10+ Best Practices for Engaging Potential Investors

Last week, I wrote an article called ‘How to Update your Investors for best results’. The post set out the importance of updating your investors; and how you should go about it. I laid out a useful (hopefully!) formula for your updates. And gave you some real-world examples from fast-growth companies in my network like Sweatcoin and ScreenCloud.

The post proved more popular than I expected; a number of people have been kind enough to contact me with their thoughts. The response was positive except for one thing: I had only covered one aspect of a broader theme…

Investor Relations.

Last week’s post gave advice for the tail end of the fundraising process i.e. after investors have actually invested in your business.

But what about before they’ve invested? When you’re still trying to persuade them to do so?

Angel Investment Network connects angel investors with startups looking for funding, contacts, advisory board members etc. It would be remiss of me not to complete the picture and give advice on investor relations for the first half of the fundraising process…

Engaging Potential Investors

When interacting with people you hope to convince to invest in your company, there are 3 principal types of interaction you will have:

1. Reaching out
2. Responding
3. Reminding

In this post, you will learn the best practices for each type of interaction.

I’ve been helping people do this for a long time now. I’ve seen some hilarious but tragic examples of how not to do it! But more importantly, I’ve built up a picture of the best approaches. I hope this article means that you or anyone you share it with can avoid the common conversation-ending mistakes.

The aim is to help you generate more leads, and convert a higher percentage into investors.

Reaching Out

To be clear, this section does not deal with how to find investors. That’s a different question for another time. You can find some ideas here though.
reaching out to investors

But assuming you’ve identified and acquired the contact details of potential investors, how do you go about approaching them?

Reaching out to potential investors is a tricky business. People hate cold approaches. Even if your company is the next big thing, people have a strong aversion to being hailed from out of the blue. A stranger danger thing perhaps. But get the tone and hook just right though, and you can overcome this aversion.

How?

The key is to keep the email short. Value is king. People want to understand it quickly. If they see huge chunks of text in an initial email, they will be put off before even reading.

At the same time, if you shorten your email but lose the articulation of your value proposition. Then the hook is gone.

So, while moderating the length, you need keep your sights on the purpose of the message. The ability to do this ultimately comes down to being able to pitch your venture clearly and concisely.

This is crucial. The purpose of the email is not to explain the whole idea. It’s to hook the contact into wanting to know more. Once you’ve engaged them, you can dive into the detail.

The question you need to ask yourself is:

“What is the most attractive thing about my business likely to be for this potential investor?”

If you can answer this, then you can frame your message around it.

What are some good hooks?

– Introductions – if you can be introduced by someone they trust and know, your chances of engagement increase dramatically

– Relevant & large market opportunity

– Trending topics e.g. AI, Blockchain, Machine learning (obviously not always applicable but check this out!)

– Impressive traction e.g. funds raised, key partnerships, big-deal advisors

– Problem/solution articulation – can work for early-stage projects but is risky because they might not see the problem as you do

Beware, there are also some “anti-hooks”!

A contact of mine was approaching a VC company in London. He made the mistake of asking for an NDA. They never replied. Annoyed, he ACTUALLY walked into their offices and asked why he never got a response. They explained the NDA turn off and sent him on his way. (More on this next week).

Summary:

Keep it short and make sure your hook is clear.

End with a call-to-action. This gives them a framework to respond. At this stage, the most likely example is:
“Can I send you some more info? I’d love to get your feedback.”

Responding

This interaction is particularly important to anyone raising via the Angel Investment Network platform. On the platform, an entrepreneur submits a pitch using the template and onscreen instructions which is listed and sent to the network of angel investors. Interested investors can then click to connect. It’s at this point only that the entrepreneur can message an investor. So, there’s a lot riding on the response!

That said, this advice goes for any time you receive a message/email from an investor whether they are reaching out or responding to you.

What should you do then?
appropriate response to investors

The advice is dead simple. But you’d be amazed how often I see people do the opposite.

– Respond promptly (24-48 hours)
Quick responses make investors feel important. They also show that you are professional and organised.

– Avoid spelling and grammar errors
Duh!

– Make sure you address every point they make
You’ll leave a bad impression if you don’t have a considered response to address every issue they raise.

– Avoid blocks of text
Blocks are boring. And not easy to digest. Address questions/points they make with bullet points or numbering.

– End with a call-to-action
This gives them a framework for responding and will increase the chances that they do.

This advice seems so trivial that it pains me to write it (the first 3 in particular). But I’ve seen it go wrong too many times through haste, laziness and even stupidity.

Last year, I watched the final night of a play written by a friend. At the party afterwards, I was talking to one of the actors. During the performance we had all remarked on his incredibly muscular physique – the man was a monstrous! I asked him ‘why’.

“Why so much gym?”

His response impressed me. And can be applied to this situation and many others.

He said;

“Control the things you can control.”

In his case, he realised that one of the reasons he didn’t get every part he auditioned for was because he was out of shape. But more importantly, he realised that this was an aspect of his life and attitude that he could directly address. And as a result, he would optimise his chances of getting great roles. (I’m afraid I can’t say who he is!)

So, to optimise your chances, ‘control the things you can control’.

Remember this interaction with investors is a bit like an audition. The reality of it is that investors don’t have much time to judge you. Their impression of you will be created over the course of a few emails, a call and perhaps a coffee.

When deciding to invest a considerable sum of money in someone, that’s not a lot to go on!

So, in the small window of opportunity you are given to make an impression, ensure that what can be polished is polished. That way, you’ve given yourself the best chance.

Reminding

So, you reached out to an investor, they responded, you exchanged a few emails discussing the venture, it all seemed to be going so well. But now they’ve gone dead. No response to your last message. Cue tumbleweed and depression…

What can you do?

The first thing to remember is that in most cases, any investor worth having is going to be very busy.

So, you should never take it personally if you don’t get a response for a while. You don’t know what’s happening at the other end. They may be taking the time to carry out proper due diligence and discussions with various people before pushing ahead.

There is no sense fretting and waiting for a response. It may never come. In which case, you’ve wasted valuable time worrying about it. Equally, it may come. In which case, you’ve also wasted time.

That said, you shouldn’t wait indefinitely. It is perfectly acceptable to nudge people to respond.

But how do you do it without royally p***ing them off?!

Time is important. DO NOT nudge anyone if they haven’t responded after 3 days. (Unless they specifically asked you to).

7-10 days is an acceptable interlude. But longer is fine too. I was helping someone raise money once: we actually met the investor face-to-face before pitching anything as we had been connected via a strong introduction. He then said he would follow up via email after he had had time to think.

We waited 29 days and had given up all hope when his email finally came through. It was a positive one too!

What about the content of a reminder?

This will vary according to time and circumstance. But there is an optimal approach.

Consider:
a)

“Hi X,

Did you have any more thoughts about our project?

Thanks,
Founder Y”

b)

“Hi X,

It’s been a good few [insert time period] since we last spoke.

We are showing strong growth across the following key metrics: [insert impressive figures].

Also, [insert Mr/Mrs Big Deal] has committed £X and joined the advisory board.

Did you have any more thoughts about our project?

Thanks,
Founder Y”

Sometimes approach a) may be appropriate. But most of the time, b) will be better.

The reason for this is momentum.

This builds on the ‘hook’ idea we looked out when discussing reaching out to investors. You have to give them some incentive to respond. Hack their desire to engage with you.

At this stage of the process, you can do this by the impression of momentum. By updating them on your good progress, you can make them feel like the opportunity is a train leaving the station. Without them.
investors missing the train

Fear of missing out is a strong psychological influence to tap into. No investor wants your business to be the one that got away. So, make them feel like it is getting away with positive updates in your reminders. You should find an uplift in engagement.

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading.

Tweet me () if you think I missed something etc…

Or get me on oliver@angelinvestmentnetwork.co.uk

Why we should be positive about the outlook for the UK Tech scene

UK Tech Scene - London Calling

I wanted to share some thoughts I read in a post on VentureBeat by Gerard Grech, the CEO of Tech City UK, a UK-based non-profit focused on accelerating the growth of the UK’s digital economy.

The post is titled, as blog posts tend to be, “9 things you didn’t know about the UK’s tech scene“, but really delivers an incisive analysis of why investors specifically (but by extension entrepreneurs) have reason to be sanguine about the tech sector in the UK (even post-Brexit).

You can read the full article (15min read) by following the link in the title above or by clicking here

If you haven’t got 15 minutes or so, I’ve listed three of the key points here:

1. The UK is the second biggest destination in the world for VC money, on a per capita basis ($3.6 billion was invested last year, up by 70 percent from the year before!)

2. The UK is second in the world for tech startup exits, after the US. There were 135 mergers and acquisitions in the most recent quarter of 2016.

3. The UK government helps tech companies from cradle to exit with the world’s most generous tax breaks and capital gains exemptions for investors as well as visa schemes for digital innovation experts and grants for entrepreneurs.

The cause is strong!

“How to be an Angel Investor” by the founder of Y Combinator and the first SaaS company

Keep calm and be an angel investor

There’s a lot of dross on the internet. Too much of it. Too many people weighing in with half-baked, ill-founded opinions in an attempt to seem like an authority on whatever subject they’ve taken it upon themselves to spout about.

That said, the internet has gone a long way to help ‘democratise’ education; suddenly, people’s horizons have been opened up by the plethora of information available. If you’re bright and motivated, you no longer need a teacher, you can teach yourself with the web as your guide. You just have to be able to sift through garbage to find the gold.

Here I’ve attempted to do this for you. A lot of people like to offer their opinion on the subject of Angel Investing; a lot of people should be more considered. But every now and again it’s nice to get the view of a real authority with a track record in startups and in angel investing. Paul Graham started out as an entrepreneur, founding Viaweb (the first SaaS company) which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998 fora reported $49million. He then founded Y Combinator which has funded over 1000 startups since 2005, including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Reddit.

In this essay, he offers his wisdom on how to be an Angel Investor which he describes as “mysterious and complicated” at first but “turns out to be easier than…expected, and also more interesting.”

Well worth a read! Here’s the link: How to be an Angel Investor by Paul Graham

Calling all UK angels to help with a quick survey

Hi everyone,

We’re helping out with a research study on angel groups in the UK.

The study is being conducted by Tiago Botelho and Prof Colin Mason from the University of Glasgow’s Adam Smith Business School, and should allow us to see how our members see syndication in general and how we can improve our network.

We’d be really grateful if any UK angel investors could take the time to complete the survey (it is completely anonymous and should take around 10 minutes).

Here is the link for the survey, which will be open until the end of June:  https://qtrial2014.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_ehryzeOsCGAS4hT

Also, it would be great if you could share this link with any other UK angels that you know.

Barbara Corcoran’s Angel Investor Checklist

Shark Tank star and angel investor shares the hard-hitting questions she asks entrepreneurs before investing in their business.

Jeff Clavier on how to be an Angel Investor

Leena Rao interviews SoftTech VC Jeff Clavier about the way he became an angel investor and how to become one yourself at Disrupt SF 2011 day three.

We’d love to see you at our next Pitching Event

Top 5 US Angel Investors Over the Last Year

Angel investors have been playing a pivotal role in the American economy for almost half a century, particularly in shaping up the technology industry. Silicon Valley, for instance, has been built and developed by and on the foundations laid by many angel investors. All major tech giants today were start-ups at one point in time.

This infographic shows the Top 5 US Angel Investors of 2013.  Between them, they have invested in more than 700 start-ups so far, out of which more than 150 were in 2013 alone.

Top-5-US-Angel-Investors-Over-the-Last-Year-min-2

2013 Halo Report: US Angel Investment Year in Review

CB Insights, in conjunction with Silicon Valley Bank and the Angel Resource Institute, recently released the 2013 year-end Halo Report. The full 27-page angel investing report includes breakdowns by industry and geography as well as valuation trends. In addition, the report includes a ranked list of the top 10 most active angel groups in 2013.

To download the entire 27-page 2013 year-end Halo Report, login here. The underlying angel investment data is also available and proprietary to CB Insights. (note: the report is available to anyone with a free CB Insights login)

Highlights of the 2013 year-end Halo Report include:

  • Syndicated Deals Produce Larger Investment Rounds.  Overall median deal size in 2013 was $600k, but when angels co-invested alongside other types of firms (including VCs, etc.) that median shot up to $1.7M.
  • High Valuation Deals on the Rise.  While 2013 median angel deal valuations held consistent with last year at $2.5M, the top quartile of angel deals carried valuations of $4.2M or greater. This represents a stronger showing at the top versus 2012.
  • Golden Seeds is #1.  Golden Seeds topped the leader board for most deals completed in 2013 – up from 5th place in 2012. Meanwhile the 2012 winner, New York Angels, fell to the 7th spot in 2013.

A bit of a laugh for everyone…