By Estelle Blanks, Executive Director at Innovation SuperNetwork
Welcome to the first in a series of articles designed to help you build the skills and tools you need for successfully pitching to investors.
We live in unprecedented times and with a great deal of uncertainty. But for many of us, the show must go on and for some this is a great time to take stock and be ready when the world finally reopens. Over the past few weeks, I have coached a few companies to get ready to speak to investors and to prepare the dreaded pitch. If pitching in front of an audience wasn’t scary enough, many of you now have to do it in front of a screen, in your bedroom or living room with no ‘live’ feedback from your audience.
For many people the word ‘pitching’ conjures a Dragons’ Den scenario or Apprentice-style grilling. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and in the real world, it rarely is. While it’s true that this meeting is the difference between getting funding or not, the key is not to panic and prepare.
We’re here to put your mind at ease. I see pitching as a lifelong skill. You never know who you are going to meet next and being able to answer the “so what does your business do?” question in a professional and concise way is important in any situation.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to dive into pitching to investors, what makes a pitch successful and help you make yours unforgettable!
Let’s get started.
Research the people that you’re meeting
Think of pitching to an investor like going for a job interview.
The key to preparing your pitch is to step into the shoes of your potential investors. Who are they and what do they need to know to decide to take the decision further?
You need to learn more about them, what they can offer and if that suits your needs.
This is a two-way street. You may potentially be working with them closely if they do decide to invest in you, so you need to make sure that it’s a relationship that can work for you.
You also need to understand the funding that they’re offering and how that will work with your business plans. We recommend doing some research into the following before your meeting:
- See if they have any knowledge or experience in your industry.
- Find out if they’ve got any similar businesses in their portfolio.
- Are they an investor on behalf of a business or an individual investor?
- Does the type of funding they offer suit your business goals and needs?
- Find out if they’re a hands-on investor or if they’re happy to just receive progress reports. Make sure this process suits your expectations.
Investors will appreciate that you’ve done your research, that you understand the type of funding on offer and the value of investment to your business.
However, it is not always possible to know who you are pitching to. When this is the case then make sure that your pitch to investors is crystal clear and answers the questions above so the right investors approach you.
In an ideal world, your access to investment journey starts well before you need the money and pitch. Educate your investors before you even meet them. Speak at events or send them relevant industry reports. Make them aware of your business even if you don’t need investment yet. Become part of their potential pipeline.
If you’re just starting out on this journey, and looking for more information before pitching to investors, there are several routes to investment available to innovative businesses. Start your research by looking into:
- North East Fund
- North East Growth Hub
- Northstar Ventures
- North East SME Innovation Programme
- Enterprise Europe Network
- Key Fund
- NEL Fund Managers
- British Business Bank
- Innovate UK
Additionally, if you’re a North East business wanting more advice on pitching to investors, perfecting your pitch or are interested in meeting with an investor, take a look at our Access to Finance programme.
Keep checking back for step two in our Pitching to investors in four steps series – Preparing to succeed.