10 Angel Insights to Get Your Startup to GO!
To get your startup off the ground and efficiently running, take every opportunity to speak with angel investors and industry experts. Perspectives from an angel supporting and advocating for entrepreneurs are the root of these 6 tips or insights for startups to execute! These insights come from my biweekly angel access hours at Hera Fund where entrepreneurs can come fro 20 min at a time to ask any questions of an angel investor, review slide decks, and get pitch ready for an awesome presentation.
1. Start with the EXIT in mind. I cannot tell you how many times I have said this during my angel access hours. For the early-stage investors as well as series A through X, exits are what drives execution, drives development decisions, and ultimately a merger, acquisition, or IPO. Customer buying habits and need are also a very important driving force, of course. A consistent challenge for many entrepreneurs is how to calculate valuations. This strategy helps a startup create a mindset with the end in mind, calculating the BEST case scenario, the low hanging fruit at first and then the most scalable model during growth, and then arrive at the optimal solution for exit for the particular business and product. I really LOVE this article from Intuit about this specific idea of keeping the end in mind.
2. Consider a family of marks with building logos. I am not a lawyer, but the idea of having a family of trademarks instead of just a solitary trademark in one area is more appealing to investors. It makes for a better exit. Even the mere strategy of expansion of trademarks is a fantastic one to have with a potential investor and allows for them to understand your overall strategy for launch and growth. Did you know that the #1 trademark valued company is the Apple brand, worth $124.2 billion? Brands have value!
3. The role of a CEO in the start up is half ADHD and half focus. The opportunities for funding and strategic alliances come through at different times of the day, different paths, various connections. Going after shiny bright objects is the duty of a CEO. Prioritizing those shiny bright objects into ones that will influence the direction of the development of the start up is that unique feature of the strategy of a CEO. The other half is focusing the team. Usually in early-stage start ups you have a diverse and punctuated team, from part-time employees, sweat equity partners, consultants, investors. Keeping them all focused on the development of the start up is the role of the CEO. That way you can manage that is to communicate regularly about the vision, business development milestones or accomplishments being being accomplished. The other thing to get everybody on the same page is to layer the milestones from each component of the start up so that everybody is focused on the same targets and the same progress, but in their specific unique expertise. Everyone feels special and rewarded at the same time because all are working towards a unified goal.
4. Mind map to exhaust possibilities when stuck. I absolutely love creating simple mind maps for problem solving around a new name, a new logo, a pivot. It’s a simple tool that is not foreboding for most and feel very easy to do and accomplish. Entrepreneurs feel accomplished and calm after creating a mind map when they are stuck. It has a similar effect as a BMC (Business Model Canvas) in that you write your ideas down on paper and can get valuable feedback from a group or advisors about your thoughts. Here is a great virtual site, www.examtime.com, that helps you create a mind map online. This is an example of their product:
5. What’s your ask? Should entrepreneurs ask for smaller investments amounts when valuations are down? I always have this discussion these days with startups who are either asking for too much or not enough. You want to ask enough so that you have enough runway to get you through development and marketing costs so that you are not fundraising incessantly. However, if you are asking for too much for a particular industry, then you might be viewed as capital inefficient. Be as reasonable for your particular product for the industry you are primarily diving into.
6. Mentoring: it fills gaps. Many startups want to get an experienced mentor, an angel investor, the holy grail. However, mentoring and giving back is all about lending a hand up to the one right behind you. Grab somebody who needs advise, needs connections or yearns for community. Help them out! Drive them to a breakfast meeting, commit to accountability sessions, commit to helping each other out.
7. 80/20 rule of execution. You know your industry, you know your product and understand the ideal client, get a great business plan in place and go for it! Want to read more about the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, here is a great resource: The Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.
8. Confidence of having it all together. You will never have “it all together” as a startup, iteration is constant, work within the unknown. You can control what you can’t control.
9. About the business model. Get the best one you can … Get feedback … Be open for change and more feedback. Seek advise, try a business model out, accept failure, pick yourself up and try again.
10. Execute and communicate. Create External “Progress Reports” to help define and track KPIs (key performance indicators)/goals. Having to demonstrate progress to someone external on a regular basis is a huge motivator for entrepreneurs. This is how to get this accomplished: end a newsletter to investors/key stakeholder every 6 weeks ( key stakeholders = partners, collaborators and some strategic alliances). Your startup will stay top of mind to your possible investors and keep them connecting you with the right people (which means SMART money).