Situation: A company is drafting a pitch for their next round of funding. They want to reach both current and a new set of investors and highlight the improvements that they’ve made since their last round of funding. How do you optimize a financing pitch?
Advice from the CEOs:
Work on a quick demo of the site. This is critical for a software company. The site must clearly and quickly show what differentiates you.
When you sit down with potential investors, start your pitch with a catchy statement, e.g., “We’ve all heard about ‘pay it forwards’. I want to talk to you about ‘Job-It Forward’.”
Start the presentation with an overview and a simple illustrative explanation so that the audience instantly gets what you are doing. For example, “we’re about generating social capital and here’s an example of how we do this.”
Be careful not to drown your audience in detail. Limit yourself to 3 bullets per page. Use graphics rather than words as much as possible. Most people can only absorb a limited amount of verbal information, but they remember pictures.
If you’ve already started talking to potential investors, what are your results? What feedback have you received to date? Analyze this and adjust your presentation and pitch accordingly.
Can you show a potential funder ROI? For example, if you give us $X, we will generate $Y in terms of return. You want to demonstrate IMPACT! Those who will support you want to see the advantage of investing in you vs. other options available to them.
Include a slide showing sources and uses of money spent to date. Show how you will use the money that you wish to raise.
Interview with Sai Gundavelli, CEO, Solix Technologies
Situation: A company has top talent and a better technology solution. However their large competitors continue to compete by discrediting them – “nobody was every fired for choosing IBM!” How do you compete effectively against large incumbents?
Advice from Sai Gundavelli:
Invest in your product.
Work to attain best-of-breed status in your industry with a constant focus on and investment in building a great technology. Solix’s constant goal is to be the technology leader in information lifecycle management and Data Privacy.
Be organic and focus on integration, smooth operation and scalability. Build your system from the ground up. An organically designed solution where the pieces work seamlessly offers higher and more efficient performance.
Invest in alliances.
Solix continually invests in our partnerships, including our OEM relationship with Oracle Financial Services, and we have more such partnerships in the works that will help us expand our presence in the market. Partnerships increase your presence and visibility as you scale your own organization.
Focus your efforts.
We at Solix are 100% focused on our product, whereas our large competitors are juggling multiple priorities, like a juggler trying to keep a large number of balls in the air. While we are smaller, this allows us to more effectively focus our efforts without lots of conflicting priorities. We focus exclusively on information life cycle management and Data Privacy.
Have others talk about you.
Solix’s answer to our competition is let our customers speak for us. We have many happy customers such as Honeywell, Duke Energy, American Tires, who are happy to participate in joint webinars and customer case studies. We work closely with them on the latest developments and direction and use their feedback to guide future product direction.
Situation: The dynamics of an early-stage business require balance between focus and opportunity. The challenge is in the balancing act. When do you focus on the plan, and when do you adjust?
Advice from Phil Bookman:
Never allow your friends to become statistics. We call our customers our friends. Our most loyal and vocal friends were our early adopters and got us where we are today. They remain important participants in the conversation and are always in our focus.
Along the same lines, when using social media to communicate to your audience, remember that this is a face-to-face conversation. This is a key point of focus.
Remove as much friction from online interactions as you can. Make it as easy as possible for people visiting your web site to buy. This requires both live interactions with users and attention to detail. If a question keeps coming up, answer it; put the answer right up front on your web site where it cannot be missed.
We’ve made hundreds of tweaks, each tiny. Each has removed a point of friction. As the company grows it is easy to lose sight of these details. Never lose sight of details.
Much of what we face in business is transitory. It is important to stay nimble so that you don’t get stuck fighting the last skirmish. For example, in 2009, we found that a subscription service was difficult for institutional users like purchasing departments in schools to understand. It isn’t now.
You must be careful not to chase bright shiny objects – opportunities that take you outside your principal market competence. Would you try to modify a hammer to put in screws?
Our principal product TapToTalk is a communication device for kids with verbal challenges. Some have suggested that it could also be a teaching device. Possibly in the future there will be room in our plan for a teaching device, but we will address this as its own market and application when we are large enough to diversify.