There are a lot of amazing start-ups out there, you may even be one of them. If you are, have you found it difficult to secure investment? Gaining finance for your company isn’t always easy. It’s a very competitive market out there and simply having a ‘great idea’ is not always enough, says Connor Sweeney, Seedcorn Project Manager at InterTradeIreland.
To give yourself the best possible chance, you need to have an ‘air-tight’ business plan and have the ability to deliver a professional, clear and engaging pitch. But don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds and with some help and guidance you will be on your way to securing investment.
Preparation and getting your business plan right
One of the first steps towards becoming investor ready, is having a bullet-proof business plan. Not only will this make you more attractive to investors but it also increases your chances of gaining investment for your company. Here’s how you can get prepared…
Your plan should be laid out in a way that’s easy to read. Make sure to use headings, paragraphs and tables or graphs where appropriate. This will help to break up large chunks of text and keep the reader interested. Keep industry jargon to a minimum, not all readers will be familiar with the industry language so if you’re using acronyms, always explain them first.
Stick to the objective
When writing a business plan, keep to your objective. If the purpose is to raise finance then tailor the output to the investor’s point of view, i.e. a return on their investment. Prepare your plan with this in mind and really sell your project to the reader.
Keep the length appropriate
A business plan should be straight to the point. The plan should only serve to get you in front of an investor to make your pitch. Keep the main part of your plan, the executive summary, to two or three pages and your whole plan less than 25, using a size 12 font.
Always make sure what you say in your plan is correct and use external data and research results to back this up. Never overstate the size of the market as your turnover will need to reflect this. Also, avoid saying things like “we’ll achieve 5% of the global market” instead, explain how!
Take your time
If you’ve rushed your plan, readers may be able to tell. Always take your time when writing a business plan. It may be helpful to give yourself a break before reviewing your document. Or even better, ask someone outside the industry to look it over.
Connor adds that the key to a successful plan is one that catches the eye of the investor, gets the financials right and has enough detail on the route to market.
Perfecting your pitch
Once your business plan is complete the next step is to perfect your pitch.
The point of your presentation is to sell your product, or if you’re seeking investment, your company. One pitch does not fit all and every presentation should be tailored to the audience. Your job as a presenter will be to tell a story and excite the viewer. Here’s how you can prepare for your pitch and structure your presentation.
Decide every detail in advance, for example who the presenter will be, will there be more than one? Practice the simple things such as handovers and introducing your colleagues. Research your audience and try to anticipate questions, it will impress the viewer if you cover all the important areas before the Q+A session.
If you have a physical product, bring this along for investors to see and actually pass it around the room. Always position your laptop in front of you where you can see it comfortably, this means you’ll not have your back to the audience and are not blocking their view. Aim to keep your pitch to around 15 minutes, short and snappy beats long and drawn out every time.
Your pitch should have three things, an introduction, main body and conclusion. Use your opening slide to set out a short introduction to the speakers and what you’re pitching for. Following the main slides, end your presentation with a clear call to action. Try not to fill your slides full of text, a couple of words on screen should set out the subject which you can further explain as the presenter.
Filming and reviewing your pitch is always a good practice and will allow for small corrections. You should know your subject inside out, but avoid memorising a script as there can be a danger for brain freeze. If you make a mistake, don’t say sorry, chances are the audience hasn’t noticed so just carry on.
Finally, practice eye contact and aim to sound enthused when discussing your pitch, always remembering the point of your presentation and why you’re there.
InterTradeIreland’s Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition
Have you heard of the Dragon’s Den? InterTradeIreland’s, Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition is a similar process that mirrors the real-life investment process and is open to start-ups on the island of Ireland, advises Connor Sweeney.
Wondering if your business is experienced enough to enter? The best part about Seedcorn is that it’s more than just a competition, it helps start-ups and early stage companies become investor ready, whether they make it to the final or not. Throughout the competition businesses have the chance to receive feedback and advice from real world investors on their business plan and pitch - as well as the opportunity to make invaluable connections and PR opportunities. In addition, you’ll also be in with a chance to win from the €300,000 prize fund!
What happens if I don’t win? Well that’s the beauty of the competition. Businesses are able to come back next year using all the learnings and feedback you received to try again. Last year’s winner NUA Surgical did just that, it was their second time entering following an unsuccessful application the previous year.
So, what have you got to lose? The deadline to enter is 1pm on the 28th May – you can find out more about Seedcorn and enter at www.intertradeireland.com/seedcorn