One of the privileges of living in New York is that entrepreneurs and investors looking for fresh new ideas have access to the rich startup community that exists here in the city. Such was the case during the AlleyBoost Investor conference where a “speed dating” approach was taken for entrepreneurs to meet investors, who rotated from table to table, discovered new opportunities, gave feedback and much more.
Entrepreneurs had the chance to pitch to investors and were given five minutes to convince them to invest (or at least receive feedback on the presentation and idea). Markus Rauschnabel of Bluum, an entrepreneur from the event, shared his challenges.
“I think the most challenging part was to get a quick sense about the investors. Since the investors were from all different stages (individual angel to institutional growth stage VC), I needed to adjust my pitch each time and see what sticks.”
So, what should entrepreneurs focus on when given a chance to pitch to investors? Well, Jeff Pulver, an investor in many startups, including Twitter and canvs.co, believes that entrepreneurs should “learn to listen to themselves more. Leadership comes from within. When [entrepreneurs] talk to investors, they get advice, and that maybe they should ask investors for advice, so that some might be then interested to invest.”
What that means is that one must build a relationship with a prospective investor as opposed to simply pitching and asking for funding. Remember, investors are just as human as entrepreneurs or anyone else. Focus on getting them excited about your product, share a story about yourself and your background, or even what makes you the right entrepreneur to tackle the marketplace on which you’ve focused. When asked whether any of the startups intrigued Pulver, he responded by saying, “Some possibilities were seen, but none realized. I am confident if I met these people in six to nine months, there would be a different answer.”
As Erica Duignan–Minnihan of DreamIt Ventures said, “I would try to be aware of your competitors and choose to enter a space where there is a clear need for your product, and you are providing a significantly better product than the competition.”
According to a few investors, many of the entrepreneurs were building “me-too” businesses that didn’t provide real value or set them apart from the competition. It’s a trend that exists in the startup ecosystem in general, but it shouldn’t keep entrepreneurs from taking the risk and attempting to disrupt the marketplace.
Everyday we have opportunities to meet new people for hiring, funding or networking purposes, but we should all treat each other in the most human way possible. Create a sense of excitement or joy around your startup or business. While doing that, also focus on creating real value in the marketplace and be honest with yourself on whether or not your idea is truly disrupting an industry enough so that investors would be willing to fund that business.