There is plenty of razzle-dazzle in the world of start-ups: entrepreneurs, advisers and investors can all talk a good game.
There is nothing they like more than trumpeting a success story across the media.
In the current uncertain economic times, the odds of securing investment are getting higher by the day.
Here are five tips to help you avoid tipping your chance of investment away:
1. Start on a high with a great elevator pitch
You need to be able to explain your business and get investors excited in less than 30 seconds – yes, in a buyers’ market, that is their maximum initial attention span.
What are you offering? What audience are you targeting? What problem are you solving? What is your secret sauce – something that makes you really stand out from the crowd and your competitors?
You need to think about what would really raise investors’ eyebrows and make you a must-have, not an also-ran.
2. Become a market expert
You need to become an expert in your chosen sector and prove why it is a strong and big enough market to go for.
How big is the market you are operating in? How big is your addressable market – the area of the market you can target? How fast is it growing? Who are your key competitors? How can you maintain a competitive advantage?
Being a market expert is more than just a top-down market size approach.
You also need to show you have thought about how you win customers.
What is your ideal target customer? How much will they pay? How many of them are there?
3. Prove you can get customers
You need to demonstrate that reaching customers is within your reach.
Do you have a strong, credible and believable sales and marketing plan? Can you demonstrate you have tested this?
Is the cost of getting a customer less than the profit you will make from them? Can you get enough customers cost effectively?
Remember, it costs next to nothing to pick up the phone and talk to potential customers.
Good old-fashioned real world progress and demonstrable sales and customer interest is worth a thousand times more than a beautiful (but untested) spreadsheet and business plan.
4. Work on the team
Teamwork can work wonders for your investment chances. Solo entrepreneurs are often a ‘jack of all trades’ – but can’t be master of all of them.
Entrepreneurs with good sales and marketing skills often need strong operational support.
Conversely, technical or product founders need help to get their product out there. Ideally you will have co-founders that cover all the main bases of sales, product, operations and finances – and have some good and relevant experience behind them.
If not, you should demonstrate that you have good people lined up once you get investment, or you can access the talent you need in the future.
Your team is a key area and we will suggest some tips on how to build a successful team in a future article.
5. Understand the investor’s point of view
Something most entrepreneurs forget is the fact that investors are putting in high-risk capital and need a return.
Any start-up needs to demonstrate that it has an exciting and big enough opportunity to scale, grow significantly in value and deliver a strong return on investment.
You need to build credible financial forecasts to back up this opportunity, based on realistic and achievable assumptions that you can justify to investors.
Investors will still want to kick the tyres, ask lots of questions, see if there are any skeletons in the closet and negotiate appropriate legal terms and valuations.
If you can get the five points above right, you can hugely increase your chances of securing investment and beating the odds. After all, beating the odds is what being a successful entrepreneur is all about.