What’s the point of a proposal? Why use sites like Angel Investment Network? Why not just send your full business plan to people you want to invest?
Well, for a start, not everyone has the contact details of a large number of investors just sat in their inbox. Networking/Connection sites like Angel Investment Network hold the key to advertising your latest business venture to thousands of prospective investors so that you can find the right ones to suit the nature of the project. That sounds a little sales-y, I know, but it’s important to understand in order to realise the significance of the short proposal instead of the full-blown business plan.
When you’re marketing an idea to thousands of people, not just in the fundraising community but anywhere, you cannot simply take it for granted that people will actually take time to consider your idea; in any marketplace thousands upon thousands of ideas are competing to grab the attention of the onlookers. Precedence is not always, and certainly not necessarily, defined by merit, but rather by the ability to capture attention.
Don’t think ‘I know my idea is brilliant, so why wouldn’t investors read my business plan? They’d be stupid not to…’ That attitude will help you raise the square root of nothing. Think instead ‘How can I make it so that investors literally cannot wait to get their greedy paws on my business plan and start properly digesting my idea?’
Here’s where your short proposal comes in. It is meant to be pithy and concise. Something that can be easily understood and result in them wanting to know more. It is the first rung on the ladder towards them investing; and that can often be the hardest part – getting them to step onto the ladder. Once they’re on, of course some may fall off on the way to the top, but at least you’re beginning to win them over and it becomes progressively harder for them to get off.
As such you should consider your proposal as a ‘hook’, to use Nir Eyal’s term, or in internet-speak a CTA (call-to-action). In your proposal make them love your idea enough to take the next step. Tell them the best bits. Don’t swamp them in superfluous detail.
It’s funny what working near a beach for 3 weeks will do to one’s ability to keep their blog updated! But I’m back in the office now, back to the grindstone so your weekly dose of pitching/proposal advice is back up and running.
The previous 4 tips have talked in general terms about the ideal structure for your proposal: Tip #1 advised you to put your achievements first, Tip #2 encouraged you to then articulate the problem you solve, Tip #3 how you solve that problem and Tip #4 told you to make it clear how big the market opportunity is.
This week I wanted to talk about tone. How should your pitch come across? Funny? Serious? Detailed? Light?
When I arrived in the office this morning one of my colleagues was bragging about how he had re-written someone’s proposal for them after they had got no interest from investors after 90 days on Angel Investment Network. Now the business wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t an Uber or Facebook by any stretch of the imagination. The reason the guy had done so poorly was that the way he had written his proposal was about as exciting as watching paint dry in prison.
My colleague made no drastic changes – the fact of the business and its products (innovative power tools) were beyond his control. And yet his changes resulted in 82 investors contacting the entrepreneur. 82. When previously he’d got zero.
What did he change? He injected some life, some enthusiasm, some excitement into the proposal. The subject matter remained the same, but he gave the proposal a buzz. He infused it with a sense of success just around the corner; and that’s what intrigued the investors.
So give yourself a fighting chance and make sure you strike the right tone…
Tip #4 “How big’s the itch and is it spreading…like a rash?”
To continue the itch metaphor from proposal tips #2 and #3 (which dealt with the importance of giving a clear explanation of the itch you scratch and how you scratch it), in this post I’d like to touch on the size of the itch and how it’s growing.
For those of you beginning to find my strangled metaphor tedious, I’ll stop. I’m talking, of course, about the market your business operates/plans to operate in.
It’s no use solving a problem – even if you solve it unbelievably well – if it’s a problem only extant for a single hermit on the remote island of Tristan de Cunha, then it’s great for the hermit, but not a viable business (unless he’s sitting on pots of gold).
The problem you solve has to be one that a large and growing number of people suffer from without a solution; and are willing to pay for.
The more statistics you have to indicate this, the more prospective investors are likely to give your idea credence! There are plenty of websites available to help you with this, so don’t skip this bit…
Some very exciting news in this morning about one of the companies we raised money for last year. BIG news! Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to disclose anything yet, so will have to announce when permitted in a later post…so watch this space.
Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all been on tenterhooks waiting for the second in my series of 52 quick proposal tips. The wait is over…
Tip #2 “What Itch do you Scratch?”
Last week’s tip recommended grabbing investors’ attention by starting your pitch/proposal with your company’s most impressive achievement or traction metric to date. But what next?
You’ve hit them first with some proof and validation, but now you need to make the explanation of your concept as concise as possible. Remember, you no doubt understand your business extremely well, but you cannot expect prospective investors to have the same level of understanding. So what’s the best way to articulate your concept clearly?
Generally, we encourage entrepreneurs submitting a proposal on Angel Investment Network to start with the problem. What real world problem do you solve? What itch do you scratch? What pain do you alleviate?
If I were the Founder of Uber when starting out, my proposal would start by setting out the problems that people who want a taxi face e.g. long waits, high fares, needing to have cash etc…
If you do this well, you will get investors nodding along as they begin to see the value of your concept as they relate it to their own lives.
That’s all for now. I’ll cover the next step next week…
For no other reason than today is the first day of a new leap year cycle, I’ve decided to add a new feature to this blog. Each week I’m going to write a short post offering easy-to-implement advice on writing a fundraising proposal to investors. There will be a slight steer to benefit those entering proposals on , but I promise that the advice will be easily applied wherever you’re submitting a proposal.
I read hundreds of proposals a day. Literally hundreds of the things in the form of: pitch decks, executive summaries, investment site templates, incubator/accelerator templates, you name it. There’s always more to learn, but by now I’ve got a pretty good idea of what investors love and what they loathe when it comes to fundraising proposals.
So here’s Tip #1 “Never leave the best till last”
Put your most impressive information FIRST.
Investors like the rest of the world read from beginning to end. Well, not quite, often they never reach the end because they get bored. If this happens and you’ve left your most impressive piece of traction till the end, they’ll never know how great your company is. If you want to end on a positive note, simply repeat the positive note with which you started your proposal!
Grab their attention from the start. If you’re using or planning on using Angel Investment Network’s proposal form to showcase your business to prospective investors, this is why they recommend including attention-grabbing details in the ‘Short Summary’ section.
Take it to heart, learn it, stick it to your fridge, apply it…