Jonathan Mills Patrick is a former C-level finance executive and startup founder turned strategic consultant to financial institutions, startups and tech companies. You can find him at SouthFound.com or JonathanMillsPatrick.com.
“How can I meet startup investors?”
This question I get probably no less than once a day from entrepreneurs. The answer is easier than most entrepreneurs seem to grasp.
Who do you know?
In the typical timeline for raising capital, you should look to your own network (second only to your own capital). This is often called the “FFF” stage (family, friends, founders). You would be surprised at the number of potential investors that are already directly or indirectly in your circle of contacts. I have witnessed entrepreneur after entrepreneur raise capital by addressing this question.
Just about every community that has any level of entrepreneurial support hosts pitch competitions. Investors regularly attend pitch competitions because they are a quick way to evaluate what types of businesses are entering the marketplace and which are gaining the most traction. It also allows them to evaluate the team.
These are often non-profit entities that take in a certain number of startups per year and provide them with access to limited amounts of capital, office space, mentoring, and more — in the hopes that some of the startups survive, and in fact, thrive. Investors often provide mentoring to the startups in the program. This creates a great way for investors to learn more about your startup from an in-depth perspective, as well as learn to know you on a personal level.
If you are going to be raising capital you had better get used to talking to complete strangers at events and learning how to pique their interest. You had better get used to initiating conversation, getting people to talk about themselves first, and leaving a favorable opinion of yourself.
Online investor sites
Sites like AngelList facilitate the connection between startups and investors. Startups are able to create a profile and list what they are looking for in terms of capital (along with details of their company) and investors can then use that information to determine if they are interested in digging deeper.
A word of caution here. Many entrepreneurs I know create profiles on a variety of these sites and then sit back and wait for the cash to roll in. They end up waiting a long time.
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