When presenting an opportunity to investors, entrepreneurs usually begin by describing their invention and explaining why people need it. Next they present the financial team’s projections about what customers would probably pay for the product or service and what the entrepreneurs want to charge. They end by introducing the entrepreneurial team and detailing members’ credentials.
This approach is the inverse of what venture capitalists like me care about and consider when evaluating an investment. I want to hear about a venture the way I want to read a book or watch a movie: I want a story. Who are the protagonists and the other main characters? What goals do the characters hope to achieve, and how valuable would the goal be if it’s reached? What challenges do the characters anticipate and how will they respond to them? Finally I want to know my role so I can decide if I want the part.
When searching for investors, many entrepreneurs and inventors first present their product or technological innovation and then vaguely present the target market as “people who need this product.” But this isn’t how customers think when deciding whether to spend money.
Consumers start with a problem or “pain point” they desperately want to go away. They watch for anything that proposes to solve this problem. Discovering it, they decide whether it’s affordable or whether another product offers a better or cheaper solution. They might even decide they’re willing to live with the inconvenience if the solution is too costly.
Holly Bradshaw Eakes, Principal, The Holly Company Business Consultants
The greatest challenge an entrepreneur may face is finding capital to launch a business, especially when the business idea is related to high-cost startup such as that found in the technology sector. For an entrepreneur with realistic plans for rapid business growth and the potential to scale to larger markets, trading partial ownership for capital may be the only option.
Venture capitalists currently fund about one out of every thousand startups. With the odds stacked against obtaining equity capital, an entrepreneur must identify the investors most likely to invest in his business. Determining which source to pursue depends largely on industry focus, business stage and the amount of money needed. A handful of equity investors have offices in New Mexico and actively pursue investments in the state.
Kim Sanchez Rael, General Partner, Flywheel Ventures
Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, and an old friend of mine, has written that the critical questions in life are who-decisions, not what-decisions. “The primary question is not what mountains to climb but who should be your climbing partner,” he writes. As professional investors, our evaluation of each potential investment opportunity emphasizes the entrepreneurial team more than market strategy, technology or financial projections. When evaluating the pros and cons of bringing on an investor as a partner in your business, your considerations should be similarly weighted toward who-decisions. Professional investors should provide assistance and value in many areas beyond financial resources. Here are some key areas to consider when selecting an investment partner: