It's been a busy week. We segmented all of the life sciences ventures on Triangulate to look for trends in specific segments and map the growth stages of local companies. I helped a PhD candidate who is measuring the impact of mentoring on women entrepreneurs, had two board meetings, held office hours at both HQ Raleigh and American Underground and helped the NC Biotech Center prep three Ag-bio companies for upcoming presentations. But rather than cover a little on each of the above, I thought I would take a deeper dive into one specific interaction, in hopes others will learn what not to do to meet possible investor.
On Tuesday, I was approached by one of the newer tenants at a local incubator.
This first-time entrepreneur is a transplant from California who selected Raleigh as the right spot for his family to live and where he could launch a new company developing beacon technology. We had a very good meeting. I gave him good starting lists of organizations he should look into as well as specific angel groups that might be interested in him/his technology. I also offered specific direction: to leverage his lawyer to make warm introductions to these investment groups when he is ready.
Wasn't I surprised (and really disappointed) when Jason Caplain at Bull City Ventures cc'd me on a reply he sent to an inbound inquiry he received? Evidently, a business development consultant reached out to Jason on behalf of the entrepreneur (don't really understand why) and told Jason that Jay Bigelow advised them to connect with him. Nothing could be further than the truth!
Putting aside the damage in trust this has created, I hope by now, most of you understand the importance of a warm introduction by a trusted person to any potential investor. Investors, especially full-time venture capital ones like Jason, get unsolicited pitches all the time (sending something "over the transom" is a total waste of your time).
Instead, to connect with a good quality investor, you need to:
First, do your homework—understand the type and stage of investment the investor makes (a professional investment group is not going to back a first-time entrepreneur with an 'idea stage' company).
Second, after you have a good list of investors that may be interested in your technology, reach out to your network and your network's network to see who has the best relationship with each of those firms.
Third, go meet with each of the connectors and run through your pitch with them, try and find out as much as you can about how that target investor thinks, what he/she likes and doesn't like, what questions likely to be asked so you'll be prepared. Only after you have the connectors' insight, ask to see if they think the target investor would be interested. If yes, you are likely to get a warm introduction, and maybe also an endorsement.
Professional investors will almost always take a meeting with someone new who has been endorsed by someone they trust. If the connector says you aren't ready yet, take that advice and find out what you need to do to become ready.
Please don't bluff (or worse yet, lie) your way into the meeting. It will be uncovered and when it is, your credibility factor will drop to zero.
Back to the road.