How to approach a VC

Roberto Bonanzinga is a partner at Balderton Capital and has spent over 15 years working with entrepreneurs in the US and in Europe. He gives some candid advice on how to approach a VC.

For start-ups, there is an excessive amount of information at your disposal on how to attract customers – but there’s very little on how to attract a VC.

So, if you’re entrepreneur trying to get your foot in the door, how do you make investors want to meet? Further still, how do you make sure they listen to you?

I operate as an ‘open VC’ and you can contact me extremely easily – I actively encourage debate and contact, through Facebook, Twitter or Skype. But naturally this means that I’m inundated with a constant flood of emails and although I work very hard to be as responsive as possible it’s difficult for me to meet everyone.

So it’s important, as with any VC, to stand out from the outset – and in order to do that, I think that there are six simple tips to bear in mind: 

Strategic fit:

Understand the venture firm in question and what they look for in investments, so you ensure that your business is a strategic fit. For example if you approached Balderton with a cleantech idea we’d be unlikely to invest as it’s not our core business. Always focus on venture capital investors who have solid expertise in what you do; they can help you the best.

Personal Fit:

Research the investor you are approaching, ensure your business falls under their area of expertise and double check that there are no conflicts of interest. For example, I would be hard pushed to consider investing in another social gaming company given my commitments to Wooga.

Make it personal:

Your contact strategy needs to be both smart and personal. Try to find a contextual link back to the investor you are approaching or a mutual contact who will endorse you. For me personally, I find those who refer back to a conversation we’ve had online or a post on a Facebook group will grab my attention quickly.

More on VC fundraising:

Best communication channel:

Figure out what is the best channel for that all important first approach. Not everybody can be reached or responds in the same way – some are far better on SMS, others on IM, Skpye, email or just a call. You’ll waste valuable time by choosing the wrong channel.

Show me your product: 

If have you a working prototype then send me a link or invite me to join. I spend a good proportion of my day and night playing with prototypes and it’s the part of the job that I enjoy the most. If an investor can connect emotionally to your business or idea, this will create a very positive dynamic from which you’ll reap the benefits over the investment period.

The ‘executive summary’:

You’d be surprised by how many people request to meet but won’t even tell me what their business is about. This is a guaranteed way to turn an investor off. Always make sure you send an executive summary – it must be concise, clear and have personality. It is said that interviewers make up their minds within two minutes of seeing a candidate, well the same could be said for executive summaries.

Most of the executive summaries I receive are good quality. Every now and again I’ll see a really great summary. And once in a blue moon I will be sent something exceptional, something succinct, which offers an immediate overview of the company without being overly complex or technical.

I look forward to receiving many more. I’m always available through @bonanzinga.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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