We’ve had conflicting advice of what/how to approach raising money from the ‘send a business plan’ to ‘never send a business plan, only send a 10 slide deck.’ What suggestions do you have? At what point (if any) do you suggest sharing a business plan and how long would you suggest that business plan be.
The Perplexed Presentation Sender
Regarding your question, whether to send a business plan or just a deck, investors have different requests and some may ask for both (and more) or some may just want a deck. A deck & executive summary is typically enough to get an investor interested. Business plans are long are probably won’t be read unless the investor has already become interested and wants to dive in further.
Regarding your deck, it’s pretty text heavy so doesn’t really need another document to go along with it…basically your business plan is a longer way to say exactly what you said in the power point deck. When presenting your deck I do recommend a bit more visual presentation, as it gets boring as an investor (and investor associate) to listen to someone read off text from a deck or word document. Investors invest in great stories from entrepreneurs solving big problems with innovative solutions…so tell your story in a captivating way. Especially if you already have some product out there you should have lots of great visual aspects to show.
It is that time of year when malls are full, online shoppers are on the prowl, and free shipping is coveted. That’s right – Christmas shopping. There a few similarities I see between Christmas shopping and starting a company:
Buying Christmas presents is like understanding customers (or users). If you know what your relatives and friends want, you can get them something they really like. Similarly, if you know your customers (or users) you can deliver something to satisfy them.
Shoppers and entrepreneurs can pursue different strategies for reaching their goals. For shoppers, they can accumulate gifts for people all year, as they see something that they think will make a nice gift for someone; or they can wait until Black Friday to hit the malls and peruse the Internet for stuff to get. Similarly, entrepreneurs can build something over time, say one to two years, before releasing the product or service to the public; or they can rapidly prototype their product/service, launch it, test it, get feedback, use the feedback to improve the product or service, and release a new and improved version of the product or service. (Note: there is no wrong way to do either. It’s all a matter of personal preference, work style, and the specific gift you are buying or product/service you or creating. Best not to wait until last minute to buy a high demand item that takes 2 weeks to ship to you; and you may not want to launch a beta product or service prematurely)
Sitting on Santa’s lap is like fundraising. A nice way to shop is to let Santa do the shopping for you. Tell him what you want; he puts his elves to work, and bam! Your wish is his command. Too bad it is not that easy. Similar to how an entrepreneur prepares a ‘presentation’ for investors (“Our company has a proprietary platform that leverages social networks to deliver highly targeted advertising. We are looking for a $1 million investment. We have a great team, scalable technology, and are addressing a large market opportunity, so you should invest in us.”), people prepare their pitch to Santa (“I want a pony, new shoes, and an ice cream maker, and I have been a really good girl this year, so I deserve it.”) It’s not always fun or glamorous. In fact, both can be a bit intimidating. And sometimes they will bring the kid or entrepreneur to tears. In that case, the kid gets over it and the entrepreneur gets over it (hopefully), or both are scared by the traumatizing experience and fear ever approaching the ‘big guy’ again.
Black Friday is a Christmas shopper’s business plan competition. 10 companies, $500,000 prize money up for grabs, 10 minutes to explain why your company is the next big thing. Compare that to 2,000 shoppers, at one retail outlet, all competing for 100 big screen TVs on sale. The business plan competition doesn’t sound so hard after all!
You’ll likely encounter poor service. Whether you are shopping at Macy’s or on a sales call with a big potential customer, you’ll likely run across people that are not always full of joy and Christmas music. It is a stressful time of year for many who work in retail, and sometimes the person you are trying to sell your product or service to really has no interest. Maybe the cashier will forget to take those dang security tags off the items you purchase. Maybe you’ll get hung up on. Maybe you’ll get a sharp “we are not interested” halfway into your spiel. Whether you are a shopper or entrepreneur, do not let it bring you down. Learn from it (check those clothes for security tags before leaving the store!) and be even better prepared for next time!
There are probably more ways Christmas shopping and starting a company are similar. What do you think?