The unprecedented number and size of fundraising rounds and technology IPOs in recent years are evidence of the enormous demand for digital products and services. Early stage and venture capital investment has experienced a surge comparable only to the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. This trend has made startups much more agile and attractive to investors.
Sadly, not all startups or products are suitable investment options. In fact, securing funding is usually the most challenging aspect of starting a business. Investors often hesitate to invest in startups because of the risks involved. So, it's no wonder that only 5% of investor pitch decks actually make it through the investment process as a first draft.
It's your responsibility to ensure that the business idea is exciting and appealing enough to get funding. The founder must have a firm understanding of how to raise capital—whether from friends, angel investors, or venture capital firms.
This article outlines a path for you to get an angel investor or a VC interested in your product.
But Wait, Should You Raise a Funding Round?
Suppose you suddenly hit on a hot idea for your startup. You run to jot it down somewhere. A few days later, you call your close colleagues to discuss and outline the entire product journey from development to production. You all agree it's a billion-dollar product idea.
Afterward, in the heat of the moment, you scramble to find a way to build the application and prepare a pitch deck and business plan. Sound familiar? Now that you have a great idea and a plan, next comes the funding. If you don't know what you have to do to attract funding, don't be dismayed, many other startups have found themselves in a similar situation.
As the saying goes, "If you fail to prepare, you're preparing to fail." This seems apt to describe the challenges most startups face. Before embarking on building a pitch deck or raising a funding round, there's one question you must first ask yourself: Should I raise capital?
To better answer this question, you must take your idea and your project trajectory into account.
Understand that each product's trajectory is unique. A good rule of thumb is to raise funds when you have:
- Identified a particular problem that needs solving
- Proven that there is a need for the service
- Prepared a proper business model as well as a P&L forecast
- Implemented a working product, preferably an MVP
For you to achieve any of these, you'll need to conduct a feasibility study. Afterward, find out if there are any competitors in the market. If there are none, find out why. If there are, find a way to make your product distinct or better by highlighting a list of features that will set you apart from the crowd.
So, what's next? You should find out if there's a market for your idea. If there is, are there potential customers willing to pay for the service? Finally, how do you intend to market your idea?
Providing answers to these questions will give you a clear understanding of where you are in your journey and what you need to do.
How to Get Investors Interested
You're finally here. It's time to find out how to get that investor interested in your idea. Here are a few ideas that can help make your product an attractive proposition to an investor or a VC.
Build in Public
The term "building in public" is pretty much what it implies. By building in public, you allow potential users and investors to follow the development from the start. The social media world is vast and extensive. For example, social media applications like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit are excellent platforms where you can communicate about your startup's activities during the early development phases.
Investors, VC partners, and cash-rich individuals are constantly on the hunt for the next profitable business or potential unicorn. Building in public allows consumers and business leaders to provide feedback on how to improve a product. It goes without saying that getting feedback directly from your target audience before launching your product can be extremely valuable.
Finally, building in public helps create buzz and garner an audience even before the official launch. Simply put, there's no better way to pique a potential investor's interest. Rather than spending a huge amount of time, money, and energy on marketing, building pitch decks, and emailing potential investors, you can expose your product to the public on social media platforms during the alpha or beta stage.
Check Out Angel Investor Websites
To acquire funding from an investor or VC, you need to know how to approach them. You can identify investors who might be interested in your startup by carefully studying their websites. This way, you can check out the investors before you apply for funding.
Some investors have particular areas of interest they focus on. A bit of research will inform you about the types of investments they make and details about companies they've invested in. At the same time, you can view the application procedures and identify the best person to contact. This will give your startup a better chance of obtaining funding.
Launch on Product Hunt
Product Hunt is a community-focused website where businesses can announce their product launch and connect with their first customers. The platform lets companies run campaigns to garner votes and product reviews. Even if your product is still in the MVP stage or is not yet entirely stable, industry leaders and users are often eager to test it. These people might then become early investors or users of your product.
Robinhood was one of the most successful product launches on Product Hunt. Thanks to the visibility gained during their campaign, they raised a total of $176 million in funding.
Send Direct Messages to Investors
Once you've identified potential investors and their contact information, you should go ahead and send a direct message to them. However, this doesn't mean you should send them a generic pitch that fails to address the interests of your potential investor. At first, this message can be a short and simple description of what problem your product solves, its target market, and traction.
On a side note, be sure to have a business plan and pitch deck prepared, and be ready to present an elevator pitch of your product. No matter who you pitch to, whether it's a VC, an angel investor, or your rich uncle, it is important to explain to them how you plan to make money. This will be key in helping you attract your ideal investor.
Attend the Right Events
During the year, there are numerous tech events that might be worth attending. Although most of these events are now virtual, it is still possible to attract investors. Events such as WebSummit, SXSW, Collision, etc., play host to many investors, VCs, and business leaders that you can connect with and pitch to. That is why it's imperative to be ready for an elevator pitch at any point during the event once the opportunity arises.
Apply to Accelerators/Incubators
Getting into startup accelerators and business incubators is competitive, and rightfully so. The number of applicants for accelerator and incubator programs has increased tremendously over the past few years. It's not unusual to have a single startup attending multiple accelerator and incubator programs at once or in rapid succession.
However, if your application is approved, you'll get access to mentors with a wealth of experience and a community of business-minded people. You'll also get access to private events and workshops, as well as discounts and perks on products and services that may assist you in growing your venture.
Taking Your First Steps
Every investment is a risk. For you to relieve potential investors of this fear, it's imperative to have a business model and P&L forecast. Before contacting a VC investor, you will most likely have to have implemented your MVP. Only when you have an MVP, a business model, and a comprehensive P&L forecast, and not a second before, should you approach institutional investors. Before that you will have a better chance of raising seed funding from friends and family, or angel investors.
Salsita is a digital product agency that helps startups get up and running with designing and developing their product. Some of our services include UX research, discovering product-market fit, user testing, MVP design, and CRO. We provide a full range of services that encompass the entire software development cycle.