Ryan Arshad, Managing Director US at Brandcap, shares his advice and expertise on how to package your company correctly to optimise chances of fundraising.
“You have 10 seconds, if you can’t look at a business and decide whether or not to stick a knife in it your time here won’t last long.”
These were the impressionable words the Chief Investment Officer of a Top-10 VC Firm threw at me during my second-round interview. I eventually went on to land the job and worked with a portfolio of 250+ startups with over $1.5B in enterprise value, holding the metaphorical knife as wide-eyed, eager entrepreneurs gave me their best pitch. Before they could get through the mission statement slide of their pitch decks, their 10 seconds was up.
First Impressions Matter
Anyone in the startup community is familiar with the term “elevator pitch”, which most entrepreneurs will confuse as the verbal quick pitch to an investor. What most founders don’t realise is there’s a far more important pitch before the elevator pitch: your brand’s at-first-glance impression. In an industry where decisions are made in a matter of seconds, you only get one shot to catch the attention of your target or you’re dead in the water. If your brand doesn’t convey the proper message, tone, and feel to get someone to double-take, then you won’t even get the opportunity for your voice to crack as you recite your Shark Tank inspired script. Make it matter when it counts.
Investors Invest In You & Your Brand Is Your Representation
Not only will a strong brand catch any sound investor’s attention, it will also establish an unconscious vote of trust. In today’s society, where everybody and their dog is starting the next big disrupter investors have segmented their decision-making process into two main criteria: investing in the right people and/or investing in the right way of thinking. Your brand is the umbrella that encompasses both determinants. A clear and concise brand can display how founders think, how they execute, and how they see their product becoming a business. It paves the way for every startup enthusiast’s favourite word: scalability.
Driving Smart Growth
Putting its recent troubles aside Uber provides a good case in point. Before it was the world’s largest taxi company without owning any vehicles, Uber was just a luxury taxi app – an infinitesimally niche market. If the company had positioned its brand to limit itself just to these one per cent of commuters, Uber wouldn’t be worth the $billions it is still valued at today. It had to create a brand that went past their early adopters; a brand that jumped the chasm to the mass public as well as rolling out additional service offerings like Uber Eats and Uber Rush.
The same applies to Facebook. Going from a small network of college students to the largest source of media publications in the world, now clocking up 2 billion monthly users required building a brand environment that made its members want to share with one another.
Now obviously you can’t predict the future, your business will pivot, your mission statement will change. This is where you need to understand that your brand is a living entity, one that evolves with the new service offerings, partnerships, and acquisitions of your blossoming unicorn. Your brand tells the story of how you’ll capture these audiences and maximise growth.
“When it comes to who we choose to invest in, we heavily examine the ecosystem founders have built. With an oversaturated startup environment, the identity, direction, and big picture these entrepreneurs have created separate the winners from the losers.”
–Bryan Adler, Dreamit Ventures