Growing up, I never thought I would find myself in a situation where I would constantly be interacting with investors. I’m not exactly sure what I thought I would be doing, but in your optimistic youthful brain money just seems to come to you. You don’t have to ask explicitly for it.
Now, with ambitions for a successful software company and working with extremely talented people, it is required. At least in my current state. The goal to bootstrap was successful for a while but also limits growth and opportunities.
So, here I am. I am not sharing this as a resource with unbridled success behind my back. In fact, while we’ve had offers and term sheets at Speak Ai, I’ve mostly been unsuccessful in fundraising to date. However, I’ve learned a lot along the way. For both myself and hopefully for you, and as I prepare for several more investor meetings, I thought it would be great to share a bit of what I’ve learned.
In this article, I talk specifically about how to prepare for an investor meeting.
Align With Your Co-Founder(s)
Alignment with your co-founders is always crucial. In investor meetings, if you are not aligned, it is very obvious to investors.
Have a pre-meeting brief to review who the investor is, why they are interested in talking with you, what the goals of the meeting are and how you can make the best use of their time.
Remember that investors are often good people whose time is valuable. You want to help them learn something, focus on the right information, and instill confidence. If you can’t communicate well with them, how can investors expect you to communicate well with customers?
Review The Investor’s Portfolio
This is a big one. There may be some companies that you know. You can complement the company or share insights that show you have researched the investor, care about their work, and also boost credibility in terms of knowledge of startups and the space.
Additionally, you may know someone at the companies the investor has invested in. This can be a great connection point and also a reference for you and the investor.
Review The Investor’s LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a goldmine to understand investors before a meeting. Not only is their past experience professionally valuable, but you can also learn about their education and volunteer experience. All of these become data points for you and ways to connect more deeply.
Additionally, you can view connections, recent activities, and more important, posts, to get a better understanding of the investor you are about to speak with.
Develop an Investor SOP
An SOP is a standard operating procedure. Like anything in business, standardization and process are powerful.
I’m generally a talkative and overly transparent person. Strive to be honest but also strive to share the information that matters.
Our current investor SOP includes items like:
- What is your one-sentence pitch?
- What is your one-minute pitch?
- What is the problem you are solving?
- What are the details of the raise?
- What do we not want to say?
- What next steps do we want to take that we highlight at the end of the call?
- What is your business model?
- What is your defensibility?
- What is your runway?
- What is your valuation? How much will you raise?
- Why are you raising now?
- What is your churn?
A lot of these come from questions that we’ve heard multiple times, made a note of, and added into our investor SOP.
A lot of this may be answered in your slide deck, but it’s nice to have a simply formatted Google Doc, Word Document or Notion file that has this information easy to retrieve at glance.
However, you don’t want to sound rehearsed. Over time this becomes part of your knowledge that you can easily share without looking at your SOP.
Follow Your Daily Routine
Hopefully, this includes some exercise and activities that destress you and prepare you emotionally for exciting and intense conversations.
Think of yourself as an athlete. If you do everything you can to prepare yourself beforehand, the actual conversation and performance become easier.
Ask How You Can Make Their Time Worthwhile
I’ve found asking this both before the meeting and at the start of the meeting helps investors communicate how they would like to spend their limited time with you. With that shared, you have the ability to hone in on the information that matters and avoid anything that is outside of their priorities.
Know Your Metrics
This is always challenging, but investors expect you to know important metrics of your business off-by-heart and are able to respond very quickly. Any delay in responding can deteriorate confidence. This is less true in the early stages where there are a lot of unknowns. However, if you are tracking and know these metrics in an early stage then you can show an edge and differentiate.
One of my common mistakes. I love talking about the possibilities of our company and the big visionary applications. However, investors are placing a bet on you being able to build a business. Most likely, you don’t have the reputation of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk and those grandiose visions can make you seem like a risky bet.
Focus on current traction, problems you’re solving, and how that can grow. If it is appropriate, you can share the future world you are painting. But, you earn the right to get there through solving the painful customer problems of today.
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