Pitching to investors: A first-hand account

Bertie Stephens, founder of online shopping service Flubit, talks about his experience with two pitches for investment and what investors expect.

My company launched in September 2012. Since then we’ve been on an exciting journey seeking to spread the word, continuously improve our user experience and reach out to investors to enable us to take the business to the next level.

Over the last few months Ricardo (our COO) and myself have pitched Flubit to well over 20 venture capitalists and Investors to secure our next round of funding. We were also fortunate enough to be shortlisted for the London Web Summit European Start Up Award, which meant pitching to a panel of investors and judges.

Preparing and pitching to potential investors takes a huge amount of time, energy and commitment but it’s been a fascinating and incredibly worthwhile experience. We’ve learnt so much from each and every meeting and we’ve taken all of the constructive feedback we received to improve our pitch for the next time. We’ve even taken some of the suggestions and incorporated into our product development to improve our user experience.

At seed stage your idea is normally just a vision. Whilst the vision needs to make sense in the market, everyone knows there’s a lot of guess work. For that reason you need to understand how the investor will take the risk. They’ll take a risk on the vision, but they need more assurances. This comes in two forms, the size of your vision and the quality of your personality.

Investing is risky (so I’ve been told), so to mitigate the risk the investors want to try and add additional reassurances to their belief in your visions. Firstly, you must think big. No investor who’s going to put £100,000 into your business wants to get £150,000 back in three years. For a start there’s a 90 per cent chance or so they’ll lose that bet, but secondly if they’re able to part with such cash they’ve probably got other outlets where they could do more with that money in a shorter time. 

Many will want to see you’re thinking big, so if you hit half your vision their return looks big too. Then be likeable. Be positive, energetic and vibrant. Show the investor that with their money energy is going to go wild – no one wants to invest in someone that looks like they’ll crack at the first bit of pressure.

We’re now in a fortunate position in that we secured the initial seed funding and are already up and running. We’ve developed a great team around us, we’ve been driving revenue and customer transactions from day one and all of our metrics and KPIs are heading in the right direction. This means that for the next round of funding we’ve got a compelling proposition and a number of good news stories to tell, which is the key to getting investors interested in what you have to say. And that’s key you need to have a compelling story to tell.

Investors are a savvy bunch so there’s no point hiding anything or trying to wallpaper over any negatives. From day one we’ve been very open, transparent and honest and have created a set of business metrics and KPIs, which quickly and easily give a snapshot of how we are doing and where we are heading. We also knew from the outset that investors are busy and haven’t got time to read through reams of information, so our presentation deck and supporting reading material is very to the point and straightforward, with more pictures than words!

The London Web Summit presentation was different to the investor pitches. For a start we had time limits so the key was to make it as simple and concise as possible, whilst getting the key points across. We wanted to tell the story as to what’s already been achieved, show why users keep coming back for more and why Flubit has got such massive potential.

See also: Essential guide to business presentations – There may be times when you need to speak to investors to help you grow your company and to do so, you need to be confident in you presentation skills.

Winning the European Start Up Award was a great achievement and a fantastic feeling but is only a milestone on our journey and doesn’t really change things in the ‘real’ world. It was judged by a panel of top VCs, so to have that external validation from a business perspective is great. But our success will be defined by the true value we bring as a company to our core proposition. The win is a stepping-stone in the right direction and gives us another layer of credibility, which we can use in our conversations with investors, merchants and partners. 

One of our key philosophies is to never stand still but keep on improving and seeking new ways to enhance the customer experience. We are lucky that we have a growing number of very loyal customers who use our product time and time again and also tell their friends. So our challenge is to ensure we are delivering every time and also provide an exceptional experience for those new customers that find us and are happy to give us a try.

Adam Wayland

Adam Wayland

Adam was Editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2006 to 2008 and prior to that was staff writer on sister publication BusinessXL Magazine.

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