Seeking Venture Capital? This T.I.P. -- a Team, an Idea and a Plan -- Is Crucial to Follow.
If I had a dollar for each time I hear someone say that their new business idea should be a "no brainer" for investors, I could fund a few myself.
Indeed, some ideas are solid and could potentially result in very successful companies. The problem is that so many aspiring entrepreneurs have only an idea, and they fail to understand and overlook the other elements of a new business that attract investors.
The truth of the matter is that finding money for your startup is not difficult -- if you understand what an investor seeks. Only by putting yourself in the shoes of the investor will you understand and appreciate these three critical elements of an investment pitch.
Even the greatest idea is garbage if there is no team behind it that can execute and bring it to fruition. Moreover, investors often prioritize teams over individual entrepreneurs, as it is rare to find a single individual with all the necessary capabilities and experience to turn an idea into a business. Among many other things, investors are looking for teams of ambitious men and women who can credibly convince them that they are prepared and capable of executing on the idea.
Also important is that team members have "skin in the game," or some kind of financial commitment -- more than just sweat equity. For this reason, entrepreneurs should look to family and friends as their first investment pitch. Investors simply want to know that when the hot, steamy stuff hits the fan, each of the team members have more to lose than just their spent time and energy.
Because investors -- especially early-stage investors and venture capitalists -- understand there is a high risk of failure for most startups, they are looking for a return on their investment that is substantial enough to compensate for the many other losing ventures they will back. Investors therefore rarely look to fund or back a "lifestyle business" or a business run with the sole purpose of sustaining a particular level of income for its founders and no more.
That means new business ideas must have significant growth potential, and be scalable. So the question entrepreneurs need to ask themselves is if their big business idea is big enough.
For example, can you turn your unique restaurant idea into a franchise? Can your app idea be turned into a technology platform that can be licensed? Can you find ancillary products or strategic partnerships for your new product idea?
Finally, investors will want to know how the entrepreneur is going to successfully turn their investment into something big. A business plan is the best way to represent this, but be careful not to look upon it as a permanent, long term strategy. Instead, use the business plan to clearly lay out your current strategy, demonstrate knowledge and capabilities, outline contingencies and pivot opportunities, and most important, instill confidence.
If you are unsure where to start or how far to go, start by contacting the investor directly and inquiring what they want to see. Also, look to other entrepreneurs and mentors who can advise you as you develop your plan.
To demonstrate exactly what "overdoing" would look like, consider that for one of my earlier companies, we produced a business plan that was well over 200 pages in length. While some investors actually read it in its entirety, many commented that it was too detailed. In some cases, only the executive summary was considered when deciding to pursue or pass on the investment.
Of course, narrowing down a capital-raising strategy to these three (T.I.P.) elements may be over-simplifying the process a little, but they are a great litmus test to use before you even start. From here, you can and will refine your approach through experience, advice and feedback -- until you are ready to step in front of your first investor.