Want to get seed funding for your startup? You won’t get very far if you spend all of your time developing your pitch.
“Too many founders put all of the focus on pitching their project and not on building a relationship,” says Gerry Hays, co-founder and managing partner of Slane Capital. And I hate to say it, but I was one of those people.
Most investors don’t have time for your un-calibrated seed funding pitch.
When I first met Gerry, I wasn’t seeking seed funding. I was a senior at Indiana University (IU) in his non-traditional venture capital class who frequently abused his office hours to gain insight for my own business.
I was working on building my outsourcing and web development business. And Gerry was nice enough to help me find my way through a slow build (and eventual sale) of my business.
But Gerry isn’t your average seed investor. As an associate professor at IU, Gerry has a sense of moral obligation to help first-time student founders. Well, that and he’s just a genuine guy who wants to help. The harsh reality for entrepreneurs is that your pitch likely won’t find the patient ears of a Gerry Hays.
Most seed investors won’t give a damn.
And they shouldn’t. Since starting Verge nearly five years ago, I’ve heard literally thousands of pitches to active investors. Most founders forget the most important thing.
A pitch is a conversation.
If your pitch is script or a static series of slides, you’re doing it wrong. Even if the format of your pitch opportunity doesn’t allow for open dialogue, there’s a conversation going on between the ears of your listeners. And that conversation is built on the foundation of your relationship with that audience.
So if you want that conversation to come to life, give it some oxygen.
You won’t accomplish this by suffocating your audience with stats, features, and projected financials.
Find out what gets your prospective investor excited. I’m sure you’ve already done your homework on what kinds of deals your prospect invests in (right?). And you’ve probably already tailored your presentation to appeal to the goals of their seed fund or angel goals.
But who is Johnny Angel when he’s not coaching entrepreneurs or writing checks?
If I hadn’t eventually gotten to know Gerry Hays outside the classroom, I don’t know if I would have ever sold that business. And Gerry has helped me in more ways than as a mentor.
A good seed-funding conversation doesn’t have an end.
How can you help your potential seed investor?
People will always have problems that keep them up at night. Yes, even investors. So as an entrepreneur, it’s your job to care enough to help them sleep a little easier.
Good seed-stage investors also give seed funding to founders they want to genuinely want to help. And if you’re going to bring on active investors, you’d better be a good mentee.
Ask for help and follow up with frequent updates. Make your investor a part of your story and your relationship will grow along with your business.
Gerry and I are still friends. We’ve collaborated on a few projects and have grown the Verge community together over the years. But it’s the relationship that is the most valuable piece of our history (and it was essential for any business to take place).
So, next time you reach into your pocket for the the clicker to start advancing your pitch deck, ask yourself:
How can I build a relationship?