Just in case you’re new to all this, (“this” meaning dropping angel investments like a boss) we thought we’d give a few tips on what to look for when reviewing a campaign page. You may have watched a video at the top of the page and, in your excitement, jumped down to read all about the deal.
Well, here’s the deal. The deal’s a deal, but it’s really a story and all good stories draw you in. That’s what that video was all about. It was designed to give you an overview, but also to help you enter the story of the business. If you saw yourself in their story, then you probably excitedly scrolled down the page to soak up all of the information.
But what are you looking for? Rather than just follow the outline of the page, I’ll go at it another way. Let’s make it easy with some concise tidbits, along with a little alliteration. People, Positioning, Plan and Pro Forma.
You may have heard it said that “all business is people business.” Ideas, big plans, unique technology, other assets—these are great, but who puts these to use? Ok, so I gave it away with the pronoun. People serve people.
So when looking at a deal, the big question is, can these people pull it off? Do they have the right skills? Do they have enough experience? Are they going it alone?
It’s the team that ultimately provides the most credibility.
Distinct or extinct. That’s right. If there’s not something special (and particularly different) about the business, then it’s got a tough road ahead. “Better” is not different, it’s just…well, better. While “Better” counts for something, usually it takes a truly unique idea to succeed in the long run..
Your target investment probably isn’t warding off dragons or invaders from the north, but they should have a clear moat or defensibility. Deciding if the business is properly positioned comes down to how easily someone from the outside (a competitor) can come in and kill their townspeople. (take their customers)
You might not have heard of Moltke the Elder, but likely you’ve heard a paraphrase of his military wisdom: “No plan survives first contact”. In age-trendy ready, fire, aim maxims, this is many times used to justify the absence of a good plan. The problem is that generals who don’t have a plan going into that battle don’t win.
Rather than draw out this point by discussing every aspect of a good pitch deck or business plan, let’s just ask a few questions. Who is the ideal customer the business intends to serve? Are there enough of them out there (i.e. how big is the market)? How will they be served profitably? What is the growth strategy? Do you still need answers you can’t find? Check out the Q&A.
Everything before this just comprises the Story. The main characters (the customers of course), the supporting cast (the business), the plot (how the plan unfolds), the climax (the really big challenge) and ultimately the resolve (the customer enters a whole new world with the help of the business).
But business stories are also told in numbers. These numbers help cut through the emotive film score and see through to reality. This view enables better decision-making and ultimately more effective service.
The pro forma is really just the plan expressed in numbers. You can dig more into pro formas, but for now let’s just ask a few questions. Is it realistic? What are the assumptions? Are they reasonable? Is the growth fast enough? Is it too fast? Is the market big enough to support the projected growth?
We could sum up what to look for in two words (as long as the reader could suffer one last instance of alliteration): profit & potential.
Just remember, you can lose all of your money. Yep, that’s right. All investing is risky, because no matter how much we shake the Magic 8 Ball, no one can see into the future…