Over my career, I have been involved in founding and supporting a number of companies. Being able to raise outside funding has been one of my contributions. As odd as it may seem to some, I have never found raising money to be difficult. In fact, I often turn investment offers away now because I either don't need them or want to keep my business circle small the way it is and often have little interest in working with new people.
Because I have been able to achieve this numerous times and establish a track record of success, I am often asked by new entrepreneurs how they can raise funds for their ventures.
Banks don't always believe in your vision like you do and crowd funding sites don't suit every business. Here are 5 tips for entrepreneurs to raise private capital:
Stop Doubting Yourself
I often hear the same things repeated such as "I never went to a business school" and "I don't know rich people to invest" and to me it just sounds like they aren't motivated to overcome these things and doubt themselves. If you do not believe in yourself or your idea, and if you do not have the motivation to overcome the obstacles that stand in your way, then don't bother.
Entrepreneurship is all about overcoming challenges and carving your own path. In the early stages everyone--including those close to you--will doubt you. You need to get used to it and deal with it. Doubting yourself will only hold you back and be the reason you fail. Creating a mental block for yourself will slow you down more than any real obstacle will. You need to be as confident as you can be and carry yourself with that confidence. Others will pick up on it.
Have the Right Mind Frame to Raise Money
Raising money is a sales process. You need to sell your idea to an investor. Don't expect them to come flocking to you or even pay attention if you reach out to them. Anyone who calls themselves an investor is swamped with emails, has been burned multiple times and is not looking to cut you a check over lunch just because you're an entrepreneur. You need to understand your project isn't as cool as you think it is to anyone else, so you need to make them believe.
Keep your day-to-day business a top priority and don't waste all your time seeking an investor. Network, research and pitch presentations in your spare time. Get involved with local community and leaders who like to invest locally rather than chasing around high-profile investors who more than likely will never respond to you. You may even find a great mentor/investor who can add value to your project.
Carry yourself as a professional, and that includes paying serious attention to anything you post on social media. I see lots of people get turned down for the single reason that they look like an idiot on social media.
Have Your Paperwork Ready
Once you find someone who is interested in your project, they will more than likely expect some basics such as a presentation, historical financials, projections, summary, business plan (although they are rarely followed), term sheets and perhaps even personal banking information so they can see you aren't drowning in debt.
These are basic things that you need to spend a lot of time on and make bulletproof. It not only shows that you have a clear plan and what you're going to do with the money but it also shows a level of responsibility and that you take things seriously as an entrepreneur. Don't waste any time sending these to an interested investor and PLEASE stop asking investors to sign NDAs. It makes you look inexperienced.
Network with Other Entrepreneurs
I am the first to admit that I am not the best networker, because I am fairly self-sufficient. But there is value to discussing raising capital with other entrepreneurs who have done it and discussing strategy to make the process less intimidating.
Entrepreneurs all understand struggle and therefore a lot of us are not opposed to helping others and providing advice to those just starting out. You would be surprised at how many people will email you back or respond on social media if you are seeking advice. Just don't pester them with "You succeeded so do you want to invest?" messages. By approaching people in a respectful manner you will increase your chances in responses. Remember they don't have to talk to you and they are taking time out of their day to help a stranger.
Gaining insight from those who have succeeded can prove to be some of the most valuable consulting you never had to pay for.
Utilize Your Existing Network
You may not need to look too far to find an investor. Utilize your existing network and don't be scared to ask for help and let people know you are seeking investment. They may know or be the person you are looking for. I strongly suggest not seeking investment through family or close friends, who may not understand money can disappear in business faster than a magic show. However, getting introduced to someone who is an investor through someone you know could prove beneficial.
You don't really need any network to raise money so long as you are bold enough and not scared to hear "no." But you'll do a lot better with people who know your character and know you genuinely believe in the project than convincing total strangers. Everybody knows somebody, so get out there and make your opportunity known.