7 Lessons From an Angel Conference 1

If you’ve never been to a business plan competition or angel conference, you really should try to find one to attend. They’re excellent networking events and great opportunities to see what other entrepreneurs are up to. But more importantly, they give you the rare chance to hear what potential investors like and don’t like about businesses,  business plans, and pitches.

At last week’s Willamette Angel Conference, five finalist companies presented their 10 minute pitches to the audience and investors. The investment fund members had already conducted a six-week due diligence process prior to choosing these finalist, so they were quite familiar with all the details of the businesses. If you’re even considering seeking funding from investors, here are some things we learned last week that should be helpful.

Investors love good teams.
The first comments after each presentation were, without fail, about the management team. The panel clearly wanted to see motivated, experienced leaders behind the businesses before they’d consider investing.

Get investors to get more investors.
When presenting companies had interest from other investors or had already secured some investment, it was a definite plus for the Willamette angels. It validates the business, and the fact that it’s got money in the bank already doesn’t hurt either!

Be in the right place at the right time.
Several times, investors commented on pitches that were for products that met an emerging consumer need or were coming at the right time. Play up how much people need your product to get investors on board.

Be aware of the competition.
One negative note investors sounded more than once had to do with competition. Some businesses had a low barrier to entry, others were looking to get into an already crowded space. Investors appeared wary of putting their money into these businesses.

Show how it will scale.
Several of the entrepreneurs who presented were asked pointed questions about whether their business would be able to scale up efficiently. It seems like a high-class problem to have to worry about meeting high demand, but investors know that many businesses fail because they can’t ramp up fast enough.

It’s all about the exit.
Investors loved the pitch that presented multiple exit possibilities, and appeared less interested in businesses that didn’t have a clear exit plan. Don’t forget to include how and when you plan to exit, and who potential buyers might be.

Don’t forget sales and marketing.
Even the best ideas won’t sell themselves. Investors know this and they expect you to know it too. Several times presenters were asked for more information about their marketing plans and what they’d do if their products didn’t simply sell themselves.

As you can see, a few hours spent at an event like an angel conference could make the difference between wowing  investors or leaving them cold. Whether you follow the advice above or seek out a local angel conference to attend, pay attention to what investors are looking for and make sure you give it to them.

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