So you want to hit it so big that your company name becomes an everyday verb. But before anyone can google your Mission page, there’s some serious soul-searching you might’ve glossed over. You may think it’s time to begin pitching investors, but, chances are, you haven’t asked all the right questions, the same questions that might blindside you in the middle of an incredible pitch opportunity. Here’s how to really make yourself a magnet for capital.


1 – Take a good look in the mirror.

Bags under your eyes? Hint of crazy in your stare? You need to know how passionate you really are about this. The promise of money is intoxicating at the outset, but eventually you’re going to have to nurse some hangovers, whether it’s a slow start, or a difficult pivot, and only an obsessive belief in your product is going to carry you through these difficult times.

Scott Friend, managing director at Bain Capital Ventures said this in a Tech Republic article:

“The scarce commodity for investors isn’t finding good pitches, it’s finding entrepreneurs that have real passion and real knowledge around the topic.”

You can boast all the positive metrics in the world, but if you aren’t willing to make temporary sacrifices of comfort and convenience, maybe you need to reevaluate your product.


2 – Define yourself.

“Are you a high-impact or small business entrepreneur?” says Paul Jones in Forbes magazine. Jones is a serial venture capital-backed entrepreneur, as well as an angel investor.

“Are you trying to be a business owner who’s well respected in the community; has a nice income and runs his own shop or are you trying to create the next Microsoft or Twitter?” Jones asked. “You have to choose because these are two very different rides.”

According to Jones, as a high-impact entrepreneur, you can scale your company very quickly and make a lot people rich. But the catch is that you won’t be able to be your own boss for long. Whereas, for small business, you’ll definitely be your own boss enjoying salary security, but you’re trading that for much more modest gains.

The more in touch you are with what you want from your company, the easier it’ll be to measure achievements along the way.


3 – What’s your story?

Even if your company’s startup bio isn’t very sexy, you need to learn how to brand your name with a compelling, humanized core. This is where potential customers (and investors) begin an emotional connection with your products or services, whether it’s the Ah-ha! story that kickstarted everything, or an anecdote about sacrifice, something as straightforward as you leaving a comfortable career in search of a more meaningful journey.

But, as Neil Patel writes in his Beginners Guide to Online Marketing, “brand storytelling is not about your company. It’s about your customers and the value that they get when engaging with your product or service. The most powerful brand stories are the ones that prioritize customers as the stars. Think of your company as a supporting character.”

A company bio is only the launchpad for connecting with your customers. Remember, your product or service is likely solving an everyday problem for thousands or even millions of people. Try to envision the sequence of events that leads a single customer to your company, then consider how that all relates back to why you founded this company in the first place.


4 – Know your competitors.

If you can’t name any of your market competition, then either (A) you haven’t done enough research, or (B) you may not be targeting an attractive enough market.

In a VC Cafe article, Eze Vidra asks three vital questions:

  • “Who are your competitors?”

And who doesn’t just mean their names; you need to try to understand what makes these companies tick. Treat who like it embodies the five W’s of journalism: who, what, when, where, why. Join their mailing lists. Read their white papers.

  • “What makes you better, faster, cheaper, unique?”

Try out their products or services yourself. Or interview their customers. The more you can live inside the mindsets of your competitors’ customers, the more you’ll understand how you can advance the market.

  • “What is your unfair advantage?”

After you’ve done extensive research, you should begin to see your company’s competitive edge (or the need to develop one). The answer to this question could be almost anything: industry experience, talent pool, networking capabilities, creativity in thought and execution, etc. The flaws you see in your competition may very well reveal your own company’s best kept secret.


5 – Know your location.

The actual address of your company headquarters means a lot more than just how far the nearest pizza joint is. Your location determines:

  • Access to funding – Even the perfect pitch can’t pull capital out of a hat.
  • Taxation – How does your city compare to other cities in terms of tax percentages and incentives?
  • Talent pool – As your company grows, you’re gonna need a reliable pipeline of young talent, and that pipeline must be able to diversify along with your company’s staffing needs.
  • Business ecosystemInvestopedia defines this as “the network of organizations – including suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, government agencies and so on – involved in the delivery of a specific product or service through both competition and cooperation.” Everything has to do with everything, no matter how gleaned your business model is.

Onward and upward. For future installments of Pitching 101, we’ll explore each component of the Pre-Pitch Checklist with individual articles in a step-by-step progression toward and including the actual pitch itself.

In the meantime, if you’re still trying to plant the right roots for your young company, have you considered southeastern North Carolina? With a business incubator/accelerator like tekMountain at the heart of its innovative ecosystem, you’ll find the perfect environment for startups, with complete access to baseline services, mentoring, and venture capital networks that will help you scale your company the right way.

Contact tekMountain today to build the perfect pitch.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumMike PattonRod WhisnerAmanda SipesBill DiNome, and with lead writer Zach Cioffi.

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