Unless you plan to fund your new business from your own bankroll, you most likely will need an investor at some point along the way.
Regardless of how great your business is, if you can't get someone to invest some money to launch it or help it grow, your venture doesn't have much chance of succeeding.
As a fund manager, investor and entrepreneur, Shereen Shermak, CEO of Launch Angels, has listened to and been a part of dozens of pitches. She said the key to making a strong impression on potential investors is being able to thoughtfully answer all of the questions they have.
Shermak said that in an investor pitch meeting, there are six questions that every entrepreneur should be prepared to answer, including:
- What's your complete competitive landscape look like — beyond just where you're playing? Entrepreneurs need to demonstrate that they understand, and respect, the competitive environment they are operating in. What sets them apart from the competition? I want to see that companies understand the growth and contraction trends of their competition, especially as it relates to their product or service. As part of understanding the competitive landscape, it's also very important to understand what areas entrepreneurs choose not to compete in and why they opted not to pursue those areas. Knowing where not to compete (because it is outside the current capabilities of the organization) demonstrates a high level of self-awareness.
- What's your competitive advantage? An entrepreneur must be prepared to talk about how his or her solution is better, faster or cheaper than existing solutions, as well as how much better, faster or cheaper it is. He or she should be able to quantify the customer value proposition, validate that the solution is better or provide data to indicate that such items are meaningful to the customer.
- What are your achievements and milestones? Are goals being met or is the company tracking well to meet them? Have there been setbacks that forced a change in plans? If so, what was learned from those situations? I am also very interested in upcoming milestones and challenges. How will an investment help reach those milestones? What are the biggest challenges, weaknesses and roadblocks, and how are they being addressed and overcome? Examples include key hires, change of revenue model or sales strategy.
- What are the risks? It's always better when entrepreneurs let potential investors know about the risks to their venture. It builds trust and again shows self-awareness, as well as a pragmatic view of the overall forces that may impact the company.
- What's the exit strategy? Every investor wants to talk about exit strategies, and they want to know that their investment companies have a sophisticated understanding of the exit strategies that would likely be available to the business. As an investor, I want to invest in companies that will have a positive return in a short to moderate time frame, such as three to seven years. Startups need capital, and I need a positive return on my investment. I want to know that the company is thinking about this balance of needs and is actively developing the product, partnerships, and network, and understands the motivations behind M&As in the company's industry that will facilitate that exit opportunity in the future.
- Why me? I want to know how an investment from mecan add value to an organization and help meet milestones. In my opinion, a smart entrepreneur has done his or her homework on potential investors and has strategically targeted me for a specific reason.