Every year at WebSummit I approach about 250 investors and that way acquire 90-120 positive investor leads. This is how I got my last seed investor, who will also lead our next round. So how is it possible? Let me share some tips with you.
Which Investors You Need to Skip
You need to think about raising money as an investment sales funnel. Dedicate as little time per investment lead in the first stage as possible and put more in when you spot interest.
Having said that, at first you need to be active – it’s you, the founder who needs to approach the investor, not the other way around. At WebSummit its’s extremely easy – badges have different colours for investors.
However, not all investors are interested in your product. Investors have three major ways to narrow the flow of startups:
· By industry and business model (e.g. Fintech, B2B SaaS);
· By country/region your company is located or operates (e.g. US investors mostly look for US startups);
· By growth stage and required ticket size (concept, pre-revenue, growth, 50K to 500K).
It is crucial to get to know if you match investors’ criteria as soon as possible and save time. Trying to change their criteria is a waste of time (both yours and theirs).
Smart Approach to Investors
When I approach an investor, I start with a short question: “Hi, can I take you a second?”. If you get an unpolite “NO”, you are lucky because you do not want to end up with this kind of investor anyway. If it’s something like: “Sorry, but I need to go” you might try to follow him for a few more seconds and ask another question regarding the first investment criterium: “Just one question, do you invest in B2B SaaS?”. If you hear “NO”, you give up, if “YES”, you ask for a business card to send a Pitch Deck. This way you can have the lead in 15-30 seconds.
About half of the investors stop. Then you ask another question: “What kind of startups are you looking for?”. In one or two sentences you will find out the most important investment criteria for that investor. When you hear for example “I invest in Fintech”, you say “Ok, thanks, I am B2B SaaS”. That’s it – you only spent 30 seconds of your time to know that they’re not an investor for you. Remember not to convince the investor that your product is a future Unicorn – just start looking for another investor to approach. There are some investors that will ask you for more details. This is the moment when you can finally recite your elevator speech. Some of them will pass even at this point. That’s also ok – remember to give as little time as possible at an early stage at a conference with investors in abundance.
Show How It Works
Going further in our investors funnel, after a short Q&A session I usually propose to show a short film of how our system works (not a live demo yet) and most investors at this stage of conversation are willing to invest another minute to better understand your product. Sometimes they invite you to the investors lounge for a longer discussion – this is a good sign to devote more time to show the product (life demo etc.).
When an investor matches with me in the two first criteria but TakeTask investment it too early for him, this is when I also ask them for a business card: “Can I have your business card to send you short quarterly updates?”. Most of them agree.
Stay in Touch
After you get contact details – business card, scan in the app, LinkedIn connection, you MUST take a note from this short or long meeting. I do it in my TakeTask app (it’s an enterprise software not available for startups, so you need to find another tool) but you can even use a Google Keep app. You will need that info when you create personalised e-mails at a later stage.
At big conferences like WebSummit I rarely invite investors before the event as they probably got so many requests that they often do not reply. Even if they have arranged a meeting with you, some of them do not show up and that is a huge waste of your time. Waiting for them is when you could have been approaching other investors.
What I do is browse through the app after the conference, read the profiles and invite on LinkedIn only potential investors that match with my business. At smaller conferences, though, I use the app. A good example is Wolves Summit in Warsaw or Slush Helsinki, where the matching app is really useful and in two days, I have 25 organised meetings and another 20-30 leads from approaching investors the way I described above.
After the conference, I created a big Excel file to import contacts and tasks to my CRM. I invited all investors on LinkedIn, send them presentations and additional info that they asked for during our conversation and set the next task: “Send monthly update”. This way all investors I met at WebSummit got an email from me on Monday the following week. I send updates three or four times a year to over 300 investors. I started to update most of them long before they could be interested in investing in me, according to my growth stage and required investment size but with time they came back and asked for a conference call.