Successful interactions with investors depend on prioritising information to enable efficient decision-making and agreed plans of action. Both updates and board meetings benefit from being highly organised so that they focus on what progress is being made towards the startup’s objectives, and how future strategy can be shaped to improve performance.
For board meetings with investors, meticulous planning helps ensure that business is conducted efficiently within the allocated timeframe. A well-organised agenda determines the tone of the meeting as well as what is discussed. Sharing the agenda at least 24 hours prior to the meeting allows participants to prepare in advance so that business can proceed quickly on the day. Investors are likely to feel fresher at the beginning of a meeting, so it makes sense to put the most important discussions at the top of the agenda. This also encourages punctuality.
Regular updates benefit from having a standardised layout. This allows content to be added speedily by the founders, and gives investors a familiar format so they can easily find what they are most interested in reading. Credible projections need to be prepared prior to investor interactions. Investors should be given secure access to supporting documentation.
Investors appreciate regular updates that tell them how their money is being spent and what positive outcomes are being achieved as a consequence. Therefore, it is important to provide investors with updates on key performance indicators (KPIs) and other information such as exciting new additions to the team. KPIs are closely watched by investors which are often the best signal they have of return on investment (ROI). KPIs are more insightful when founders provide some context, so it may be worth explaining wider economic conditions that are impacting the business.
Pleasantries aside, any interactions with investors should start by addressing the largest strategic risks and challenges affecting the startup. The founder should present these points to investors in a way that does not overtly steer them towards a preferred course of action. Investors should be encouraged to openly consider all options, using the best and most impartial data available.
Under no circumstances should difficulties or mistakes be covered-up. Investors are there to help and share their expertise. In the event of a serious issue facing the startup, full disclosure by the founder at the earliest opportunity allows for problems to be addressed and hopefully resolved in a timely manner. Investors appreciate founders who are transparent in their dealings and are prepared to take responsibility for ‘bumps in the road’ that are an inevitable part of the startup learning curve.
Every point on a meeting agenda or update should be there for a reason. One objective might be to provide investors with pertinent information, or to request information from them. Another objective for a point might be to prompt a key decision or action. Once the objective has been reached in a meeting, the discussion needs to move on without further delay.
Clearly, realistic time slots need to be allocated to each topic of discussion so that all investors present are able to contribute their thoughts. This should be done in proportion to each investor’s expertise, not just the size of their shareholding in the startup. Personalities play a role in this decision too. Time slots therefore deserve to be carefully considered by the founder in advance.
All founders should aim to communicate their enthusiasm and determination in their interactions with investors. Hard work and focused problem-solving play a large part in determining the growth and success of any startup. But soft skills and emotional intelligence are important too. Founders need to enquire about any hidden concerns that investors may have, and pay close attention to their responses.
Outside the boardroom, try to engage individually with investors in a more informal way. This can help them to share potentially sensitive issues that might be difficult to air in the presence of others on the team. Informal chats are often how business angels provide some of their most useful advice and support. For this reason alone, founders should not always be in ‘sell mode’ when interacting with investors. It helps not to be boring.
Point of Contact
Investors need to be supplied with a main point of contact so that team members aren’t distracted by investor inquiries. It also spares investors the frustration of chasing up information from different sources. In the case of a startup, the point of contact is likely to be one of the founders. Agreeing on a main channel of communication and scheduling regular updates is a sensible way to manage investor interactions.
After a board meeting comes the follow-up. This usually takes the form of written minutes and next steps. The minutes usually record the decisions that were reached at the meeting, the actions required, and the goals to be progressed in time for the next scheduled meeting. On an individual level, follow-up includes getting feedback from investors on how to improve meetings in the future. This might affect how they are organised and run.
Sometimes it is appropriate to keep potential investors as well as existing investors in the loop. Providing a potential investor with updates on how the startup is growing and developing can keep the business on the investor’s radar and may tempt them to participate in future funding rounds.
On the whole, interactions need to focus on what investors are most interested in. KPIs and improving execution are always part of the mix. Future strategy is the other key issue. Getting communications right requires the founder to plan well in advance. However, this shouldn’t turn a meeting or conversation into something that feels stilted or excessively formal. Investors are human beings too. Founders need to pay attention to each investor’s individual personality and priorities in order to build a productive relationship.
If you’re seeking funding, guidance and support for your early-stage start-up, get in touch with the Pitchdrive team today to get started.