Ever wondered what investors are thinking when they hear you talk about your business? What gets them excited? How important is your team and how should you talk about your market?
Creative England CFO Mehjabeen Patrick has heard hundreds of founders pitch for funding for their startup and early-stage businesses. We’re really proud to announce she’ll be a judge of The Pitch 2018, with her team helping out with educational content.
We caught up with Mehjabeen to talk about what your pitch should include, how to access business support and her tips on building an awesome team. Here’s what she had to say.
Pitching your business to investors
Investors are mainly looking for the four Ms – Market, Management, Money, and Momentum. Market – the problem you’re trying to solve and the market for it; Management – the strength of the management team and the skills and passion the team is bringing to that idea; Money – the potential of the business to generate returns for the investors; and Momentum – the right idea, at the right time with the right strengths.
Then there’s the execution piece. The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful entrepreneur is execution. You might have the best idea in the word but if it is not executed properly it is worth nothing.
When I’m sitting in a room going through a long day of pitches what I’m looking for above all else is the people behind the idea. That’s what really gets me excited and helps me put my weight behind an idea. It could be a mundane business, but if it’s done with passion and by the right person it’s really exciting.
When startups come to pitch it always helps if they’ve done some kind of testing in the market. It helps us understand the potential traction for their idea. A lot of businesses point to a huge market for their ideas but are not always able to back that up with some real data or examples.
Building an awesome startup team
A founder with a good idea and a passion for it is not enough for a business to be successful – they need to be surrounded by the right people.
It seems obvious to say that a founder is as good as the team he or she gathers around him or her. But it is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to underestimate the importance of the team they build. Founders don’t need to be good at all aspect of their business but what they really need is be good at surrounding themselves with people who are experts in their field and who can challenge them – whether it’s co-founders, board directors, mentors or advisors.
Getting a non-executive director to provide advice on business matters could be the thing that takes your business to the next level.
As a new business, it’s not always easy to hire all the skills you need early on because funding is limited and you might have to bootstrap. If you are hiring make sure you not only cover the tech development needs of the business but also have people who can do business development and financial management.
Startups also need to make use of experts out in the field to complement the skills the team doesn’t have. You can use board positions and pro-bono advice from business leaders that are happy to help at the early stages of the business.
It’s understandable that for a startup founder trying to do so many things appointing board members might be the last thing on your mind. However, getting a non-executive director to provide advice on business matters could be the thing that takes your business to the next level.
Getting government support for your startup
Over the last few years, we have seen the government putting a lot of support behind encouraging entrepreneurialism. We see a lot of government supported initiatives out there that businesses can use. However, it is true that it’s not always easy for small businesses to navigate the complex landscape and find out about what is available and how to assess it.
There are government websites that try to collate this information – one such useful site is www.gov.uk. Another really good place to seek relevant information are growth hubs. Growth hubs have dedicated resources to help business assess information, support and finance. But it’s important to remember not all growth hubs provide the same service – some offer support as well as investment whereas other just provide advice and signpost you to organisations who can provide finance.
The British Business Bank supports regional funds like Northern Powerhouse Fund and Midland Engine Fund, which are a good place for small loans as well as larger debt and equity investments. In both these regions, the British Business Bank is working through local and regional fund managers to provide these funds.
Other significant investors of government and public funds – especially in the creative and digital sector – include Innovate UK, Netsa, Arts Council of England, British Film Institute, Big Lottery Fund, Wellcome Trust etc.
The most important thing is to research well to establish the most relevant fund for your needs and not to waste time going after schemes that aren’t relevant. For example, if you’re a tech business doing R&D Innovate UK is quite a good place to go but if you’re looking for working capital it’s not a good fit.
Working with Creative England
Creative England is here to support businesses and talented individuals who are operating in the creative industry. Creative England is a national agency that invests in and supports creative ideas, talent and businesses in creative industries – mainly in digital media, film, TV and games.
We believe talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. Our aim is to provide access to opportunities so that individuals and businesses can achieve their full creative and commercial potential. We believe England’s creative businesses are already a big success; they generate jobs, profile and value and they drive innovation. However, they don’t always have access to support they need to grow. We help provide them with better access to finance but we don’t just invest money; we provide wrap-around support be it mentoring, training, contacts, profile or just advice.
The Pitch winner gets a package of money-can’t-buy mentoring support. The top 100 startups attend free boot camps to learn about funding, marketing, pitching and more in small teams. Learn more and start your application here.