You have an idea, a prototype, you’ve launched an MVP or are now public. Customers are knocking on your door, so are investors…or maybe not. You’re probably planning now to hustle hard and get off the ground. First, a bit of background:
Back in February, we proudly announced our global group of angel investors, including Infoseek founder Steve Kirsch, Xiaomi VP Hugo Barra, and Hootsuite CEO and founder Ryan Holmes. People always ask how we were able to secure our advisors and investors.
It was NOT an overnight process.
There’s been blood, sweat and tears (okay, more sweat than tears), sleepless nights and countless caffeine refills on Notey’s way to winning HK CoCoon’s Pitchnight, becoming a finalist at New York Techweek, and being featured on Techcrunch and Product Hunt.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
Meet more people.
You know what they say, you can never have too much of a good thing… Over the past two years, Kevin (my husband and co-founder) and I have probably met about 300 people for coffee in 12 different cities. Remember – people give you opportunities so the more people you meet and learn about your product, the more doors you will open for yourself.
Referrals can take you a long way.
Ask for referrals. Remember to follow up with each referral and always thank the referee both before and after (this is a must!). There’s no holding back when you’re starting a company. This is the time to leverage your network and use the social capital you’ve collected over the years. A lot of meetings we landed in the Valley started with the network we had built in Hong Kong. A good way to start is setting up a LinkedIn account (widely used in the Valley). Ask for a few “He/She walks on water” type of recommendations, identify who you want to meet, check your mutual connections and don’t be afraid to ask for introductions. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Always be Closing.
When it comes to pitching to potential investors, either you sell them on a reason for investing in your company or they sell you on a reason they’re not interested (thanks Ben Affleck). If you truly believe in your product and vision, it should be natural for you to love talking about it. Location also doesn’t matter. Never hesitate to ‘pitch’ your product on a plane, at a hotel lobby, at a bar or a park (I surely have!). In a place like Hong Kong, everyone is, could be or knows an investor and you’re don’t always have a pitch deck with you.
Practice Your Pitch.
Pitch to as many people as possible, not just for the sake of raising money. Pitch to your mom, your friend’s grandma and the person sitting beside you on the train (they’re getting off at the next stop anyway!) Often, the best description of your product is a result of comments from the people you’re pitching to. Put yourself in the user’s and investor’s shoes. How would you like to be pitched to? Continually refine and recycle some of the words from the feedback you receive into your pitch.
Rules Don’t Apply.
When Team Notey attended Techcrunch Disrupt in San Francisco last September, we ensured we were the first to arrive to set-up our stall and noticed tons of empty stalls in the room. An hour later, we noticed nobody was moving in so we promptly switched to a prime location with lots of foot traffic. The next day we weren’t allowed to pitch (they have a 1-day only policy) but that didn’t stop us. No table? No problem. We asked an organizer for a table, and pretended like we were entitled to one (pro tip: organizers are usually too busy to notice whether or not you’re supposed to be there). We started pitching and invoking the lessons above. Results: We had more than doubled the number of meetings from our previous day. Why? Not only was our pitch more refined, we garnered more respect being seen as hustlers.
Time is the Biggest Commodity.
Not to contradict my earlier point on meeting as many people as you can, but time is precious and you need to allocate it accordingly. Go into every meeting with purpose. Be selective and intentional with all the meetings you commit to. Are you asking for money? An intro? Advice? Walk away with definitive answers or other goals you might have.
Every day, startups fight an uphill battle between time and money. If you’re not spending time building your product, you better be making each meeting meaningful which leads me to my next point:
Don’t end up in bed with the wrong colleague, partner, or investor. As time is a scarce resource, you need to be allocating time to the people that are helping you grow your business, and not those that have their own agenda. For every major decision think about “what could go wrong” and invoke Murphy’s Law to keep you on the right path.
The Best Advice?
The best advice I’ve received didn’t start with “ You should” or “You must” (you’re probably now discounting everything I’ve said above…and you’re welcome to)… but rather, “Have you considered x?” and “Have you thought about y?” Most advice is worth listening to but not all advice is worth acting upon. Who is giving me advice? How well do they understand my problem? What is their expertise in this space? For me, the best advice came from former founders and entrepreneurs. I give more credit to ‘been there and done that’ than ‘old and wise.’
Should you listen to all of this? Maybe. Does all this advice apply to you? Maybe not.
source from StartUPsHK