We are in the process of evaluating the applications for Angel funding for our current round. Like most investor groups we use Gust as the platform for entrepreneurs to load their company information. Overall, I must admit I am disappointed in many of these applications. Many of the applications look strong in terms of idea or concept. Some apparently have traction. Some claim to have traction, but don’t support that claim. However, the real problem is that for more than 90% of these applications, it is the first time I am exposed to you. The application is my first impression. And first impressions matter! Here are a number of items that are problems.
Incomplete applications. Gust is a standard format platform. The executive summary, financials section, team composition are all fairly straightforward. Missing items or incomplete items leave a bad first impression on me. If an entrepreneur does not provide all the information by the deadline, then it requires substantial explanation. Leave a note somewhere on the document telling me when the document will be completed, and why you require the additional time. I understand, we are looking at a moving target, but at some point I need to review a snapshot.
Financials Section. On Gust, the financials section is where the entrepreneur asks for funding and offers a summary of projections. It includes a place to upload documents. Upload your documents. I expect to see a spreadsheet with details of the projections.
- I don’t want to see a pdf file. With pdf I really can’t see the basis of your numbers. Load an Excel spreadsheet with assumptions and a polished look and flow.
- One tab of sales projections is not enough. In addition to the assumptions tab, there should be at least tabs for a cover summary, a cash flow projection, hiring guide, balance sheet and revenue models. You need a minimum of five and don’t overwhelm me with 20. I don’t need that level of detail…yet.
- Hidden tabs that include details I need to review are a minor inconvenience. Why should I work harder on your application? Make your data clear and easily accessible.
- On the positive side, I have seen a few spreadsheets, that have a nice summary up front, a tab with an assumption table linked into the spreadsheet, a hire/HR table and clear, bottom up projections that go over time until past cash flow positive. The revenue projections are important and should not be overlooked.
- Spreadsheets are a complete topic for another blog. For now, I will admit that spreadsheets are something of a work of fiction, because they are guesses. But the closer the entrepreneur comes to being correct about these numbers, the higher my confidence level in the venture.
Articulating the Value Proposition. Don’t make me guess what your real value is to customers. If you are not perfectly clear in articulating the product to the target market, then how will I know you will be able to effectively sell the product/service?
Proof Points – Gust does not ask for this, but it is important that you be very specific as to the stage of your venture’s development. This will come out in due diligence. But if you have a finished product or channel partners already lined up, that leads to a much better impression for investors.
Know the Rules of the Game. An understanding of how our Angel group operates will benefit the entrepreneur immensely. For example, if our average investment is $400,000 and you are seeking $900,000 then be certain how you can fill out the rest of the round. I don’t particularly like building piers. I want to build a bridge to the next round. If you have funding that supplements ours, then great. However, know that we prefer to lead rounds unless the terms of the other funding is sufficient. So, be careful uploading the other term sheet – know what we like.
Stage of Development. Don’t hide the point that customers aren’t paying or you don’t have any customers yet. Be honest and forthright and just tell us exactly how you will conquer the world. Make me take a bet on you through truth telling.
Traction. Traction is right. Traction works. Traction clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Traction, in all of its forms …has marked the upward surge of saving the world (thanks to Gordon Gekko for the quote).
Traction is the basis of all that is good in a startup. Traction is the market validation of a value proposition with its target market. Traction shows proof points on its business model. Traction is based in real sales (not a give away product) and has evidence of other proof points – channel partners, a supplier base or existing value chain.
No Faith Based Entrepreneurship. I am really not interested in what you believe. Save that for church. Show me the proof. All that matters are evidence based startups.
Get these right and investors will be your friend.
Disclaimer: These are my own views and not those of any investor group that would have me as a member.