15 Unusual Ways to Find an Investor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Name one unusual way I might find an investor.

1. Your Former Boss

Brian PallasHaving known you professionally from a previous work experience, your former boss might be the best person to invest in your company in case he or she likes the idea.

– Brian PallasOpportunity Network

 

2. An Angel Group

Nick ChasinovThere are angel investing groups all throughout the United States that are actively seeking prospective new members. One unusual way to find an investor is to attend an angel group meeting as a guest to evaluate the opportunity as a prospective member. You will have full access to all attendees and an opportunity to network with a potential future investor in your company.

– Nick ChasinovTeknicks

 

3. Friends and Family

Nicole MunozThose closest to you might be more inclined to invest in you. Offer them a fair return on their investment, and make sure you stick to it. When you start small with those you know and who know you, you can fine-tune your process so that when it’s time to reach out to larger investors, you’re confident, professional, and well aware of what it takes to do business.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

 

4. An Adventurous Hobby

Adam SteeleFinding an investor who is passionate about your work is the holy grail, and finding them is easier when you already share a passion. Active hobbies like skiing have made it easy for me to meet people who work as hard as they play, and some of them have been in a good position to invest if I wanted to pursue that.

– Adam SteeleThe Magistrate

 

5. Customers

Nicolas GremionThey know your products and/or services. Hopefully they also enjoy using them, and they have some money to spend. So who better to ask? Done the right way, your customers should also appreciate that you’re trying to grow and offer better products/services. By demonstrating you have their best interest at heart it’s a win-win.

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net

 

6. Thought Leadership Articles

Brittany HodakI write regularly for Forbes — and semi-regularly for several other outlets — and although I’m not explicitly writing about my company, every piece is a reflection of it. I’ve had multiple VCs inquire about ZinePak because they landed on an article I wrote and saw that I have a marketing company. Writing is a wonderful way to boost your profile and reputation as an expert in your field.

– Brittany HodakZinePak

 

7. Social Clubs

Peter DaisymeSocial clubs are reemerging in major cities around the country and world for professionals and entrepreneurs to meet up and socialize. This offers a more low-key way to network that could potentially connect you to an investor over a social event, game of tennis or round of golf.

– Peter DaisymeInvoicing

 

8. First Class

Carter ThomasWhile this isn’t groundbreaking, it’s definitely not an actively pursued strategy for startups and founders. I’ve met some of the most influential people in first class simply because I have no competition for attention and the environment is self-qualifying. They know I’m legit because I’m there and I have to time to build a relationship before the pitch because I have more time than others would.

– Carter ThomasBluecloud Solutions

 

9. Someone You Don’t Expect

Christopher KellyTreat every person that you meet as being, at most, one degree removed from being your future investor, because they probably are. Next time someone asks, “What do you do?” answer as if they asked, “How can I help you?” This format works for investment, but it is just as applicable to business development or any other thing that you are trying to develop.

– Christopher KellyConvene

 

10. Vendors

Piyush JainWe are an IT services company and work for lots of startups. Sometimes, when a project is really good and our client lacks some funding, we also take some equity in the project. Lots of IT (also non-IT) vendors provide this option. Talk to your vendors and see if they would be interested in investing. It not only brings you money, but can reduce your cost.

– Piyush JainSIMpalm

 

11. Local Business Owners

Ismael WrixenIt might seem counterintuitive if they have a brick-and-mortar store and you’re starting a business in the online space, but you might be surprised to find that there are owners out there with enough capital and enough interest in modern business to want to invest in a startup.

– Ismael WrixenFE International

 

12. Meet Walter

Brian David CraneI really like Meet Walter, which is a powerful data-backed tool to help narrow down whom you should be pitching to. This is an “unusual” way to find an investor in that the tool can present people you’ve never heard of and who’ve invested in companies like yours.

– Brian David CraneCaller Smart Inc.

 

13. School

Drew HendricksIn more universities and colleges, there are programs and seminars led by investors and business people interested in moving into the investment world. As a student with a potentially good business idea, this is a good place to connect as the instructor may want to mentor and fund you after working with you over the course of a semester or other program.

– Drew HendricksButtercup

 

14. Outdated Advertising Platforms

Nathan HaleWith all the new ways we can get and stay in touch, we often forget there are still other avenues of communication. There are investors who aren’t on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, who still read the local paper, and who may know how to use Craigslist but have never been on Instagram. Use those odd channels to fish out potential investors; you’ll be surprised with what you find.

– Nathan HaleFirst American Merchant

 

15. Your Parents’ Circle

Alexandra Levit 2Millennial business owners often have high-performing parents. These parents and their friends, who are usually members of the Baby Boomer generation, are retiring from traditional work and looking for smart and intriguing places to invest their time, expertise and money. Work with your parents to host a party or outing where you share information about your business without a hard sell.

– Alexandra LevitInspiration at Work

14 Experts Explain the Difference Between a Good Pitch Deck and a Great One

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is one thing that distinguishes good pitch decks from great ones?

 

1. The Right Amount of Information

Kevin HenriksonIncluding too much information in your initial pitch can be counterproductive. Leave some questions unanswered and avoid over-sharing. It also helps keep the meeting focus on you and not reading slides.

– Kevin HenriksonOutlook iOS & Android @ Microsoft

 

2. The Presenter

Douglas HutchingsA good presenter can be more effective with blank slides than a bad presenter with the best slides. Make sure that you know your stuff, breathe, and focus on engaging your audience rather than pitching them. Having a conversation is the best outcome you could hope for, so encourage interruptions.

– Douglas HutchingsPicasolar

 

3. A Competitive Landscape Graph

Doug BendA compelling competitive landscape graph can effectively show investors how your product is distinct from others in the space. In a few seconds, it effectively conveys what makes your company unique and why they should get out their checkbooks to help take it to the next level.

– Doug BendBend Law Group, PC

 

4. Growth Curves That Demonstrate Traction

David CiccarelliAt the seed stage, investors invest in ideas that are explained through compelling stories. But once you’ve raised a few million, investors will want to see how efficiently you used the proceeds from your previous round. Demonstrate your traction by showing growth curves for your key performance indicators. Good traction is hard to ignore and will make them want to invest again.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

 

5. Graphic Design

Brandon StapperI see so many pitch decks with horrible graphic design and I immediately lose all respect for the presenter. It is so easy to improve a design these days. You can get it professionally designed on 99Designs.com for a few hundred bucks or download a template from Themeforest.net. Make sure your presentation is 10/10 quality and people will take you seriously.

– Brandon Stapper858 Graphics

 

6. Clarity

Trevor SummersSo often I see pitch decks that have proprietary concepts, unnecessary technical jargon or overly obscure ideas. Investors are looking for simple things in a pitch deck. What is the problem, what is your solution, who is your team, what’s the size of market, and how much money do you need to prove the opportunity? Don’t get too caught in overly intricate, vague or highly technical concepts.

– Trevor SumnerLocalVox

 

7. Brevity

Ben LangI find the shorter you can make the deck, the better. If you can explain everything concisely and efficiently that’s a good sign that you understand what you’re doing.

– Ben LangMapme

 

 

8. Past Strategic Plans and Real Data

Brandon DempseyA great pitch deck will include a company’s past strategic plan, complete with dates, and will have data demonstrating how the company did achieving the milestones they set out to achieve.

– Brandon DempseygoBRANDgo!

 

9. Focus

Andrew SchrageA good pitch deck hits all of the major points needed to secure investors. A great one does this while remaining focused and brief. It includes a maximum of 10 slides (if you’re using that format), and is no longer than 20 minutes. If you take the time to pare down your pitch deck, you should enjoy more success.

– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

 

10. The Right Amount of the Right Data

Nafus ZebarjadiInvestors want to see a solid command of the metrics that are important to your business. This includes a solid reading of key industry data supporting your hypotheses and an articulation of how your success should be measured (not vanity metrics). The best pitch decks are those that can clearly show your traction and the market potential through a few key data points.

– Nafis ZebarjadiMedicast

 

11. The Benefits to the Investor

Peter DaisymeA good pitch deck tells you about the business model and why it is different from the rest. However, a great pitch deck speaks directly to the investor in terms of what their involvement will do for them, especially how much money they will make through their investment and how long it will take to get that return. A great pitch deck also includes how that investor can participate in the success.

– Peter DaisymeHosting

 

12. Well-Organized Information Flow

dave-nevogtIf you can understand (and are inspired by) a pitch deck even without its presenter, it’s a great one. To make a pitch deck easy to understand, make sure it has all the needed components, answers all the important questions, and orders everything into a sensible flow of information. Limit one slide to one big idea, and hyperlink key sections to your references and other resources to learn more.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

 

13. Visual Communication

Amy BallietAs attention spans have continued to dwindle, savvy professionals have turned to visual communication tools like infographics and animated video to get their message across. Visuals get to the brain faster than any other form of communication and are retained 90 percent more often. When competing for money, powerful visuals will connect with your audience faster and ensure your pitch isn’t forgotten.

– Amy BalliettKiller Infographics

 

14. Metrics on Competitors and Market Share

Shawn SchulzeDoes the deck contain industry and competitor research? I want to know that the business plan has a solid understanding of the market it is in, the competitors, their market share, market growth, pricing and/or monetization strategies. I want a deck to demonstrate that the company has a general idea of the market it’s after and who it must compete with or create a better service than.

– Shawn SchulzeSeniorCare.com

14 Red Flags an Investor Is Not a Good Fit for You

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is one red flag that tells you an investor is not a good fit for you?

1. A Lack of Preparation

Luigi WewegeA dismissive attitude towards reviewing vital documents, such as an agreement proposal or strategic plans, is a red flag. After the initial due diligence, I like to have a one-on-one meeting scheduled with the investor to discuss the investment in depth, its financials, its motivation, and our company philosophy. Then I can be certain we’re a good fit and clarify any misunderstandings before moving forward.

– Luigi WewegeVivier Group

2. A Weak Network

Cody McLainWhen you partner up with an investor, you’re not just relying on their guidance and expertise. In many cases, you are also counting on having  some level of access to their network that will allow you to bring a superior product to the fore. If your investor is all money and no network, that’s a huge red flag. It means to me that we both won’t have a clue what do with his/her money.

– Cody McLainSupportNinja

3. Wanting to Change Who You Are

Laura LandIt constantly amazes me how many people will take a look an already successful business that is looking to grow and tell them to change the core of who they are or what their brand is. It’s a big red flag if the investor doesn’t understand and appreciate what is it that you already produce versus throwing out a million ways you could be a different company.

– Laura LandEMPIRE Cell Phone Accessories

4. Being Overly Emotional

Ty MorseBusiness can be stressful. When you see someone completely lose it — get emotional, upset, disturbed, or angry — during negotiations, you know that person does not have the maturity and professionalism you want in an investor. We’ve found people we thought were a good fit, but when we got into negotiations, they acted out. That’s when we knew we needed to get them out.

– Ty MorseSongwhale

5. A Lack of Niche-Experience

Adam SteeleIf you’ve never worked in/have no experience with my industry and niche, I can’t be sure of what your motivations are. What I am pretty sure of though, is that you didn’t pick us out of a fundamental understanding of what we do. Assuming that, I will be uncomfortable with almost any level of influence you want to exert over our operations.

– Adam SteeleThe Magistrate

6. Focusing Too Heavily on the Exit

Travis HoltWhen the first question out of their mouth is about the exit, I know it’s time to run for the hills. The exit is the product of many long hours, tough decisions and wrong turns. If the investor isn’t interested in being there for the process, they’re going to grow impatient and be a drain on your most valuable resource — your time!

– Travis HoltBrush Creek Partners

7. Not Understanding the Stage You’re In

Omer TrajmanEvery stage of growth needs a different kind of investor. Early on, look for an investor who thinks like a business partner. As you grow, ideal investors are on the same page as you are in terms of target customers, model for the business, and eventually look to invest based on your financials. At each stage, the red flag is different. Overall the biggest red flag is a mismatch in expectations.

– Omer TrajmanRocana

8. Asking About Becoming a Board Member Too Soon

Afif KhouryAll money is not the same. Investors can make or break your business. One red flag you definitely need to be aware of is the investor asking about being a board member early in your talks. This is a reasonable question, but should come later in the process. If you’re asked this at your first meeting, you are probably dealing with someone who is going to try to micromanage you and your team.

– Afif KhourySOCi, Inc

9. Wanting You to Fill a Quota

Brittany HodakZinePak is self-funded, but I’m constantly shocked by how many would-be investors approach me and say things like, “We’re looking for more women-led companies in our portfolio,” or “I like that you guys aren’t tech-first. I need five non-tech companies this year.” If/when we take on investors, it will be because they believe in our company and mission — not because they want to check a box off for their portfolio.

– Brittany HodakZinePak

10. Having Unrealistic Expectations

Nicolas GremionIt’s okay to take on an investor with limited investment or industry experience.  But be careful when it comes to taking one on with unrealistic expectations. For example, becoming an overnight sensation, or wondering why Warren Buffett hasn’t asked how many zeros your acquisition check should contain. Make sure they either understand the investment landscape or can be realistic about it. .

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net

11. Not Respecting Your Time

jeff epsteinInvestors are busy. The fastest way to get on their bad side is to waste their time. The same should be true for you. I’ve found that the best investors respect my time as much as their own. If they don’t during the ‘courting’ process, you better believe they won’t when they are on your board (or have rights).

– Jeff EpsteinAmbassador

12. Dwelling on Mistakes

Jayna CookeRed flags depend on what you are looking for. Are you looking for additional resources or just money? We’re looking for investors who approach things as opportunities for improvement rather than dwelling on mistakes. At the end of the day, if you can’t see yourself having a beer with them, then I don’t suggest doing business with them.

– Jayna CookeEVENTup

13. Wanting Too Much Control

Shawn PoratWhen I’m looking for investors, I want someone who believes in my company and who also trusts me to continue to make the major decisions. If I want to relinquish control, I’ll just sell the business. But it’s a red flag if an investor expects his investment to give him the right to start making all the decisions. So I prefer investors who believe in my vision and doesn’t want too much influence.

– Shawn PoratFortune Cookie Advertising

14. Poor References

Jonny SimkinMost companies go through at least one rough period. You need an investor that will support you through the good times, but even more so during the bad times. The best way to find out if an investor is supportive during the bad times is to talk with founders who have raised money from the investor you’re speaking with.

– Jonny SimkinSwyft

13 Tips for Determining Your Company’s Valuation Prior to Starting Fundraising

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What top tip do you have for determining your company’s valuation prior to starting fundraising?

1. Determine How Much Cash You Need Over the Next 18 Months

Mark CenicolaTry to raise money at a valuation that will leave you and your founders in control and provide you with enough cash to execute your plan over the next 18 months. If you can’t do that, then either change your plan or seek other investors. It may take a lot of no’s before you find investors who say yes.

– Mark CenicolaBannerView.com

 

2. Look at Comparables

Jonny SimkinThe easiest thing to do is find comparable companies, see how much they raised and what their valuations were. A great resource is angel.co for tech companies. Once you have a sense of what the market will value your company at, start talking with investors and test that valuation. If they think it’s reasonable, proceed. If they laugh at your valuation, revise and try again.

– Jonny SimkinSwyft

3. Find Balance

Omer TrajmanThere’s no hard and fast rule for setting valuation. It’s a negotiation between the company and investor. The company needs to have several interested investors (multiple term sheets really) in order to negotiate. Most important is finding a balance between cash needs and the implicit expectations that come with the valuation. The non-financial terms of an investment are often just as important.

– Omer TrajmanRocana

4. Ignore Industry Buzzwords

Matthew MoisanValuation of a pre-revenue company will always be tricky. Avoid the industry pitfalls of focusing on buzzwords like “traction” or “hotness,” and instead consider the following: Calculate how much you need for 18 months of growth. Then, figure out how much of the company you are willing to give in exchange. Let’s say you want $200,000 for 20 percent — then the range of valuation will be around $1 million.

– Matthew MoisanMoisan Legal, P.C.

5. Have as Many “Friendly” Meetings as Possible

Aaron SchwartzEarly on, there is no easy way for you to independently set valuation. You might be profitable, or you might be growing, but there are no companies on your same trajectory. Before any formal fundraiser, I spend a few weeks with investors and founders whom I know will not invest. Multiple viewpoints will help you narrow in on value, and friends tearing apart your pitch makes you better for primetime!

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

6. Do Your Homework

Zohar SteinbergEarly on, valuations are a function of the impression you make on your investors. Investors are looking to make as much money as they can and reduce the risk they are taking. Showing examples of similar companies’ valuations in different stages will do just that. Show your investors that you did you homework and that you’re basing your valuation on a proven model.

– Zohar Steinbergtoken

7. Know What Details Are Important

Jordan FliegelRely on your investor to make an offer and place a value on your company. You don’t need to mention or hint at what you expect the valuation to be. You do, however, need to be prepared to say how much money you are raising, and what you plan to do with the new funding to grow your business. Once you have a lead investor, it’s easier to fill out the rest of the round on the same terms.

– Jordan FliegelCoachUp, Inc.

8. Focus on Growth Potential

Obinna EkezieWhen raising capital, focus on growth potential versus how your business is currently performing. If you are going to raise money from a VC, you’ll want to put together, at a minimum, 24-month revenue projections. If your business will take longer to develop into a revenue producing machine, you may want to project out 3-5 years. Leverage revenue growth to shoot for highest valuation possible.

– Obinna EkezieWakanow.com

9. Use a Third Party

Adam RootIt will have more credibility than pulling a number at random. Early Growth Financial is great for very early stage companies and Silicon Valley Bank is helpful after you have received funding and want a 409A valuation or deep analysis on what other startups similar to yours are worth.

– Adam RootSocialCentiv

10. Listen to the Market

Mattan GriffelIn the early stages, determining a valuation for fundraising is more of an art than a science. It’s more about what you can convince investors you’re worth than about applying a multiple or doing a discounted cash flow analysis. Start out with a fairly conservative number based on comparable valuations, and don’t be afraid to adjust it based on how the investors you talk to respond.

– Mattan GriffelOne Month

11. Seek Input From Peers

Douglas BaldasareIf this is your first round, get input from peers about what you can realistically raise based on your industry and stage. Then soft circle to a few friendly investors (friends and family) with your desired terms. It’s harder for new investors to change the terms once you have already raised some of the round. I also recommend Fenwick & West’s venture surveys. They offer data on average valuations.

– Douglas BaldasareChargeItSpot

12. Don’t Get Caught Up

Katrina LakeMost outcomes are binary. You’re going to make money, or you’re going to make none. I see a lot of entrepreneurs nickel and dime valuations and focus on dilution at the expense of a quality investor. You should focus on what is most likely to get you on the successful side. Valuation and dilution are only one element of the decision you are making and I encourage people to have a long-term approach.

– Katrina LakeStitch Fix

13. Know the Demand and Longevity

Fam MirzaCompany valuation should be determined by demand and longevity of a business. Most tech company valuation is built off the growth of a user database. The goal is to build up a massive amount of users to monetize on them somewhere in the future, usually in the form of ads and data capitalization. However, for product based companies, it’s based off demand for the product and lifecycle of the brand.

– Fam Mirza1:Face

11 Ways to Practice for a Pitch Competition

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s the best way to practice for a pitch competition?

1. Record Yourself on Video and Watch It Back

Brittany HodakWhile practicing for “Shark Tank,” one of the most intimidating pitch competitions on the planet, I found it very helpful to video my pitch and watch it back until I was satisfied with my performance. Watching on video with another person for objective feedback, if possible, is a great way torecognize and correct any flaws in your speech, hand movements, posture and more.

– Brittany HodakZinePak

2. Practice With a Time Limit

Andrew ThomasThe hardest part of pitch competitions is the short time you have to make the pitch. Plan for success by timing yourself while youpractice. There are two benefits. First, you can alter the length to ensure you‘re as concise as possible. Second, you can create mental “markers” so you know where you are in your pitch for each minute of the pitch. This helps keep pace when you feel nervous.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

3. Write and Rehearse

Corey BlakeAs a frequent presenter, I set up time blocks in my calendar — one hour per day, four days a week for two weeks. During that time, I rewrite my presentation from scratch each time. Writing it over and over helps solidify the key points in my mind. Then I set up time blocks to actually go through it out loud and I’m ready to rock. The key to this formula is keeping those appointments with yourself!

– Corey BlakeRound Table Companies

4. Don’t Have Too Many Notes

Kofi KankamMost slide presentations have too many notes. Try practicing your presentation with an increasingly fewer set of words each time untilyou can whittle it down to seven words or so and give a consistent presentation. Then, you are ready.

– Kofi KankamAdmit.me

 

5. Practice in Front of the Meanest Friends You Have

dave-nevogtGet people from your circle of friends who have the most difficult personalities and tell them you want them to be really mean to youwhile you present. Tell them that if they make you lose your cool, you‘ll buy them coffee or something similar. Then don’t stop practicing until you can get all the way through without losing focus. You‘ll go into the pitch competition with total confidence.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

6. Practice Using a Microphone

David CiccarelliSo many entrepreneurs obsess over their slides but fail to grasp the basics of a good performance. Project your voice by speaking louder than you think is necessary. If you can, practice with a microphone. Hold the microphone right up to your chin, literally against your face. And never point the microphone at the speakers. That’s what causes that screeching feedback.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

7. Forget That It’s a Competition

Blair ThomasRather than trying to “beat out” your competitor, remember that the point is to win the pitch for your business. If your pitch is off, it doesn’t matter who you‘re competing against, you will have lost an opportunity without any intervention from anyone else. Refine your language and messaging; be passionate about what it is you‘re trying to communicate. Lastly, be clear, concise and confident.

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

8. Learn From Others

Cody McLainIn order to make it less intimidating for yourself, watch how someone else presents a pitch — there are plenty of TV shows dedicatedto this (“Dragon’s Den,” “Shark Tank”). If you can see what went wrong (or right) in someone else’s pitch, you can just as well incorporate those properties into your own.

– Cody McLainSupportNinja

9. Practice With Distractions

Afif KhouryHave your kids run in front of your screen, have your Internet go out — create imperfect scenarios. You know your pitch, and if everything runs smoothly, you’re fine. But this is the real world. It’s not going to go smoothly. Every time I help an entrepreneur practice for a pitch competition, I close his or her computer halfway through and say, “Your computer just died, but please continue.”

– Afif KhourySOCi, Inc

10. Make Your Own Slides

Andy KaruzaYou will be much more well-versed with your presentation if you actually make it. Surprisingly, some people have others make portions or even all of the presentation deck. Spend the time to make the content yourself, but have somebody else make it look nice if you need it. Your memory retention is higher for something you actually write or create.

– Andy Karuzabrandbuddee

11. Practice Like You Play

Eric MathewsDavid Cohen of TechStars fame said it best: “Practice Like You Play.” Put yourself into the same context and setup as you will find at the competition. That means standing up without notes, do-overs or looking at the screen. You stand and deliver a pitch in practice as if the judges and investors were standing right in front of you. Otherwise, you risk practicing in mistakes and crutches.

– Eric MathewsStart Co.

 

11 Instances When You Should Ignore Advice From an Investor or Advisor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

When should you ignore advice from an investor or advisor?

1. It Isn’t True to Your Mission

Michael SpinosaIgnoring advice is never easy, but it is necessary when people blindly apply detailed actions or tasks to a situation/model you know they haven’t fully comprehended. Large scale recommendations that go against the very principles of why you embarked on this journey should be disregarded. Stay true to your mission. Keep external advice focused around common occurrences.

– Michael SpinosaUnleashed Technologies

2. The Context It’s Based on Is Outdated

Michael KleinmannSometimes investors/advisors think because they have 30 or more years of experience than you, they know how to handle situations. While many situations are the same as they used to be once you peel back the layers of the onion, many are not. Reframing the advice in the context of modern business and listening to your gut are very important.

– Michael KleinmannThe Underwear Expert, Inc.

3. They Can’t Substantiate It

Andrew ThomasIf you receive advice from an investor or advisor that just doesn’t feel right, ask them to support their position. If they can’t articulate exactly why they advocate for a certain decision or can’t substantiate their position with past experiences, then you should consider passing on the advice. When asking, politely state that you want additional insight so you can better understand.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

4. Their Background Isn’t Aligned With What You‘re Doing

Brandon StapperI also consider the background of the investor/advisor and take their advice accordingly. Everyone wants to give you advice, and there is such a thing as bad advice. If you are taking business advice, make sure they’ve personally been there and done that.

– Brandon Stapper858 Graphics

 

5. It Doesn’t Resonate

Erica EasleySavvy leaders are good listeners, but that doesn’t mean they take all advice they are given. If advice, even from a key advisor, doesn’t resonate with you, than it isn’t the right move for your business. That said, ignoring advice from respected sources is sloppy. Reflect on what you don’t agree with, and why you are choosing a different path. That reflection will make you and your company stronger.

– Erica EasleyGumball Poodle

6. They Interfere in Day-to-Day Activities

Piyush JainInvestors and advisors are there to support long-term goals and management, not for micromanagement. As a business owner, youshould have full freedom for day-to-day operation. If investors/advisors are meddling with your daily work or tend to advise you on trivial items, you want toignore them or express your displeasure. You can listen to them, but be the final decision maker.

– Piyush JainSIMpalm

7. It’s Hard and Fast

Dan GoldenAdvice, whether paid or free, is just that — advice. It’s never a “must do.” It’s a “Hmm, maybe I should.” When it comes to not taking advice, any that comes hard and fast is usually worth turning down. “Dan, you have to change;” or “Dan, I’ve seen this a million times, you‘re doing it wrong!” I still consider the source, but most often, I won’t implement.

– Dan GoldenBe Found Online

8. It’s Short-Term

Elle KaplanAt LexION Capital, I advise a long-term approach to investing, and the same holds true for entrepreneurship. Chasing short term gains will not ensure long-term success. You should always be looking at how advice will affect you years down the road, because any gains now could be ruined out by potential damage in the future. Any advice that doesn’t follow this should be thrown out the window.

– Elle KaplanLexION Capital

9. They Are a “Check-in Advisor”

Roger BryanThe number one thing to look out for is advisors or mentors that are assigned to you via an incubator or accelerator that seem to jump in, have a bunch of ideas, and then jump out of conversations. These advisors are very easy to spot after about one or two meetings. They want you to make major critical changes but then don’t respond to emails when you have questions. Fire them fast (you can).

– Roger BryanEnfusen Digital Marketing

10. Never Ignore Advice

Mark SamuelNever ignore advice. The real question is whether or not you use that advice or act upon that advice, but you can’t do either if yousimply ignore it. If someone is offering guidance, be happy to receive it, whether or not it’s in line with your own thoughts. It allows you to look at it from another position and evaluate which direction to choose.

– Mark SamuelFitmark

11. It Ignores Customer Data

Adam RootInvestors and advisors provide invaluable expertise, but they can be wrong. If you suffer from the HIPPO complex (i.g., Highest-Paid-Person’s Opinion counts most), remember: that’s not your customer. If investors ignore customer data, ignore them. Following such advice shows your customers, employees and colleagues that you cower when things get tough.

– Adam RootSocialCentiv

15 Ways to Reach Potential Funders on Kickstarter or Indiegogo

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is the best way to reach potential funders when launching a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign?

1. Find Influences in Your Niche

Andrew ThomasIn the beginning of the campaign, I recommend reaching out to bloggers and influencers in your niche, either directly or through an early-stage PR firm. Find people who will join your mission and share it with their community. You want to focus on your niche and avoid casting too wide a net. This was a key part of our success — raising almost $600,000 on Indiegogo for our video doorbell.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

2. Snowball Fast with Media Support

Jonathan LongSuccessful crowdfunding campaigns all have one thing in common: They launched with a bang. When sites like Mashable and TechCrunch write a story about a crowdfunding campaign, it creates instant credibility and the campaign snowballs into a funding monster. Establish media contacts well in advance and make sure your campaign has some major press ready to help you get it out there at launch.

– Jonathan LongMarket Domination Media

3. Work With a Strong Marketing and PR Company

Ken CauleyCrowdfunding is the future, no doubt about that. But success in crowdfunding is easier said than done. As this space continues tomature, startups will need to hire a qualified company to help manage the marketing and PR element of successfully raising capital.

Ken CauleyAdvanced Media

 

4. Start Early

Wei-Shin Lai, M.DWe funded in less than two hours, and it was because we did a lot of promotional activities before the campaign launched. We sent press releases to the local media, which put us on air and in the papers. We let our social media fans know, and we sent out emails to tell previous customers the exact hour of the launch. I exported my contacts from Gmail and sent most of them emails using the BCC field.

– Wei-Shin Lai, M.D.AcousticSheep LLC

 

5. Create a Video

Stanley MeytinCreate more content to encourage people to invest in your project. Consider creating videos like behind-the-scenes, inside the technology, or even a simple video that will update funders on the campaign progress. You want to create content that will make people excited about the product or service, leading them to share within their communities.

– Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

6. Connect With Bloggers Who Reach Your Audience

Andy KaruzaGo after the major PR channels, but don’t count out the smaller, tier-two bloggers who still have a considerable following. It’s pretty easy to identify the audience they cater to based on their profile and the types of articles they write about. Many of them who would be happy to review and share your product with their followers without requiring a large budget to do it.

– Andy Karuzabrandbuddee

7. Launch An Event

RahulAn event already has a captive audience, press, influencers, bloggers and the potential for your product to go viral. The Pebble Watch, for instance, launched at SXSW. It surely helped Pebble get the word out there. They went on to have the most successful (potentially second highest grossing campaign) Kickstarter launch. You can even run an event-specific promotion for your campaign.

– Rahul VarshneyaArkenea LLC

8. Find Social Media Influencers

Marcela DeVivoUnless you are a social media rockstar already, leveraging your social circles won’t yield much visibility. An ideal way to gain massive exposure is to reach out to existing influencers on Youtube, Instagram and other channels and tell them about your campaign. Additionally, write for sites like Buzzfeed, Medium.com and Linkedin Voices to get instant visibility.

– Marcela DeVivoHomeselfe

9. Give Back

Miles JenningsAs an incentive for funders to put money into your Kickstarter campaign, give them something back for their donation and contribution toward your idea. You could give them anything from a branded T-shirt to a coupon to your products and/or services. You could even make them a part of your company in some way. This will push funders to get involved and even stay involved in the future.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

10. Get Feedback

Andrew SchrageElicit feedback from potential donors and use this to improve your pitch and overall campaign. Folks will be more willing to invest when they’re engaged and involved.

– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

 

11. Spend to Get Started

Blair ThomasAlthough you‘re already looking for funding to help launch your business, spend some of that all important starting capital on hiring contractors to make your campaign a worthwhile endeavor. A well-designed, well-written page, with focused content and clear messaging, can go a long way — and it’s going to take a team of (part-time) professionals to ensure a win!

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

 

12. Learn from Others

Clayton DeanCrowdfunding is a challenge and there’s no exact science to it, but you can start on the right foot by researching what other successful Kickstarter or Indigegogo campaigners have done to generate visibility. Better yet, find and connect with them on Twitter or Facebook and ask them. From my experience, most are more than happy to share their strategies and fundraising secrets.

– Clayton DeanCirca Interactive

13. Facebook Ads

Andrew TorbaFacebook advertising is something you should consider experimenting with for crowdfunding campaigns. Set up a few small budget experiments to test out different target markets and see how well they convert. Start small and scale as you learn what works best. Facebook’s video ads are also great for creating awareness and driving traffic back to your campaign page itself.

– Andrew TorbaAutomate Ads

14. Build an Email List in Advance

Mattan GriffelBefore running a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, it’s very important to build a potential audience to promote your launch to; ,otherwise. you‘re starting at zero. One of the best ways to do this is to set up a blog-style site using Weebly, Squarespace or WordPress, and start writing regularly. You should shoot to get to at least 1000 emails before launching any sort of crowdfunding campaign.

– Mattan GriffelOne Month

15. Ask Mom and Dad to “Kick Start” Your Campaign

Obinna EkezieSuccessful Kickstarter campaigns generate social proof by getting backers right out of the gate. The most tried and true way to get early backers is to start with first level connections. Family (mom and dad), friends, co-workers, whatever it takes. Kickstarter investors invest in companies with traction. Don’t launch a Kickstarter campaign without having early friends and family backers.

– Obinna EkezieWakanow.com

12 Ways to Come Across as More Trustworthy During a Startup Pitch

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s your No. 1 tip for coming across as more trustworthy during a startup pitch?

1. Be Aware of Your Body Language

Darrah BrusteinYour body language says a lot without you saying anything. Be sure to maintain eye contact, face your body toward your audience, and if it’s natural for you, express your passion through your hands. Don’t cross your arms and legs, as it makes you seem uncomfortable and could come off as though you’re hiding something.

– Darrah BrusteinNetwork Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

2. Acknowledge the Risks

Kevon SaberThe best entrepreneurs don’t pretend their startup doesn’t have any risk. Instead, they manage risk better than everyone else. When you articulate your biggest risks and your plan for mitigating them, you demonstrate you’re a critical thinker who will manage their cash and the opportunity in a disciplined way.

– Kevon SaberJellyTelly

3. Listen and Don’t Interrupt

Andrew ThomasListening is a great way to earn their trust. By listening, we demonstrate a willingness to receive and learn from feedback. Also, don’t interrupt. This shows respect for the other person and their ideas. Investors hear plenty of pitches from hyperbolic founders who interrupt them or always have an answer for every question. Be humble.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

4. Don’t Fake It

Corey BlakeIf you want to build trustworthiness, stop pretending you have all the answers. Acknowledge what you don’t know, and be honest about the fear you have as you embark on this journey. Being honest goes a long way to extending trust. It doesn’t mean that you’ll win every time, but when you do, you’ll be in alignment with your investor.

– Corey BlakeRound Table Companies

5. Show Solid Data

Nicolas GremionDemonstrate that your research and ideas are based on strong foundation of solid data. Make sure your info is recent, from reliable sources and compatible. Avoid vague statements and numbers. Be precise when you can and use supporting evidence. If your proclamations and numbers seem dodgy, so will you. If you come across as well prepared and researched, it will add to your credibility.

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net

6. Bring Someone Experienced Along

Matt DoyleWhether it’s someone close to you who’s willing to help you through this stage, or someone you’ve paid for their consulting services, a veteran always looks good on your side of the table. Bringing experience into the leadership early is reliable proof to investors that you are taking this venture seriously.

– Matt DoyleExcel Builders

7. Relax

jared-brownAny nervous tics you have will come out during a startup pitch if you don’t relax. Many of these tics, like failing to make eye contact, sweating, talking too much or too fast, or not talking enough, are often interpreted as a lack of trustworthiness. People respond much better to relaxed people than to someone who’s wound up, so find a technique you like and practice it as much as you can.

– Jared BrownHubstaff

8. Don’t Come Across as Too Eager or Desperate

Shawn PoratWhile you naturally want to be enthusiastic and persuasive, don’t be too attached to the outcome of any one meeting with a potential investor. Think of it as a conversation where you’re explaining your idea. If the other person is interested, great; if not, you can always approach others who are more suitable. If you are too eager, the other person can sense this and trust you less.

– Shawn PoratFortune Cookie Advertising

9. Stay Levelheaded

Mark SamuelIt’s very important to remember that when you’re pitching your idea, you’ll always be the most passionate person in the room. If you’re already fired up, take a step back and slow it down a little. Most people making the decisions will remain very levelheaded, so you want to passionately convey your idea without overkill, or you’ll scare them off. Make them believe in your idea.

– Mark SamuelFitmark

10. Share a Compelling Story

Lauren PerkinsWhether that means admitting something you’ve been wrong about or sharing a story from your past, investors are people, and they invest in people. Share a compelling story of how and why your idea came to be and why you are the best team for the opportunity. It helps to admit what you need to validate or learn to get to the big win.

– Lauren PerkinsPerks Consulting

11. Make Them Part of the Equation

Miles JenningsInvestors and venture capitalists don’t want to be treated solely as a source of funding. They want to know that they can be a part of your vision too! When pitching, make the story about them. Involve them in the outcome and success of your company and show that they can be an integral part of your dream in the future. They will be able to see much more value in this kind of opportunity.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

12. Be Overprepared

SathvikTantryThe best way to garner confidence and trust in your startup is to anticipate and prepare for any curveballs ahead of time. To do this, you need to poke holes in your own business plan and understand all the risks associated with your startup ahead of time. Then you need to figure out how to either accept or mitigate each one of those risks and back them up with solid numbers and market research.

– Sathvik TantryFormSwift

12 Things You Should Do After a Promising Meeting With a Potential Investor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one thing I should do AFTER a promising meeting with a potential investor?

1. Check In

Alec BowersShow initiative after the meeting and proactively address your follow-up points (at the end of the meeting you should have set some items to follow up with). Don’t wait longer than 8 to 12 hours. Investors want to see your initiative, your attention to detail and how good you are at executing follow up. Many a startup has lost investors due to poor/incomplete follow up.

– Alec BowersAbraxas Biosystems

2. Act on Their Feedback

Jason LaIt’s essential to be a prudent entrepreneur and address potential investors’ feedback before scheduling another meeting with them. Investors believe in the adage “actions speak louder than words,” so demonstrate that you have taken action to address their concerns. Some entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their venture that they ignore valuable feedback and continue to solicit financing.

– Jason Thanh La, Merchant Service Group, LLC & K5 Ventures

3. Ask Questions

Bhavin ParikhA common mistake that founders make is coming across as too desperate. You want to show investors that they need to prove themselves to you as well — you are a scarce resource. In your follow up, you‘ll want to thank them for their time, but you also want to ask them to sell themselves to you with questions like, “Can you give me an intro to a founder you‘ve invested in?” You need to play the game!

– Bhavin ParikhMagoosh Inc

4. Keep Them Updated

Sohin ShahEven if a meeting goes well, it doesn’t guarantee closing. The best way to work towards converting interest into commitment is by keeping the investor in the loop on progress and new initiatives. This helps build their confidence in you, in your product/company and allows them to feel like a part of the team.

– Sohin ShahIFunding

5. Improve Your Fundraising Deck

Aaron SchwartzAfter you thank the investor, suggest next steps and take three minutes to celebrate, you must re-focus on your fundraise. Take all of the feedback from the meeting and use it to improve your deck. First, reflect on which insights impressed the investor, and emphasize them in the future. And just as importantly, take the questions they had and make sure you‘re better prepared for the next meeting.

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

6. Re-engage With Them

Blair ThomasIt’s important to keep your deck up to date and find constructive and effective ways to re-engage with your potential investor. Keep communication high by providing news of new milestones, new opportunities and goals won, and by creating a general feedback loop. This can go a longway in keeping your investor interested. Show them you‘re a highly proactive owner.

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

7. Track Everything

john ramptonRight after a promising meeting (or sometimes before) you‘re going to be sending them a pitch deck. Make sure you‘re tracking everything. I personally use PandaDoc for this. It will show you what pages they are looking at, not looking at and how long they are looking at each page. Next, follow up with them accordingly.

– John RamptonDue

8. Send a Memorable Gift

Drew GurleyYou have a small time frame to make a big impression. A great way to follow up is to use a memorable and unique gift. I actually learned this in a boot camp a couple years ago from a corporate gifting guru. A thoughtful gift doesn’t need to be expensive; it needs to show you paid attention and care about the relationship. Send it quickly and stay top of mind.

– Drew GurleyRedbird Advisors

9. Do What You Say You Are Going to Do

Shawn SchulzeSo many investor meetings are full of discussion, ideas and intentions. If you propose all of the things you are working on and thatyou intend to do, then show the investor that you are doing them. Talk is just talk. Follow up with the investor to give them a concise list of progress being made. Show them you are progressing and committed to doing what you say you are going to do.

– Shawn SchulzeSeniorCare.com

10. Say Thank You

Nicole MunozThanking someone for their time and consideration shows that you are thoughtful and appreciative. Be sure to mention that you truly appreciate their attention. Try to slip in any loose ends you feel weren’t addressed. Let them know you‘ll follow up in a few days/weeks to touch base again in case they have any more questions. Lay the groundwork to ask for referrals at the next meeting.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

11. Send Favorable Market Research

David CiccarelliInvestors want to know that others have quantified the size of the market opportunity. It’s one thing for you to give your assessment, but it’s much stronger for the investor to learn about the industry and current trends in a third-party report. If you don’t have access to the full PDF report, consider linking to an article on eMarketer, Forrester, or Gartner in your follow up note.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

12. Call Another Potential Investor

Justin BoggsDon’t stop until that money hits the bank account. So, calling the next investor increases your odds of getting a check, plus you will carry that positive energy into the call. Additionally, telling the next investor how good the previous investor meeting went puts the pressure on them to get in the game.

– Justin BoggsZeeBerry.com

Learn more about Monthly Investor Updates:

Watch the interview with Justin Miller and learn how his monthly updates helped land his startup with $10 million in funding: http://vergehq.com/2015/08/24/how-monthly-investor-updates-scored-10-million/

13 of the Smartest Questions Investors Ask Entrepreneurs

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is the smartest question an investor has ever asked you?

1. What’s the Biggest Threat to Your Success?

Andrew ThomasThis question forces you to demonstrate your ability to realistically evaluate your market potential and the maturity to acknowledge that threats exists. The investor is also testing your composure — as this question can cause defensiveness. If asked, take a deep breath and be honest about your threats and how you will address them. This builds confidence and trust instead of a red flag.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Video Doorbell

2. What Happens if You Get Hit by a Bus?

John RoodOf course the founder is critical to the enterprise, but especially for small businesses, I’ve found that smart investors want to make sure you have a clear pathway to generating enterprise value that isn’t just you personally working 80 hours for the rest of your life. Luckily, this can help you prioritize delegation, which you should be thinking about anyway.

– John RoodNext Step Test Preparation

3. Why Is This Opportunity Any Different Than Going to Vegas and Throwing It All on Red?

Jonathan LongI’m currently consulting for a new app and they have one investor who is funding the entire program. He jokingly asked me, “Why is this opportunity any different than going to Vegas and throwing it all on red?” While it was more of a joke, it was a legitimate question. You need to be able to sell and defend your concept. If you can’t, why should an investor feel comfortable writing a check?

– Jonathan LongMarket Domination Media

4. What Happens if Facebook Goes Out of Business?

Piyush JainWe were starting out an app idea completely based on Facebook. Investors asked what happens if they go out of business. We went blank. We ended up reshaping the model, though, so it would not be fully dependent on Facebook, and it ended up being a better app. Sometimes we tend to over-rely on big systems which can be more susceptible to failures than we are.

– Piyush JainSIMpalm

5. Why You?

Blair ThomasHaving to answer that very simple question can often stymie even the best stakeholders. Are you different? What do you have to offer that your competitors do not? Why am I investing in you when there are 12 other companies competing for my dollar? It can be a difficult question to answer, and one that you should have an answer for. Be prepared to argue your case as a differentiator.

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

6. Why Now?

Charlie GrahamGreat market timing — more than even team or idea — has traditionally been the best predictor of a company‘s success. Chances are someone else has tried an idea similar to the one you are pitching. What fundamental change has occurred in the market that makes right now (versus 3-6 months ago) the best time to start this company?

– Charlie GrahamShop It To Me, Inc.

7. How Can I Help?

Zoe BarryThis question is a litmus test. Keep in mind not all money is equal shades of green. I’ve found the best investors want to know what my challenges are and where they can add value. Once an investor puts money into your company, their role is to help the management team build a great business. If an investor doesn’t ask you how they can help, don’t take their money.

– Zoe BarryZappRx

8. Why Can’t You Just Bootstrap This Business?

Ross ResnickUntil an investor asked me this question, I was convinced that outside investment was the only way to start a company. Answering his question forced me to analyze my initial product development road map and reimagine it to be immediately cash flow positive and self-sufficiently scalable. This fundamental shift enabled rapid, responsible growth.

– Ross ResnickRoaming Hunger

9. Who Is This For?

Vik PatelWe often develop business ideas by looking at successful models and applying them to a different domain — the Uber-for-X approach. It’s easy to miss the most important point: Who is this for? Being asked that forced me to think concretely about the people for whom I would be solving a problem and make the appropriate changes to the execution of business ideas.

– Vik PatelFuture Hosting

10. What Excites You?

Ty MorseAn investor asked me this to find out what motivated me, and I think that’s what investors need to know. Are you going to pursue this idea until it succeeds? Do you have the drive, the energy, the passion to make this work? This question gets to the core of who you are and lets investors learn a little about who they’re investing in.

– Ty MorseSongwhale

11. How Long Do You Think the Money Will Last?

Vishal ShahThis question forces you to demonstrate your understanding of the revenue streams, cost structure, cash burn and runway. VCs want to know how you plan to spend the money and if what your ask is realistic enough to get you to your next milestone. If you seek to raise too little or expect an unrealistic runway, it indicates that you haven’t thought through how you will scale your business well enough.

– Vishal ShahNoPaperForms

12. Does Your Business Align With Your Experience?

Erik SeveringhausLon Chow asked me why my experience didn’t match the market I was entering, as I left a successful career at IBM to start a B2Ccompany. There’s a lot written about product-market fit, but not enough on founder-market fit. Does the founder truly understand nuances of the industry? What makes it tick? Lon zeroed in on the misalignment in our first meeting and I realized just how right he was.

– Erik SeveringhausSimple Relevance

13. Why Are Other Investors Passing?

Fan BiDon’t take it as a passive-aggressive question and get defensive. You should have a good answer. The best answer you can hope to provide is that they didn’t believe in the market or where it’s going. Different investors have different theses on macro trends and will understand other investors not believing in yours.

– Fan BiBlank Label