I won't drag you along and leave you in suspense. The three most important words you need to remember when going out to raise funding for your startup are "Know your audience."
Careful whom you take money from.
A beginner entrepreneur might view fund raising as "Whoever will write a check will be our first investor. Let them do the due diligence--we'll collect the money."
In reality, as much due diligence as an investor should do, an entrepreneur should double it.
If an investor makes a bad investment, they can lose money. If an entrepreneur takes a bad investment, they can lose their company.
Knowing your audience in this context means doing research before you even begin fundraising so you know whom you want to take money from. That means speaking to founders who previously raised from that investor and knowing what to ask.
Was the investor founder-friendly? Did they bring added value to the table beyond the check? Did they get involved in decisions that they should not have?
As part of the research stage, you also need to make sure you're not wasting your time or the investor's time. That means looking into their previous investments and their appetite to deploy capital.
Are they actively investing now? Do they invest in your stage or are they looking for more traction? Or maybe you're too late for them. Do they invest in your space? If so, did they invest in a direct competitor? The last thing you want to do is send an in-depth investor deck to someone who is supporting your biggest competitor.
Contrary to popular belief, and much like entrepreneurship itself, the most important step that many ignore is the research step that precedes the first meeting or even the first email.
You never want to give them a reason to say no,
The more you know about that investor before even sending a first message, the better equipped you are to make it through the process. Lack of sufficient research is, in and of itself, a reason for an investor to say no. If you didn't spend the time preparing yourself for the meeting, what does that say about your ability to build a market-defining company that requires endless research and hard work?
The entire world of fundraising can really be summed up in four letters: FOMO (fear of missing out).
Simply put, it is your job to create FOMO for investors so they feel the need to take out their checkbook or miss out on an amazing opportunity.
To create FOMO effectively, you need to know what that investor is interesting in and excited by.
Culture plays a pivotal role in that first meeting.
Another important aspect that almost no one pays attention to is that investor's personality. Are they more laid-back or more formal? Do they have a specific way they like to conduct meetings or receive emails? Do they appreciate the small talk in the beginning of the meeting or does that annoy them?
These are all questions you can answer prior to the meeting by speaking to others who have experiences with that investor.
Social media is your friend.
At the risk of sounding creepy or like I am encouraging you to stalk someone, I would recommend making use of platforms like Twitter and Facebook to learn more about that investor before meeting her. What are her passions? What are her pet peeves? What are her most pressing agendas now? These are all questions you might find answers to in that investor's tweets or social media posts. No one is suggesting you hire a private investigator here, but if the investor is speaking openly about this topics, perhaps that is a sign that they want you to know about them before initiating your correspondence.
The more prepared you come, the better impression you'll make on that investor, and, let's be honest, first impressions are everything when it comes to raising capital. Yes, you are going to have to answer many questions before the cash hits your account, but without chemistry, without that first impression, it is already game over.