My first time raising money was a disaster.
At the time I was EVP New Media at one of the biggest and best ad agencies in the world.
I had just dreamed up an amazing startup, convinced my bosses (the CEO, Board Members and Founders of the agency) to help create it and even got clients on board. At the time all I had was a deck and what every creative ad-man has — the ability to sell.
Armed with an amazing deck, an incredible story, the best CEO we could find, and the unbelievable connections my bosses had, we set out to do a “road show”, a series of pitches that included some of the wealthiest people in the US and owners of the biggest brands.
I pitched my heart out with charm and poise and even a little bit of cockiness.
We followed up the presentations with emails, calls, bargaining, haggling, and a few weeks later…
We had a 2 million dollars investment.
So, what’s the disaster?
Simply put, success is a terrible teacher. It teaches us nothing.
Couple of years later, money was running out faster than expected (here’s something every startup founder knows — the money ALWAYS runs out faster than expected!) and we had to set out again to raise more money. And we got……..nothing. Zilch. Zero.
We were heartbroken.
But I learned a lot through that journey. I was intrigued about the whole process and curious to find out why some people succeed in raising money while others don’t. To my delight I found out that there is a method to the madness. There are skills that can be taught, learned, implemented and are real game changers. That got me really excited and passionate.
Since then I’ve raised tens of millions of dollars applying those lessons, and here’s the best part…you can do it too.
Take a breath, young Padawan, what you’ll read now may seem obvious, something you’ve heard before, but implementing the lessons is hard and takes discipline. But done right (and with a sense of humor), can change the world for you.
The skills you need boiled down to 3 important “skills”:
Don’t be needy.
Have a great story and know how to tell it!
Control the conversation.
Today we’ll be talking about the first:
Don’t be Needy.
Easier said than done.
Although investors, especially VC’s love saying phrases like “The entrepreneur should always vet the investor as much as the investor will vet the founder and team”, yadda yadda yadda, here’s the truth:
The founders are sitting across the table, their startup has about 4 weeks of runway left, they won’t be able to pay their employees, nevertheless themselves, and they’ll need to shut down the startup. Their dream of creating a life changing company will be shattered, they’re on the clock and they think their future will go down the drain if they don’t get that money. Now.
They don’t have time to play games or ‘vet’ investors.
On the other side of the table is the investor. He/she has that money and it is cosily sitting in their pocket right now! All the investor has to do is say “yes”. And it seems the investor has about a million options to invest in.
So, it’s very easy to understand why it would seem that the investor has all the power and why 90% of startup founders (male or female) come off as needy and/or desperate in the first meeting.
BUT, there are 2 truths that need to be taken into consideration in this scenario.
First: “Whenever we chase someone or value someone else more than ourselves, we assume the subordinate position and put ourselves in a disadvantage” — Oren Klaff, Pitch Anything. This is absolutely true. But it goes even deeper than that. It’s not just a disadvantage. It’s lethal.
Our brains are wired to react to weakness in others by either repulsion or compassion. None of these emotions inspire confidence in a potential investor to invest their valuable money in your startup. On the contrary, being needy or showing weakness is a sure-fire way to ensure you won’t get the funding. You need to change that.
Second: The investor is there to do a deal. They want this to happen as much as you do and they desperately don’t want to miss out on a good deal. They’re looking for a life-changing opportunity. The last thing that they want to hear is that an investor friend of theirs got in early on a fantastic company and they didn’t. Yes, we’re all driven by FOMO.
So, how does that help you become “not needy?”
Here’s what you need to do;
First step is to realize that this is not a lop-sided situation. Yes, the clock is still ticking against you — the founder — and we can’t discount that. But, you also need to realiz
e that you are the prize here.
You have the world changing/money making idea.
You built the product.
You assembled the team.
You convinced people to take a risk on you.
You. No-one else.
There are a lot of investors, and we live in a time where there is a lot of seed money. It’s almost a commodity. There will always be another investor ready to realize how great you are.
Since you don’t have much time, this actually works to your advantage. Since you now know that you’re the “prize” here, and you understand that you have a time limit, you need to communicate that to the other side. If this meeting doesn’t work out, you need to be on to your next one, fast.
Go into the meeting with a strong time frame in mind. Tell the other side what it is. Be charming but very clear… “So great to meet you! We have 45 minutes and then I’ll have to leave, so let's make the most of it.”
Setting a time frame is not only an immediate signal to everyone else that you are needed somewhere else, and are in demand, but also flips the control of the situation to you. Once you realize you have control, you’ll find yourself more confident and your investor will start to admire you more. Furthermore, you need to be ready to use that time frame. It may sound counterintuitive as you probably want the conversation to last as long as possible, therefore solidifying a relationship. But that would actually be a mistake.
People are funny creatures. You think that once you’ve spent time — good, positive time — with someone, it makes you more desirable. The truth is quite the opposite. People chase what is moving away from them. We all want what we can’t have.
We place higher value on things we think are harder to obtain.
I’m sure you’ve all been there: That person that didn’t return the call, and with whom you’re suddenly obsessed with. That beautiful shoe that you can’t afford, now you’re dreaming about it. And so on.
You want to become that focus of desire. Since you have probably felt many times yourself what it means to lust after something, you’ve also likely felt the effect and how much harder you’re willing to try to get that object of desirability. The same thing will happen with the investor across the table!
If you can use a solid time frame to get them to understand that you are moving away from them if they don’t decide quickly, and that your startup is a valuable prize and that it will be hard to obtain, you increase your chances of getting that investment… dramatically!
Practice it. Get a few meetings where you can try it out in a low-stakes environment, and if I’m wrong, write to me and tell me about it.
Once you feel confident that you can use “time framing” to tip the scales and eradicate neediness… you’ll be ready for the next step.