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By Arlene Dickinson
Having spent nine seasons on Dragons’ Den taking in thousands of investment pitches, I am often asked about the attributes of a winning pitch.
Assuming you’ve got the right foundation – a smart business idea and the drive to succeed, regardless of obstacles – here are a few tips on how to find and successfully pitch investors.
Pitch the problem
Many of the most successful businesses started out providing an innovative solution to a common problem. Early in your pitch, state what the problem is, which audience is affected by it, and how your product or service effectively addresses the problem.
Know your audience
Researching your audience gives you the best chance of relating to them both personally and professionally. Talk to people who know them. Google them. Did they graduate from the same high school or university as you? What events have they spoken at – i.e., a Ted Talk – and what did they talk about? What is their business or investment philosophy?
Anything that enables you to connect with them in a deeper way will increase their engagement when you are making your pitch.
Anticipate the tough questions
Together with your team or a trusted advisor, go through your pitch to identify any potential weak spots in your story. As an investor, I am always interested to see how people answer the tough questions. Do your best to anticipate them in advance and have thoughtful, succinct answers ready. If you are pitching a venture capital firm, you may even consider meeting with someone like a bank loan officer first to see what kinds of questions they throw at you.
Show passion and personality
The old saying holds true: you are investing just as much in the person as the product or service. Sell yourself with confidence and humility rather than cockiness. Also, start-up entrepreneurs wear a lot of different hats and are often the lead sales person in a small business. I often ask myself: “Would I buy something from this person?” Be passionate, positive and personable, as these are key attributes of successful entrepreneurs.
Where to find money
As a new entrepreneur, there may be limited options for funding because you likely do not have an extensive network of business connections to lead you to potential investors.
There are a number of investment options to consider, including banks, venture capital firms, and angel investor associations, all of which are located throughout Canada. Depending on your investment needs, keep in mind there’s a range of government grant and loan programs to get your business off the ground.
Whenever taking on investment dollars, remember to consider what non-cash tangibles the investor can offer. Do they have extensive financial management experience or sales connections that you can leverage to grow your sales and profitability more quickly?
Starting your own business is an exciting and challenging journey. Securing financing is the first of many steps, all of which require you to be resilient and resourceful. However, when you are pitching, try to relax, be yourself, and let your passion shine through.