Focusing on pitching and funding and laden with great advice for business starters, The Next Women’s second event on Wednesday was a real success.
Although the organisation targets female internet entrepreneurs, the info applied to all businesses trying to raise that all-too-crucial cash from investors.
Smarta’s founder Shaa Wasmund was speaking, and said that it’s vital when you choose your investors that they bring more to the table than just money. Their relevant experience and passion for your business is vital, and the right expertise is worth swapping equity for, even when money isn’t changing hands. She pointed out that you must listen to your investors – particularly when they’re all saying one thing and you’re saying another. If you bring on investors that you respect and trust, she said, you’ll always realised how valuable their opinion can be.
Anna Sofat from angel investment firm Addidi argued that cash is king, highlighting the government’s Entrepreneur Finance Guarantee as a useful source of funding for fledgling businesses. She recommended that start-ups have enough funds to live off for 12 months, and that they assume that their business won’t earn anything for at least that amount of time. She also pointed out the government seems keen to lend to women at the moment.
Judy Gibbons, a venture partner at Accel who makes key decisions on investing in internet businesses, explained what she looked for. If she was going to seriously consider putting money in, she said, she would want to see a clear strategy for disruption of the market and value creation, large growth in an emerging market, a world-class business and technology team, evidence of traction (meaning customer numbers, as the businesses wouldn’t yet have revenue), agility and a credible plan to scale the business. And credibility didn’t mean forecasts of £25m in five years, she explained – over-ambitious figures would be an immediate turn-off for an investor.
Other investors agreed with her. Julie Meyer of Adriane Capital and Cmypitch’s Emmett Kilduff pointed out that “pie-in-the-sky” sales forecasts are a real no-no. You can hear more great advice from Julie by watching her Smart interview here
Bill Morrow of Angels Den followed on from the figures comments by explaining that the first thing he wanted to know when someone pitched to him was what percentage of equity was being offered and for what price – and any pitch should make that very clear. Get more info from Bill in his Smarta column here.
Emmett expanded on advice for the actual pitch. He recommended using lots of visuals, but keeping everything really simple as well.
The super-engaging Andrea Blakesley from pitching consultancy Mudhut Communication said that you should be able to explain your business in 30 seconds to anyone – and warned of entrepreneurs tendency to talk and talk and talk the ears off people when they tried to explain their idea. She said that it’s far more important to keep it succinct and clear. There should be an immediate “grasp and gasp” – a grasp of what the idea is, then a gasp at how exciting it is.
She added that, to get investors interested, you need to prove that there was a need for your business.
All in all, a great event, so well done and thanks to the team at The Next Women. If you’re a female entrepreneur of you have a great idea and need funding, contact them to find out how to get a three-minute pitching slot at the next event.