Last Thursday, I attended an investor panel hosted by Ben Hron from McCarter & English. The discussion brought out some great insights for entrepreneurs on what investors are looking for and how to connect with them effectively. I’m including my notes here as nugget-sized words of wisdom to help other startups.
I want to note first that Ben has been active in the startup ecosystem in Boston for many years and has organized a number of panels and events. These events have been a great value to Boston’s startup community. This event was the last in the investor roundtable series. Featured on the panel were:
- Christopher Mirabile, co-Managing Director of LaunchPad Venture Group
- Shereen Shermak, venture capitalist, entrepreneur and active angel investor
- Michael Skok, founding partner of Underscore VC
Below are the 26 points of wisdom that I gleaned from the conversation.
- How do I meet these guys? Send link to plan or spend only 5 min on a call could work IF you know what he likes (do your homework!).
- How do you work with investors who “have already done that”? @mjskok says you might want to stay away. No word on whether they will bet on a tech space and invest in multiple startups with solution variations to see who will come out ahead.
- It’s best to tell the investor, “I really want to work with YOU because your firm is a match vs I am desperate to raise $ – @cmirabile
- “Ask the girl what type of guy she wants to go to prom with” – @mjskok If you’re a match, that’s great! If not, consider if your story can be a match, or if it’s a stretch.
- Probably need to be selling off 10%-30% of the company, then find the investor believers who care. – Shereen Shermak
- Find 1 or 2 folks who will go the extra mile. If you get a warm intro, there’s a much greater chance of connecting.
- Find people who know your space, know you and can introduce you.
- Try to find office hours to get a first meeting. There are lots of opportunities in the ecosystem for this. – Shereen Shermak
- Spend the time networking & connecting because it also proves you are “entrepreneurial” enough. – @cmirabile
- Top things to do when networking: tell what you do, tell where you’re stuck, ask for advice on what to do & who to talk to.
- Who told people to hard pitch in the handshake? Take your time but don’t waste it and leave a memorable impression. – Shereen Shermak
- Ask VC or Angel if they want to be included in a quarterly newsletter update – Shereen Shermak
- Investors want to hear/see you’re doing what you say you will. If you modify your course, they want to know why. – @mjskok
- Investors would have no jobs if not for entrepreneurs. – @mjskok – @cmirabile
- If they tell you to come back when you have $10M in revenue, they are not interested. – @cmirabile – @mjskok
- As investors, how do you search for investments? – @mirabile wants to have a @LaunchpadVG bucket under each startup spout, so they are in tune with everything happening.
- If you can give the VC the shakes with your story, they will stalk you. – Shereen Shermak – @cmirabile – @mjskok
- Not fans of convertible debt. If you’re raising under 1M & spending 25K on legal, this is no good.
- 2 biggest concerns by entrepreneurs: losing control and valuation. – @mjskok says focus should be on how to own the space together.
- Only 1 thing that matters is that founders are focused completely on the mission. – @mjskok – @cmirabile
- Women need to focus more on retaining control because they are more likely to be fired by VCs. – Shereen Shermak
- You can send me 80 page biz plan but I won’t read it. A concise email is hard to craft. An executive summary is great, but a pitch deck is best because it caters to visual learners and gets the point across. – @cmirabile
- Have 2 pitch decks: 1 with great visuals that you talk to, and 1 with more words, so it will stand alone.– @cmirabile (Maybe a narrated deck using @30hands to show your personality while you explain your slides)
- Boston is super awesome for startups and we have less “hype” here. – @cmirabile We are now paying careful attention to regulatory pieces too.
- Boston community is very collaborative & less competitive than some others. – @mjskok @cmirabile Shereen Shermak
- If an angel has not written a check in the past 6-12 months, they are probably not active enough for you. – Shereen Shermak
That my blast of wisdom from the roundtable. There’s a lot of great stuff in there. Good luck with your connections to investors and your investing!