Venture capital firms, business angels and investors are people who make money out of investing in upcoming or established businesses in exchange for a share of the company. Finding a good investor to back your business idea can be a great help, specially if you still control most of your business, but it’s also considerably more difficult than finding a small business bank loan and other types of finance. Investors have very clear ideas about what they expect of their investment, and you will need to be able to prove that your business idea has a high likelihood of being very profitable. If you are getting ready to raise money for your business, the following are some of the most frequent problems you may face:
This is often the worst problem a new entrepreneur may find when trying to sell his business idea to investors. You may know your product and have a strong feeling that it’s going to work, but you’ll need numbers to back your intuition to prove it to any investor. Investors are often entrepreneurs themselves, and know how to recognize a great business idea and a suitable person to make a profit out of that idea. They won’t put money on a business if the management (that’s you) doesn’t seem prepared or doesn’t know the target market intimately. A solid business plan and the ability to sell that business plan to another businessman are the key requirements to get your idea considered. Make sure you can answer uncomfortable questions, such as quoting data about your competition and showing an understanding of your audience and why your product is perfect for them.
Asking for too much, or offering too little
Investors often want a quick return on their investment, so if you are asking for a lot of money to launch your idea and you don’t expect to be profitable for a long time you should expect a hard negotiation ahead. You may be offered less money than you were after, or asked for a larger percentage of your business in exchange for it. Asking for a £20.000 investment in exchange for a 5% of a company that isn’t going to make any money the first year is just not going to work, no matter how good your idea is. An investor will think of ROI, and that means they want to own enough of your company to make a profit on your investment. Be prepared to negotiate, and remember that even if your business idea is great, the investor is also incurring a risk by trusting you and is understandable to want something in exchange for that.
Attitude, business management skills and dress codes
If the investor thinks that you are not really a good business person they may hesitate to provide you with their financial backing, no matter how good your idea is. If you come across as a great engineer but cannot show that you are also great at managing and sales you may be harming your chances of receiving funding, or you may find out that your investor actually wants to take an active part on your business instead of just letting you manage everything. Consider your meeting with the investors as a job interview, and as such aim to give an impression of security, professionalism and good business manners.
This often means wearing professional attire (yes, a suit, even if your business is an innovative ecological farm for casual artists) and being able to talk about your product in business terms, not only about its features or why it’s so great. If the investors see you as too young, too casual or too crazy they won’t invest because you’ll be seen as risky. If you can also show your experience as an entrepreneur without lying or being too obvious you may greatly increase your chances of success.