Congratulations! You have an excellent idea that you are ready to mold into a startup. You’ve found your co-founder, started the process of creating a prototype, built your website, and might have even secured an impressive number of sales. You are ready for the next step which is securing the funding needed to take your startup to the next level. Wisely, you have chosen to continue your startup journey in Atlanta, a place filled with talent and investors.
Last year, Keiretsu Forum, the largest angel investor network in the world, launched a chapter here. Organizations like Invest Atlanta and the Atlanta Tech Village create numerous opportunities for startup owners to come into contact with potential investors. So, there is no shortage of ways to connect with someone who wants to fund what you’re doing. However, do you know how to capitalize on these interactions? Can you ensure that these conversations lead to a long-term relationship? Read on for four tips for networking with investors, and some insight into where to run into these individuals in Atlanta.
Do Your Research
Before you attend that conference, investor dinner, or pitch night, see who will be in attendance. Many organization will have a list of investors who are participating or will at least disclose the investing organizations the will be representing. Once you have this information, do as much research as you can. Read and follow their blogs, follow them on social media, and see if they have a LinkedIn profile or Group. Find out the types of businesses they have funded in the past, and even gain some insight into their general business interest. Knowing even small details like where the investor is from, potential alumni connections or their business interest can work in your favor and add layers to your first meeting.
Have Your Elevator Pitch at the Ready
If you ever took a business school class, most will stress the importance of having a 10 to 30-second elevator pitch where you creatively and efficiently explain who you are and what you do. You may only have a few seconds to get an investors attention, so practice this and practice it often. If you have ever been to a networking event or even conference dinner, you will know these events can become fast-paced. There will be other entrepreneurs in attendance who likely want to meet the same investors you do. So, have your initial pitch ready to go at all times. Run through it enough to ward off nerves or a distracting environment.
Be Yourself and Humanize Your Approach
Remember, investors are people too. While they do have many resources to offer, they do not want to only be seen as dollar signs. You would be surprised to know how many people who approach them and only lead with “the ask.” So, take the time to introduce yourself. Don’t just tell them what you do, but let them know why you do it. Also, please don’t forget to ask them questions. Inquire about what they do, and what sparks their passion for doing it. This is also a great time to bring up any connections you discovered in your research: a great article they shared on social media, an alumni connection, or a component of your startup that fits in with their business interest. Take as much time as possible to listen and learn about them.
Always Have Proof and Evidence
Investors don’t just want to hear about how excellent your product is; they want to see it. To better understand this, put yourself in the role of the investor. These individuals have a lot to lose if they make the wrong investment. So, they have to make calculated risks that make sense for them. Knowing this, what would you want to see from a startup owner? What financial information do you need? Would graphs and diagrams be helpful to convey this information? Think with this lens when you are preparing your documentation. Also, be mindful of the fact that you would likely only have a few moments with this person. So, make a point to create information that is easy to disperse and something an investor can look over even after the conversation is over.
So, we have covered some tips for interacting with investors, where you can use these skills in Metro Atlanta?
- The Bridge Community – The Bridge Community is an entrepreneurial community model that provides relevant business training to early-stage startup owners. Those that participate in the seven-month program can network with other members, receive free office space, and have tech credits from Google or AWS at their disposal. Members of the startup’s team will also spend one to three hours a week learning from a member corporation. The corporate and startup partnership program begins in April. If interested, take a look at their website at the beginning of next year for application details.
- Atlanta Startup Village – The Atlanta Startup Village Event, held at the Atlanta Tech Village, allows a group of selected startups to pitch their businesses for five minutes. There will be a time for groups to receive feedback, answer questions, and network with attendees. The next event is December 3 at 7:00 pm.
- StartUp ChowDown – This event also takes place at the Atlanta Tech Village. While it is not meant for pitching, entrepreneurs can come and share lunch with innovators and entrepreneurs. Considering the large number of startup owners in attendance, it is likely that investors or those with ties to investors could attend. The next event is November 9 at 12:00 pm.
- Atlanta Startup Battle – This two-day event allows over 300 startup organizations to work with mentors to develop their startup ideas to pitch to attending VC investors. The event is limited to 500 attendees, so even if you are not able to sign up as a startup organization, this can be an excellent way to network with potential investors as an attendee. The Atlanta Startup Battle takes place at Techsquare Labs on November 13th at 6:00 pm.