7 Steps to Building Investor Relationships
A start-up founder and I recently closed a hard-fought round of financing. It took longer than expected and we received less than what we had set out to raise, however, the process secured us a valuable investor relationship, something far more important than the dollar goal.
We also learned some critical lessons along the way—things, which had we known at the start, would have changed our entire approach.
Like most people, we started by narrowing down a long list of venture investors, then following up with cold emails and asking for introductions from our network. We were rejected a lot. However, this was not wasted effort. Sometimes, we received feedback that were incorporated into our strategic thinking to refine our pitch. Rejections thickened our skin and made us more confident in our approach. There are no short-cuts. You have to work on your pitch, and you can only do that by regular pitching.
Where we went wrong was how and who we approached. We mistakenly believed that we would get to “yes” within months of first contact, and we focused too much on the firm instead of the people. People make decisions, not firms! In order to get a firm to invest in you, someone there must first believe in you and your business, an internal advocate. Without one, you will never secure investment.
These are the 7 Steps we now use to build investor relationships:
Step 1: Start at the firm level. Make sure the firm invests in your space, round and size.
Step 2: Look at the firm’s portfolio of investments to find close matches to your company.
Step 3: Find the people that manage those investments for the firm. Sometimes they hold board seats or are board advisors, sometimes not.
Step 4: Once you zero-in on your short-list of contacts, research their backgrounds, read their articles, listen to their podcasts and build an understanding of their potential interest in your space.
Step 5: Reach out with a thoughtful note referencing their relevant investments or quotes from their articles and podcasts. Don’t ask for a meeting, just ask if they will take the time to review your deck. If they’re interested, follow up to get a meeting.
Step 6: If you do get a chance to present your pitch, but they pass on taking it further, ask them for their reasons. Most won’t tell you, but some will. Either way, ask them if they’d like to hear about your future progress.
Step 7: If they say “yes” to future contact, follow up.
Even venture investors are cautious. Prove to them, over a long period of time, that you are professional, that you do what you say, and that your business is progressing. Investors are people. People invest in those they trust, and trust is built over time.