Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

Do You Have What it Takes to Attract Investors?

I’ve noticed that some entrepreneurs seem to have no trouble attracting investors, while others with a great business plan struggle with it. The reality is that angel investors are humans, and personal traits often make or break the relationship, even before the investment is considered.

On the top line, angel investors look to invest in entrepreneurs that have an almost unwavering passion and sense of urgency. In the business, this is commonly called “fire in the belly.” If you don’t have it, you probably won’t succeed, even with funding.

Of course, this has to be in concert with a variety of visible characteristics that indicate that you as the entrepreneur have the attitude and practical skills to make it happen. Here are some key ones they look for:

  1. Talks and writes well. Can concisely explain the unique, compelling value of the proposed venture in written terms and in oral presentations (elevator pitch), recognizing that some investors rely more on one than the other. Listens before answering questions.
  2. Networked and connected. Successful entrepreneurs already have a visible network of trusted suppliers, potential customers, partners, and even investors. These are critical to any venture. A successful track record with previous investors is a home run.
  3. Full disclosure attitude. Clearly willing to provide details of weaknesses as well as strengths of the proposed venture, and the challenges ahead You must be willing to welcome the participation of the angel investor in the company, at least at the advisory level.
  4. Values intellectual property. Convincingly presents a patent, trademark, or other “secret sauce” that can create equity value, not just current cash flow for the owners. This has value now, and is critical for maximum value in a merger or acquisition.
  5. Not in a heated rush. Calm and self-assured, rather than desperate. Can show milestones achieved, as well as planned, which indicate rational expectations. Allows sufficient time to find capital, including due diligence time for investors.
  6. Realist. The best entrepreneurs recognize and accept things as they are, and react accordingly. They are quick to change their direction when they see that change will improve their prospects for achieving their goals.
  7. Domain experience and expertise. Investors realize that passion is no substitute for knowledge and experience, and every business is more complex that it might look on the surface. They will pay a premium for someone who has been there and done that.

At the stage during which the angel is normally investing, the entrepreneur may be all the angel has to go by to decide whether the deal is worth pursuing. The technology or product may be at an embryonic stage. There may not be any customers to talk to in order to evaluate the market need.

The investor, in order to eventually be successful, has to spot not only winning technologies but winning people, and all investors have a slightly different view of what a winner looks like. So, of course, they try to guess the internal traits, like honesty, dedication, vision, intelligence, and leadership based on external traits listed above.

If you think you want to be your own boss and run your own business, look in the mirror to see if you have the right traits to be an entrepreneur in your domain of interest. Better yet, ask a real friend, who won’t just tell you what you want to hear. We can’t change you, but you can change yourself, if the current pain level or the future reward is high enough.

Written by Martin Zwilling

user Martin Zwilling Founder and CEO,
Startup Professionals

Martin is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and angel investor. He is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners.

prev next

You might also be interested in

What Belongs in a Startup’s Pitch Deck?

So you’ve developed a game-changing product, formed a business with a killer team, quit your job, and are rolling the product out to market. Your business is the next unicorn, and all is good in the world. Fantastic. Now only one thing is inhibiting your company’s growth: you have no money.

For many founders of high-growth startups, bootstrapping has limits.

Read more >

From Accelerators to Venture Capital: What is best for your startup?

With startup growth up 61% since 2014 and more investment programs emerging, it can be overwhelming for founders to know just where to jump in. As the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, MassChallenge has helped 835 startup companies around the world, who have raised over $1.1 billion in funding and created over 6,500 jobs. We have seen startups at

Read more >

Ask A Founder: Startup Lessons Learned from Work Truck Solutions’ Kathryn Schifferle

Kathryn Schifferle, Founder and CEO of Work Truck Solutions, turned being a woman in work trucks into an oversubscribed $2.1 million round.

We sat down with Kathryn as she shared what her fundraising journey was like, the startup lessons she learned, and her advice to fellow founders, especially women. Here is what she had to say:

HK: Tell

Read more >

Valuation Part I: Peeling the Onion, or How Top Investors Value the Startups They Invest In

Update 2017: To help you understand how your startup will look to investors according to this methodology, we’ve created a fundraising feedback tool that will give you investor-level insight into your startup’s performance. In just about 15 minutes, it will tell you how much money your startup is likely to raise, where you can find that capital, and what to

Read more >

Trying to Raise Money? Thinking About Gust for Startup Fundraising?

How to Make Your Gust Account Stand Out to Investors

Before you read any further, I want you to know that I’ve personally used Gust to raise money for my first tech startup. I know a lot of other entrepreneurs who use or have used Gust to seek funds, but their profiles don’t always get attention from investors. Below are

Read more >

Comments