“Finding an investor has never been that easy.” When I started my business, this phrase was omnipresent at meetings and start-up events. I always worked hard to build up my network, but I have to say finding an investor is much harder than we think. Especially finding the right one.
In addition to tapping into my network and establishing new contacts, I did some research online to see what the internet had to say. However, most of the articles I found were not really helpful – very generic and most of the time no hands-on advice how I actually could find someone to partner up with. Let me share some additional leads I pursued.
Start in Your Immediate Vicinity – Family and Friends
Naturally, your family and circle of friends are the first starting point. Share your idea, what you are working on and you will see that a lot of them are really helpful. Maybe somebody knows someone who knows an investor or partner? You never know if you do not try.
Mentors, Bosses and Colleagues
When I left my corporate job, I informed the people who had supported me during my career about the reason why I planned to leave. In the beginning, I felt uncomfortable to tell them I planned to quit. Would they see it as a criticism of what they had a achieved career-wise? Would they think I considered myself too good for this type of career which a lot of people would kill for? But it turned out completely unexpectedly: the majority of my mentors, bosses and colleagues were supportive, some were actually very excited. I am still in touch with some of them on a more or less regular basis. Some of those talks turned into useful leads for potential partners or investors.
Events and Conferences
I managed to establish useful contacts at industry events and conferences. While I am personally not a big fan of events which focus on start-ups for the sake of the start-up scene only, I found industry-specific events really helpful. I went to gaming conferences, regional start-up conferences with a digital focus in China or even fashion weeks. The key is to identify the areas which are directly linked to your business. For example, if you work on a mobile app or online platform, do not focus on internet conferences only. Which industries are directly linked to your product? Are there any public events which you could attend?
Cold Emails and LinkedIn
In certain cases, cold emailing or LinkedIn can be a first step to establish useful contacts. But make sure that you have a reason to contact the person and attract their attention. Show that you have done some research about their fund, family office or company and write something along the lines like “I read about your investment in company XYZ which works in a similar field as my start-up.” Bear in mind that those people get hundreds of emails per day. A generic introduction like “I started this company and think it could be interesting for you.” will definitely not attract their attention. Furthermore, be down-to-the-point: explain the product, you and your team and why you need the capital from that certain organisation in one short paragraph. Moreover, be polite. I have to stress this here. I have received a number of cold emails which were outright rude…
In general, I found it effective when I introduced what I do and asked for specific help on a question instead of only asking for funding. For example: “I would like to discuss XYZ with you, as you are the expert in XYZ.” Again, I make it as specific as possible. People feel flattered if you ask them for advice. And their advice was most of the time extremely useful and might develop into a long-term relationship. Moreover, try to offer something in exchange. I usually do some research and identify their pain points. I then end my email referring to this pain point: “I read that you are working on XYZ and I would be very happy to have a chat with you and offer my opinion as an expert about XYZ.”
Incubators, Accelerators, AngelList, Alumni Programs
In certain cases, it can be useful to apply for incubator and accelerator programmes. A profile on the start-up platform AngelList and a brushed-up LinkedIn profile may help boost your visibility. Also use alumni programs, if there are any from your schools. I personally opted for not going through an incubator or accelerator programme for various reasons. I am working on a separate post about that, stay tuned!
Talk about the Product
Talk about your product, even if you are worried that somebody might copy you. Spreading the word does not mean you give away your secrets for success. People can only help you if they know about you and your goals.
Be Bold and Ask for Help
I cannot stress it enough: If you do not ask for it, you will not get it! This is one of the biggest mistakes. And I was and am still very often guilty of that too. I am the master of helping others but when it is about myself I am too worried about what my counterpart might think about me. Therefore, I tend to sell myself – obviously so well that people think I do not need help. There is no shame in asking for help!
Carry Your One-Pager with You or Save It as an Email-Draft
Have a backup copy of your one-page summary or a pdf saved as an email draft with you. In case you meet someone by accident, you can give them the document or send them an email with your details. Always be prepared and have your elevator pitch ready. Another post about the perfect pitch is in the pipleline as well. Coming soon!
Have you raised money or contacted potential investors or partners? How did you find them? Please share it here with us!