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To kick off the new year, we’re sharing our top tips on how SMEs can successfully seek investment or bag growth opportunities, featuring advice from key investors scattered throughout our blog posts.
For more information on our services, get in touch with our team.
“Starting and scaling a successful business is immensely difficult,” says Bridget Connell, Angel Investor, as she begins to share her thoughts with us. “Few people have got what it takes. I look for people who have outstanding drive and ambition. But also, I’m on the lookout for those who are self-aware and willing to seek out support.”
Contrary to the on-screen caricatures in film and television, venture capitalists and angel investors are not aggressively scouring for big suits in big cities with big ideas. It’s often the case that investors want to see a sturdy body of key team members who can share the weight of a start-up on their collective shoulders.
“Without the Right People, It’s Dangerous to Invest.”
Connell isn’t alone in her thoughts. At the Women Angels of the North Investment Forum, Jordan Dargue, Angel Investor, said: “You can have a great product, but without the right people, it can be dangerous to invest.” Above all, most investors want start-up founders to understand the importance of a powerful, confident and skilled set of employees pulling the strings behind a business because that’s what they’re looking for—they seek the promise of fruition. Investors want to put their money into a team that can expertly execute what is promised by an investment pitch. So, when it comes down to the wire and a start-up founder is preparing to dazzle potential investors, there are ways to improve a presentation using simple shared responsibility and a whole lot of complementary words about colleagues.
“What really works well is having someone experienced with skin in the game with you: a co-founder,” Connell states. “A combination of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) works really well, or CEO and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in tech start-ups.” Connell’s advice comes from experience—in her career, she has mentored start-ups and noticed those in their early stages, and alone, eventually begin to sink beneath the sheer volume of responsibilities.
“An early stage tech business without a first-class CTO might as well give up and go home.” The key takeaway from Connell’s advice is crystal clear. For those hoping to impress investors, common sense is essential: buddy up your skills. But that’s not all you’ll need to find seed money.
The Founding Team
The quality of a start-up’s founding team is just as important, Connell states.
“It’s the overriding factor I’ll consider when I’m looking to invest,” she says, before breaking down why: “A founding team must have the capacity to scale the business, and must consist of people who think big, have extraordinary ambition and are sufficiently self-aware enough to ask for support.”
Connell’s wish for start-ups to throw away pride and ask for help when needed harks back to her first suggestion that founders should couple-up, but her words mainly reiterate an important piece of advice: prioritise the teams’ skills. But what should a team look like when pitching a business?
Well, firstly, Connell says, there should be pictures of key team members accompanied by relevant work experience and accreditations.
“If a team member doesn’t have much work experience, I’m looking for relevant education. I’m looking for people who catch my eye. People who have a great background that sets them up well to deliver on the investment pitch.”
Additionally, Connell has extra requirements: “What is also essential for me to see is that a company has an advisory board. This tells me they’re surrounding themselves with support for growth. I look to see the quality of the advisors.”
Therefore, for SMEs, the search for seed money is a simple game. It’s about showing interested parties your willingness to receive help and seek out a partner; it’s about showing off colleagues’ skills, experiences and achievements as the foremost important aspect of your presentation; and it’s about using solidarity and coherence in a teams’ shared goals to promise the longevity and subsequent successes within a business.
By stylising a presentation pitch this way, and catering to the concerns of angel investors or venture capitalists, start-up founders will find faithful investors in no time.
If you’re looking for a guiding hand in your search for investors or other ways to generate business growth within your start-up or SME, visit our Business Trajectory Consultancy page to find out how we can help, or get in contact with our team.