Great entrepreneurs do everything they can to sustain their businesses and be in businesses as long as possible. Most people bootstrap with their savings and seek Angel or VC funds going forward. The path of an entrepreneur is never smooth. It’s a long road with uncertainties and lots of risks. When you have done everything right and you are fortunate to get the attention of potential investors, you don’t want to screw it up for yourself and your team.
A lot depends on how present your yourself, your ideas and your team. VC’s don’t have all the time in the world, you have to get it right and nail that pitch with the right elements. Some entrepreneurs don’t even get to the pitch stage unless the investor already sees some reason to believe in you and your idea. An investor who has already done his or her homework will have a list of question marks and reasons to not invest. An investor pitch is a great chance to kill those objections and cure those doubts — or else it almost surely won’t progress in the end.
It’s that opportune moment to shine and get that funding you desperately need to survive. Unfortunately most entrepreneurs get it wrong and go back to their offices with no funds. These are some of the biggest mistakes some entrepreneurs are making when they get that important opportunity in front of a VC.
1. Too much focus on wrong elements. Most entrepreneurs focus on the wrong elements of their presentation and therefore quickly lose the attention of the VC they are presenting to. Right from the beginning of your presentation, clearly state the one problem you have identified, your solution and why you think you and your team are the best people to execute it.
Some entrepreneurs are so passionate about their idea that, they fail to translate it into how this idea will benefit the ultimate customer. They try to sell the “technology” or the “process” that they have developed but don’t look at it through the eyes of their potential customers. Basically, they focus on the wrong element of their plan.
VC’s are not impressed with technology for the sake of technology. Terms like “aggregation”, “data mining”, “social networking”, etc. are sexy but they don’t solve anything by themselves. Objectives like “help people connect” or “give people access to information”, even if they describe a very focussed target market, just don’t make it.
A strong executive summary should answer the following questions to grab a VC’s attention:
1. What is the need in the market place that you are going to fill?
2. How big is this need, i.e. what is the potential size of this specific market?
3. How is this need being filled (or not being filled) now?
4. How is your solution different/better than the current solution(s) from the customers’ viewpoint?
5. Why are you the best person to make this happen?
2. They make projections instead of making plans. “Don’t put a freaking hockey-stick graph in the presentation and expect everyone in the room to ooh and ahh. Financial projections are guesses that rarely come true. What’s more impressive is your plan to get there. Investors know that your strategy means a lot more than your pretty pictures.” –Brent Beshore, AdVentures
3. Exaggerating management strengths. Remember, most VCs will do due-diligence… and most are experienced enough to know what is practical and what is fluff. E.g. for a professional with 2-years experience to claim “In my role as Client Services Manager I was responsible for formulating strategy and operations planning for fortune 500 clients” is usually not going to be an accurate representation of your role. However, “was involved with” instead of “was responsible for” is perhaps closer to reality.
4. Impractical and unrealistic growth projections. While aspiring for scale is important, planning ‘how’ you are going to achieve it is critical. Without a plan, aspirations of scale are merely a statement of intent. Investors invest in a team with plans… not just on statements of intent.
5. Poor assessment of the risks in your venture. All businesses have competition. VCs are not looking for businesses without risks… in the businesses they are interested in, they are looking for teams who understand the risks and have a plan to manage the risks.
6. They make something up when they don’t have all the answers. “Most investors are direct and are going to ask you the tough questions. That’s a good thing; it means they’re thinking about your idea. Don’t take feedback or tough questions personally or as personal attacks. Answer directly, and if you don’t know, say so. Don’t make something up”. –Nathan Lustig, Entrustet.
Some of the mistakes were first published on Quora.