How many of you are participating in entrepreneurship programs at universities, incubators, and accelerators? Then you have participated in business plan and pitch competitions for your venture, your startup. These pitch and business plan contests, conducted during and at the end of your studies, are one of many highlights of your hard work as the CEO of your venture.
Pitching is where the rubber meets the road. Where fantasy meets reality. Where your venture meets the outside world of investment.
Are you looking forward to this opportunity or do you dread getting up in front of a bunch of investors and presenting your venture?
Having an idea of who will be listening to your presentation allows you to Own the Room a lot more successfully than walking into a room full of strangers.
I recommend online speed dating your potential investor reviewers, for starters. Prevent walking into a minefield of a room when you show up to pitch your venture. Understand where their heads are at. Here are three tips to follow:
1. Identify the investor audience you will be presenting to. Take the time to research who, in the past, has served on review panels for various pitch and business competitions. Even if the current panel of judges is supposed to be top-secret, it’s a good guess to think that these investors may be pulled from the local community (ease of travel, access, familiarity with the program and quality of the ventures they are critiquing) or from a cohort of reviewers who have participated in the past three years or so.
2. Past and present investor review panelists have LinkedIn profiles and websites. They work for companies with websites. These websites have mission statements and a description of the types of ventures they focus on funding. On these websites are lists of their portfolio companies. These portfolio companies show you whether these investors like to color within the lines of their company’s mission statement or occasionally stray outside the lines of the typical companies in their portfolio.
3. What’s their portfolio status? Online search will tell you whether these investors’ portfolio funds are saturated with investments or nearing the end of the funding cycle – typically ten years per fund. Are these investors in the process of raising capital for new funding or are they in hunker-down mode?
This exercise is nothing more – or less – than a combination of customer discovery and prospecting for business development – something sales folks are involved with on an ongoing basis. Your mission is to determine whether the folks listening to your pitch might also become potential investors for your venture. Otherwise, they are a panel of subject-matter experts, assembled for purposes of providing invaluable feedback to competition participants.
Aligning your venture with appropriate audiences and investors is critical to moving your idea forward into the marketplace. Is this how you approach pitching? Perhaps I’ve described a habit you need to incorporate into your business development arsenal. Right now.
If you leave investment of your venture up to others – the organizers of entrepreneurship programs or pitch contests who select these panels of judges– you may be limiting the viability of your venture. You may be pitching to folks who simply aren’t in a position to fund your venture.
Speed date your investment ecosystem . Determine investor targets that may have a mission, funding history, and portfolio ready and willing to align with your venture. Aside from these reviewer-investors, who else is out there for your venture?
That’s your homework exercise.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, catalyzes revenue-producing business transition, startup growth and professional development, one millimeter at a time. She works with manufacturing and engineering firms and small business entrepreneurships.