As you now understand the dynamics of the different ways to fund your business from the article – Demystifying Funding – A Thought-out Business Funding Strategy and the fundamentals of Getting Investment Ready from our previous article lets delve into the Preparation of Investor Materials.
There are two key documents that you will need — the Executive Summary and Slide / Deck Presentation. You are well served by investing time in both of these documents. These two documents will be your workhorse documents on this journey. They are usually very challenging to develop in a compelling, clear, and concise manner.
The following guidelines should be helpful to you in the preparation of these documents and embody best practices that we have come to appreciate in our own experiences.
You should think of the Executive Summary as just that — an executive summary of your business plan. It should have all the elements of a good business plan, however, just summarized. The Executive Summary should follow the outline of your investor Slide / Deck presentation but in narrative form and with appropriate charts and tables.
In reality, there are two kinds of executive summaries in use today. The “One-Pager” and the several page document. The One-Pager is usually in template form and has a summary of all the key information. These are somewhat useful for a cursory assessment. However, the several page document is much more effective for discussing the opportunity and plan in detail. You should prepare both documents because you will be asked for both at different stages.
There are a number of excellent resources for preparing presentations for prospective investors. A well-prepared presentation and great delivery are critical to your funding success. You should plan on no more than 20 slides for your first presentation. You should plan on a 20 min to 30 min delivery with the balance of your meeting for Q&A. Remember, your ability to manage the meeting time is an indicator or your management capability.
While the specifics of your presentation will differ with the nature of your business, the following guidelines will address what most investors assess. Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of building what is primarily a product presentation. You should force yourself to keep the product discussion to just a couple of slides.
This presentation needs to be focused on the building of a company — of which the product is a foundational element. This is often a difficult mental transition to make, as you tend to be so close to the business — try to see the company building opportunity, not the product! Or Better yet, have a good third eye in the form of a Business Advisor or a Management Consultant run through it as you fine tune it.
You can’t go wrong with this outline:
- Company Background A summary that profiles the company, product, sales & marketing, market opportunity, and financing overview. The object is to provide a snapshot of the company and to “tell them what you are going to tell them”.
- Vision/Mission or Elevator Pitch This should be a very simple statement of why the company has been formed and “how it’s going to change the world”.
- Problem/Solution Scenario All products start with the definition of the problem; a pain point. A well-articulated problem and a well-articulated solution will set the stage for the rest of your presentation.
- Market Opportunity All good company-building opportunities start with an attractive market opportunity — in market size and growth. The pain you articulated earlier should translate into a market opportunity.
Don’t just quote analyst market numbers that are not particularly focused – they don’t convince an investor that you understand the market opportunity. You should challenge yourself to try and build a bottoms-up analysis, with assumptions, that builds an attractive market opportunity.
Other issues you may wish to address are customer switching costs, the willingness of customers to buy from you, power of incumbents, etc. Competition can be addressed at this point but is more meaningful after a product context has been established.
- Product/Technology Description This is the opportunity to talk about the product. Talk about what’s disruptive and innovative. Define the value propositions. This section does not need to be half of the presentation.
- Competition Direct and indirect. Current, future and the context framework for analysis.
- Current & Sustainable Competitive Advantage IP is helpful, but usually not sufficient. Strong know-how, network effects, high switching costs, long term contracts, learning curve benefits, and capturing key distribution channels can all be used to build powerful competitive advantage and entry barriers for others. First mover advantage in itself is usually not sufficient unless it can be used to accomplish some of the above-mentioned entry barriers.
- Business Model Manner in which you develop repeatable and profitable business. Discuss capital efficiency. Discussion of supporting models — operating, product development, sales and marketing will demonstrate your command of the business and the business model.
- Go-to-Market Strategy Plan to cross the chasm, obtain your first reference customer(s), first 500K users, etc. Discuss target market strategy, sales, distribution, partnering, pricing, and promotion.
- Customer Traction/Pipeline Show your pipeline and that you have an organized process for developing customers and the know how to advance them through a sales process.
- Team & Human Resources Brief Bio’s; companies, specific positions, key accomplishments, and education.
- Execution Timeline Bring realism and believability to your plan. Discuss risk factors. Human resources. Spend rates. Key milestones, etc. How far will the money you are raising last? What reserve will you have if key milestones slip? Have you built adequate time margin? Does the financing timeline interleave with your key milestones?
- Product Market/Technology Roadmap What does the future look like? Do you have follow-on markets? How big? Competitors? Technology and product development requirements? Risk factors? Etc.
- Pro-forma Highlight the key metrics. While the Pro-forma will often get cursory review in an early stage company, it still makes certain statements about your command of the business, your vision, the size company that may be built, your expectation on cash breakeven, capital required to reach breakeven, etc.
- Financing Requirements & Financing Scenario Provide a timeline of your expected financing rounds, and how large you expect those rounds will need to be.
- Investment Thesis Make the potential investors job easy and summarize why they should invest. How would you summarize the deal and compelling reason to invest if you had to do it in one foil?
Your backup information should include evidence of whatever key facts you are claiming. If you claim you can definitely design something for $1M in 12 months, for example, you might support it with schedules, engineering analysis, comparison to similar efforts and 3rd party expert opinions. If you claim there is a $100M unserved market opportunity, you might support it with market data and verifiable customer testimonials.
Your backup material should also include an operating plan, including detailed milestones and monthly financials for the period supported by the funding you are requesting, plus key milestones and quarterly financials to the exit point. The financials should generally include an income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement.
Your backup info should also include resumes for all key team members.
High quality backup material will allow your deal to move ahead much more quickly.
If you are seeking growth funding, remember to fix any “Leakages” in the business and streamline your processes to ease cashflow beforehand. Have a good third eye in the form of a Business Advisor or a Management Consultant run through the business FIRST.
The criteria and content in the presentation material really hasn’t evolved or changed at all. The presentation techniques and tools have certainly evolved and much easier now than ever.
Why, then do businesses find it difficult to raising capital?
The answer, from our experience as investors, lies in the few key points no one seems to address.
“The Elephant in the room” conversation pieces which occur after a pitch.
These are usually hidden under a veil of “diplomacy” or “modesty”.
- A Realisticand feasible business plan containing a sound business strategy for growth
- Achievablefinancial forecasts with potential for returns on investment (ROI)
- Management Wages– investors are not there to support your lifestyle. Grow the business and earn the right to the lifestyle
- Efficientand Transparentinternal accounting, financial systems and reporting
- Detailed Use of Funds Statement, describing how the investment capital will be used
- A Realistic valuation of the business, the equity available for the investor and an exit strategy
- Investors Role– A willingness to include, the Investor in the management of the business or to join the Board of Directors
After all it’s all about money! Investors want to be comfortable that money matters are being and will be handled with respect. Most investors are in position to invest because they have earned their way there. So, respect that and be willing to value and involve them. Last, but, certainly not least, most investors can sense “pie in the sky” – respect their time.
Less fluff, arrogance and ego usually score quite highly.
Address these areas early and honestly to avoid wasting time and start working with your backers to bring your vision to life.
Highlighting these general dynamics and the most common funding challenges should steer the funding quest in the direction of least resistance to secure appropriate capital for the business.
Let us know how you manage to secure funds for your business.
If you need an external eye to look at your quest for funding, Pick up the phone and call us for an obligation free assessment.