- Build a strong team with direct and relevant reputation. To be clear, names alone don’t matter as much as the relevance of the team members to the challenge facing your business. Example: Selling SAAS to enterprise? Have someone on the team that has a track record of successfully growing revenue within a well known enterprise SAAS startup. As an investor I care who is on your team because it means A) other skilled people are also buying into what you’re doing and B) you have the skills within the team to execute on your plan. The common response here is that good people cost money. This is your first test as a CEO, and it’s one of the most important things to get right. Good people want to be challenged, and they want to win. If you can convince them of this, they will want to join your team, even at little or no pay.
- Learn to articulate your ideas well, have confidence and conviction. The best ideas die on the vine if they are they are poorly communicated. How do you become better at articulating your ideas? Start talking. Get out of your head. Go to networking events and try to speak to 50 people. Listen to how they respond. Iterate on your delivery every time. Keep testing your pitch. If your grandmother doesn’t get it, it’s probably you, not her. Oh and on that note, refrain from sprinkling in jargon words like AI, or blockchain or IoT to make your idea sound cooler. These terms actually mean nothing to the person you’re speaking to and I find the people who truly understand a technology are capable of describing the problem and solution without using jargon. Jargon is actually a negative signal.
- Know your market well and have a narrative on how you expect the market to evolve in 5 years time. If you can’t make the prediction, you probably are focused on the wrong thing. No one expects you to be a fortune teller but having a key insight into how the market will evolve in the 3 to 5 year future is particularly important for early stage investors. Remember early stage investors are betting on a future with almost no quantitative data to confirm it exists yet. Therefore, the key for an early stage investor is to find entrepreneurs who can anticipate how a market will evolve, and predict inflection points that could provide opportunities for markets to be captured.
- Amplify the signal by using top tier accelerators or angel investors to help you spread the word to investors. Track record is one of the strongest signals that exist for early stage investors. If you’ve got a great track record of building and exiting companies, you already exude positive signals, but if this is your first or second company, then getting into an accelerator with a great track record can be almost as powerful. Techstars is one of just a few global accelerators that have invested in more than 2000 startups, and quite a few successful investments have come out of the Techstars portfolio. In fact more than 1 in 20 series A investments in US startups have Techstars on the cap-table. Investors trust the Techstars process to find and grow successful businesses. As an early stage startup, not only can an accelerator like Techstars help you focus on the right things, they can also amplify the positive signals you’re already generating to make sure the best investors in the world are paying attention.
This piece originally appeared on Medium.
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