Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
There is nothing more exciting as a founder and CEO than seeing your business get off the ground! Ask any successful entrepreneur about their journey, and most of them will share stories of how their business started. The world loves companies that started out as just ideas being worked on by a small team. Companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Hewlett Packard, Mattel and Disney started in a garage, while Facebook, WordPress and Napster did so in a dorm room.
While some of these stories might have been romanticized, every aspiring entrepreneur has heard these stories and dreamt of following the example of the visionaries behind them: defying expectations and hardships. However, thanks to the efforts of those that came before them, most entrepreneurs will have more options than their idols originally did.
Related: 5 Steps To Keep In Mind While Pitching For Seed Investment
More options, more problems
Today, despite a rocky 2022, startup funding has broken one record after another over the past years. To entrepreneurs, this means there are plenty of opportunities out there … but few will be more important than their seed funding round.
If you are looking to gain momentum to make your ideas a reality, a seed funding round will be integral to ensure you can do so. While you might already have some funds at your disposal and some of the infrastructure to start working on your startup, this won’t be enough in most cases. After all, equipment, offices, staff and technology cost money.
As such, there is no such thing as too much effort when it comes to ensuring your startup gets the seed funding it needs to survive through the initial stages. Let’s not lie: While there are more funding options out there than ever, competition is fierce out there. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to increase your chances of success.
Related: Setting The Stage: What A Seed Round Entails For Your Startup
How to make sure you are ready
If you ask experts, founders and investors about what these steps are, you will get a lot of different answers. However, there are some that I believe most of those who have succeeded in the startup ecosystem will agree on. I believe that by ensuring you fulfill these checklist items, you will be closer to getting the funding your startup needs:
The material: Make sure you have everything you need — like a deck, one pager, tight financial model, demo or MVP of the product, relevant videos, etc. Providing relevant information to your potential investors in a cohesive, concrete and well-presented manner will ensure no pitch effort is wasted.
Have a target list of investors: This target list could include early-stage VCs, strategic investors, incubators, angel investor groups, individual wealthy angels or any other seed funding sources. What you need to be sure of is knowing what opportunities you have and who you will be pitching to. You should be considering this at the time of creating the material.
Have a cheat sheet ready: About 80% of questions that founders get quizzed on are quite common and readily available. Make sure to research them and know them (as well as the answers) by heart before you start presenting. This can be done by preparing and keeping an updated cheat sheet. Keep in mind you need to work hard to provide an efficient, short and to-the-point response, as while longer responses might be easier, they come at a cost.
Do your homework on each investor: It is your job to maximize the effectiveness and value of the meeting. The world will not take you on a path because those you are pitching to have plenty of options in front of them. You need to create a path for yourself by standing out and showing you are the best option for them.
Your outlook: Grit is essential when it comes to entrepreneurship, and all investors know this. As such, they are surely going to take a quick glance at your background when you reach out. Make sure your personal profiles, your startup’s material and general information reflect your passion and qualifications. By doing this, you are making sure you will get your potential investor’s attention.
The opening statement: Everyone knows how important first impressions can be. Unfortunately, many founders struggle to get the train started or to put it into the right lane. To make a great first impression, make sure you have a strong opening statement that starts your routine or a framework to get the right train on the right track as early as possible. If you master the art of the first impression, most other things will follow.
The ask: As a founder running seed funding, you are not looking only for capital but also for connections, support and much more. Make sure to let your potential investors know what it is you need from them by avoiding vagueness and putting a timeline in place. This needs to be very crisp, clear and concise. If possible, remember to schedule a follow-up call or a meeting in a week to discuss their thoughts. By doing this, you are ensuring that they commit to it.
Before you launch your seed round, make sure you’ve checked off all of these items above. Again, there are many opinions and strategies out there, but ensuring that you’ve fulfilled these seven steps will certainly increase your chances of success.
Related: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pitching an Investor