An oversubscribed seed round can create some challenges -- but most entrepreneurs would gladly sign on for them. There's nothing quite like an overflowing inbox of commitments from investors to spark new confidence in your idea when it may be faltering.
I went through it myself recently as I was raising money for Relief App, a new venture in the fintech space that is designed to tackle our national epidemic of consumer debt -- an issue I've long been passionate about addressing. I've raised money from all stripes of investors over the years, but this was something new for me -- my first venture that would be backed by institutional venture capital.
There was a time when companies primarily were left to rely on the public market to obtain capital through initial public offerings. But today there are many more opportunities available; in fact, public funding has largely been replaced by avenues for private funding.
Fortunately, many others turned out to share my commitment to our mission. I had placed our pitch deck in a Google document, which quickly went viral; at all times, there would be a minimum of 50 people scrolling through our narrative and plans. We raised all the funding we needed, from start to finish, in less than three weeks. In fact, we doubled our goal and ended up actually returning some money back to investors.
How did we do it? It wasn't a magic formula, but there are some best practices to unpack. Here are a few takeaways for how to maximize interest in your venture.
It sounds like a simple thing, but too many entrepreneurs focus on their pitch at the expense of their product, service, of offering. Preparation is key -- not just in terms of thinking about how much money you could make, but in ensuring that you can validate you your pitch and solve the problem you are shining a light on.
Make sure you can back up the game you're talking -- or you'll risk burning bridges with investors and potential partners.
Master your story.
The simpler you can refine your elevator pitch, the better -- today's elevator moves a lot faster than it used to. One of your key skill sets should be the capacity to get in a room with an investor and help them quickly see your vision of the future with a succinct pitch.
One of the biggest mistakes that many entrepreneurs make is not spending nearly enough time, energy, and effort invested in storytelling.
You can have the most compelling statistics or revenue projections in the world. But that can only represent a component of the broader narrative you're aiming to express. Humans instinctively crave stories to help us make sense of the world and form what can look like chaos into something more closely resembling a pattern.
One of the most famous pitchmen in Hollywood history is Terminator director James Cameron, who brought an unparalleled knack for concisely describing his pitch for major projects -- and earning the buy-in of investors and partners. His Titanic pitch? "Romeo and Juliet on a boat." And as for his famous pitch for Aliens, one of the great sequels of all time, he went one better; writing "Alien" on a dry erase board, then adding an "s" at the end -- and finally, transforming the "s" into a dollar sign. Everyone understood the pitch.
Target the right investors for your project.
Don't try to be all things to all people. Think of a realtor who tries to appeal to everyone, rather than focusing on a particular segment like first-time home buyers or luxury real estate investors. Targeting your efforts frees up your time and energy to more fruitful outcomes.
In my case, I made sure to seek out early stage consumer fintech investors, ensuring that they brought a baseline of knowledge to what we were seeking to accomplish.
Identify the connectors.
It's an idea I picked up recently from The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. He has so many impactful insights that I even named my dog Malcolm. (And it looks like we will indeed need 10,000 hours -- the amount of time Gladwell says is needed for mastery of a craft -- for him to master the art of not barking when the telephone rings.) Gladwell writes about the multiplier effect of connectors who can help a narrative to go viral among the right people. By focusing our efforts on a targeted segment of engaged fintech investors, we found our own connectors to help our idea reach a wider segment of investors.
Try these steps out on your next seed round; you may attract not only investors, but also strategic partners for the long haul who share your vision.