What does it take to clinch that funding to jumpstart your innovative idea, and make that relevant impact in the world?
In October 2017 thousands of investors, company founders, business and industry mentors, youth, and media from different countries gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for Hatch! Fair the Fifth, an annual entrepreneurship conference and exhibition. Hundreds of start-up entrepreneurs showcased their innovations at the Fair, and competed in various categories to win investments, and international learning opportunities.
Two Hatch! Fair panelists (Jermaine Lim, Director of Incubator-in-Residence of Alphacap Berhad, and Mark Hon, Chairman of Business Angel Network South East Asia), let us in on some things they look for in any business pitch.
1. Solve a local problem well.
Southeast Asia is currently the seventh largest economy in the world with over 50% of jobs generated coming from micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In this continually growing economy, there are over 600 million young people who have the potential to contribute to the growing economy—be it by joining the labor force, or taking the entrepreneurial path towards economic inclusion and social impact.
Successful innovations and enterprises are able to identify the pain point, and know how to address such challenges in the most effective and efficient way possible.
In recent years, we have seen the upward trend in social entrepreneurship and impact investing, where more and more entrepreneurs and established corporations focus on shared value, and social impact just as much, if not more, than on revenue generation. When asked if investors nowadays are willing to venture on impact investing, Hon gives a definitive yes, as long as the business idea is meaningful, and the potential returns are practical and sustainable.
2. Be clear on what you want to do.
You need to have a clear vision of what it is that you want to do and how you are going to do it. When pitching your idea, tell your potential investors what they need to know. Lim says, they want to clearly and specifically hear about your market profile, for example, and measurable data and targets, including business models, and revenue paths.
Before facing a potential investor, have a clear definition of your business and be ready with your numbers and necessary qualitative data. What can investors help you with? What impact would their investment make? Draw your short, medium, and long term goals and plans, and clearly communicate these. Even the greatest ideas can lose potential support because of failure in communication.
3. Have a deep sense of belief.
Now, before convincing people to believe in what you want to do, you have to be the first person to believe in your vision. And this commitment must emanate as you present your business with conviction. Lim says, investing in young entrepreneurs is not considered high risk, as long they know what they are doing.
Show your potential partners and investors that you know your business inside-out and that you believe in the potential of your idea, so much so that you will go to great lengths to see your business take off.
4. Do the work.
Aside from the business model and revenue streams, Hon says investors also look at the personality and credibility of the business founder. So before you ask them to invest in your business, invest in yourself first. Hon adds, they usually go for marathoners and founders with high GPE in school because such credentials show dedication and hard work.
Study your market, equip yourself with necessary skills and knowledge, and build your character. As Lim puts it, one must be able to establish domain expertise in the concerned field, and take a leadership role. How would you do it? Step up your game, keep learning, and consistently deliver on your set expectations.
5. Build on relationships.
Securing funding for your business does not only rely on the quality of your product or service. It largely depends on you. Hon emphasizes that your relationship with your potential investors can mark the difference between securing and losing financial support. Having a good personality and high likeability can likely increase your chances at securing an investment. Who you are largely speaks about the kind of product and service you can provide.
Invest on human relations, and build your credibility and integrity.
While funding is a major concern for start-ups and budding entrepreneurs like you, it is important not to lose sight on other essential aspects of the business, especially yourself as a founder and director of your new venture.
Hon gives this crucial reminder — Funding is not the end goal. He says that sometimes it can actually cause more stress because having external investments for your business means that you have to deliver on your targets and remain accountable to such investment. Actual work will start once you’ve secured that funding.
Once you do, keep showing up, do the work, and make your mark in the world as you see your business get off the ground and create your desired impact in society.
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