Get funded by being unique. I’m going out on the edge with this blog, but I really believe I’m right here and you’ll benefit big time if I am. So listen up.
It took me a long time in my life to embrace that I’m different. True I’m a white male with a middle-class background, not much different there. My differences are inside and the way I express myself. I always thought I needed to hide my creativity, intellect, compassion, and vision; not anymore. I worked really hard to hide my differences and to appear “normal”, a regular guy. I did get ahead professionally for a while, making it nearly to the top of the PC industry, making money, but it wasn’t very satisfying. It wasn’t fun. I felt like I was in a straight jacket most of the time at work. So this strategy didn’t work too well.
Now I lead with those unique abilities and damn the torpedo or two. The more I let my uniqueness show, the better I do financially, in impact, and personally. This doesn’t mean doing private psychoanalysis in public; nor does it mean wearing my emotions on my sleeve. It just means letting my unique capabilities and interests show and mold my professional work around them.
What I did have to learn was how to get things done in the real world, not just in my head. This took the longest time. But it was essential to gain the confidence of others so that funding and partners would follow. This is still a work in progress but I’m way past being a visionary now. I AM a vision master, someone with a clear creative compassionate vision for what’s possible who knows how to get it done in the real world.
That’s my personal story. Now I want to pay it forward. So that’s where my idea of “vision mastery” comes from — i.e. it comes from my own personal battle applied to your life. It’s what I wish for you, that you become a vision master and make real your vision for what’s possible.
And learning how to best raise money when you’re smart, creative, compassionate, and visionary is one of the key jobs you and I face in the real world. In my case now I’m raising money for a venture capital fund, but it’s the same problem. You may I suspect be different than the majority of investors in some visible way, such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, accent, cognitive abilities, physical abilities, or appearance. That just makes the challenge more critical for you, and also gives you some advantages which I’ll get into now.
The kind of advice you get from most funding advisors, YouTube videos, and accelerators are cookie-cutter correct, but in reality, it wastes your time. It wastes your time because they advise you to pitch your product, technology, IP, market gap, market size, business model, marketing plan, financial model, and exit path as primary. This forces you to pitch to dozens or hundreds of investors (unless you have extraordinary connections) before you find one that happens to fit. This is going to result in hundreds of pitches with only one or two going into term sheets and due diligence. And then even if you do get a term sheet and complete due diligence, it will result in reduced valuation because the investor perceives there’s a lot of risk in your business idea. Lots of risk results in reduced valuation. So you turn down the deal – or worse yet accept it and lose control of your company later.
Very few companies seeking outside capital ever get it. What makes you different from the rest, really?
In general, following the cookie-cutter model is a mistake because doing so does NOT make you different. Think about it. If you do the same thing as everyone else, you’re going to get the same results as everyone else — zilch, nada, nothing.
This is based on the premise your investors are betting on the jockey or you have the wisdom or courage to lead them there. Obviously, investors will always be interested in your product ideas, technology, market, business model, and marketing plan, but the better of them will always put at least 50% of their attention on you as founder and your team. Because you are unique in many ways, and because your uniqueness enables you to survive coming changes and pivots, it is your job to make sure that they put at least 50% of their attention on you and your uniqueness.
If you go back 20 years, entrepreneurs would raise money despite their personal uniqueness. Today, diversity is welcomed, even required by many investors. But you have to consciously embrace this fact and take advantage of it. You can’t just assume it, you have to work it to get funded.
This is NOT just about flaunting your uniqueness. If you just flaunt it, you will make most investors uncomfortable, even anxious and this will make them think you’re risky to do business with. This is about demonstrating that your uniqueness REDUCES the normal risks of starting and scaling a business. You have to CONNECT your uniqueness to how you, uniquely, can reduce the risks of failure of your business. That WILL make an investor less afraid, more relaxed, more open, and more trusting. And that has two major consequences that help you get funded:
1) They will start listening seriously. This will get you through the first pitch meeting (without the investor reading their email during your pitch) and into the second and follow-on meetings. You only get one chance with each investor. If you have to pitch to lots of them, you may miss your window of opportunity altogether, or you may have little time left to spend on the business itself. Either way, you may miss your window of opportunity and waste a lot of time.
2) When you do get a term sheet and after due diligence surfaces additional risks, you will get a much better valuation. A much better valuation means you keep more of the business, more control of the business, and a larger share when you exit.
So there’s an enormous payoff in time spent talking to investors, reduced stress while fundraising, getting into the market while the window is open, the amount of control you have over your business decisions and the amount of money you make when you exit.
Learning how to CONNECT your uniqueness to how you, uniquely, can reduce the risks of failure, has enormous positive benefits to you and your family. You can learn how to make this connection for investors in two different ways, both powerful:
1) Your messaging during your pitch (before and during the first meeting)
2) Your risk-mitigation strategy and valuation negotiation (usually discussed in follow-on meetings with investors)
Lately, I’ve been focusing attention on specifically how to connect the special abilities that women often have, to the ability to reduce the risk of business failure. There are differences depending on whether your company has a woman CEO or a woman co-founder. Both are good, but the methods are different.
Rather than go into the details here, since there are major differences in tactics and strategy depending on the company and you and your team, please contact me for a free consultation to answer your questions on this topic and get funded. When you call me, I’ll also invite you to a free private zoom conference on How to Leverage your Unique Personal Advantages When Seeking Funding. Appointments are available here.