You’ve got the next Snapchat on your hands, but you have one small problem: You need to start raising money to bring it to the masses. Luckily, an event hosted by “GeekGirlMeetUp LA” this week helped budding entrepreneurs tackle the necessary steps to locking in your seed investment.
There are a dozen meet-ups like this every night in the “Silicon Beach” tech scene, but rarely do you come away with this much insight. The panel featured four women from different aspects of the startup world — from founders to early-stage investors to venture capitalists.
The event was open to anyone, but the all-female lineup was especially intriguing for the women in the audience with CEO-aspirations. One speaker in particular — Shivani Siroya, founder and CEO of Tala, an app that instantly evaluates a user’s credit and gives micro-loans — seemed to resonate with women of color at the event. “Subconsciously, you want to be able to relate [to other entrepreneurs], and I usually can’t” said Tulani Watkins, a young black woman and founder of Scoop, a startup looking to take unwanted clothes and electronics off people’s hands for cash.
Still, the panel’s advice was worthwhile for anyone looking to start pitching their product. Here are the seven key takeaways on how to get your billion-dollar idea off the ground.
1) Do your homework. Target VCs that matchup up with your company’s sector — don’t go to a firm specializing in fintech if you have a meditation app on your hands.
2) Use Linkedin to your advantage, recommended Amanda Schutzbank, Vice President of Amplify.LA, a startup accelerator based in Venice, CA. Look for any common connections and use them for a “warm introduction.” A shot in the dark email might work once in a while, but you’re much more likely to get your foot in the door with an intro from a mutual contact.
3) Don’t start with your “top 10” VCs for pitching, either. Work your way up and “work out the kinks” of your pitch before really pursuing the heavy hitters.
4) “What metrics do you first wake up to?” is a question you should be ready to answer, said Alyse Killeen, founding partner of Stillmark Co., a VC firm. Prepare to explain why the metrics you chose are most important for your business and what you are learning from this data.
5) “Articulate three pitfalls” for companies in the same “space” as yours, and how you can avoid them, said Colleen Poynton, Vice President of Core Innovation Capital. Anticipating potential stumbling blocks is critical, because it allows you to navigate your way around them before they become an issue.
6) “Look for patterns,” said Poynton. If 29 of your 30 pitches are routinely confused on the same aspect of your company, that’s a bad sign. Find a better way to explain your idea.
7) “Have a vision for your company,” said Siroya. You don’t have to outline your 10-year roadmap like Mark Zuckerberg, but have a plan in place for what you’ll do with the money you raise. Your investors want to see you’ve thought about where to best spend your new cash infusion.