscar Jazdowski believes that California is better at killing companies early on, which he sees as immensely beneficial. Many investors in the UK can see the eventual failure a mile off, but choose to keep a company alive with more money – in these cases, it would be better to kill it early so the team behind it can create something new instead.

Don’t underestimate the power of PR

Georgia Hanias from the Technology Team at Citigate Dewe Rogerson explained how to generate buzz around your brand when you can’t afford to use an agency, so that you appeal to investors and potential customers. Her number one tip was to observe your competitors and who is following them: build up a picture of which publications and journalists would be interested in your own product. Make a habit of ‘issue hijacking’: comment on news stories; blog about news in your industry; build up a following with the aim of becoming a spokesperson for your industry. You should also attend networking events, and any angel investors that you do meet, get them to introduce you to other angels.

Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh, founder and CEO of Sugru the self-setting rubber, found that once her product started gaining press coverage, investors began to approach her directly. The company had been sending out Sugru samples to bloggers and tech geeks who got very excited about it and started making noise online. Indeed, a lot of the website’s content is still community-generated, which then also serves to sell the brand to Sugru virgins. How will you get people talking about your product?

Competition is stiff, but there are many investors out there. The evening’s advice in short: fail fast, develop your brand story, and never be afraid to network.

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