As founder and CEO of the UK’s first debt and equity crowd funding aggregator, Sacha Bright knows a thing or two about the ups and downs and ins and outs of crowdfunding.
So we asked the Business Agent boss to give us his top ten tips from his own experience for pitching your proposal and securing the equity crowdfunding you need.
- It’s a false economy to skimp on, yet, it’s amazing how many people work out their business plan on a cigarette packet and virtually leave it at that. It’s vital that you think through every conceivable detail, because at this stage your business plan is your product. Once you’re sure you’ve done your sums and covered every angle, pay a professional to go over them again. And if they still add up, then and only then, pay another professional to build your raw concept into a detailed, compelling and professional business plan that states your case compellingly and makes every word and figure count.
- Consider your competition and ‘think sideways’ – and certainly never make the mistake of assuming you have none. Remember, competition doesn’t just mean people doing the same thing as you. Say you’re opening a pub, for example – here, thinking sideways means considering every activity that potential customers might engage in as an alternative to your pub. That could include restaurants, cinemas, music, venues and sporting events.
- Take every opportunity to learn from the experts. For example, join a seed camp (such as www.seedcamp.com) or incubator. Not only will they teach you how to create a great business plan – they give you the chance to bounce ideas around with other like-minded people, to benefit from criticism so that you find out how good or bad your idea actually is and to be introduced to prospective investors. You’ll find the experience invaluable – and you might even find it helps your idea evolve into something even better!
- Spread the word by any means possible – Facebook, Twitter, financial blogs (why not start your own?) and by shouting your message from the rooftops. The aim is to make as many potential investors aware of your proposal as possible.
- Research the types of crowdfunding available and weigh up what’s suitable for your business – Debt, Equity or Reward-based.
- Engage with the right crowdfunding sites and consider the amount of traffic it’s attracting, its charges and the events, support and promotion it offers.
- When you’ve made your decision, be prepared to pitch to the site as well as to prospective investors. Remember, you’re both choosing each other, so it’s important to make a strong case why your proposal deserves to be presented on the site.
- When success appears over the horizon don’t get carried away! Check the terms and conditions of their shareholders’ agreement and challenge anything you’re not comfortable with. After all, this could be something you have to live with for a very long time.
- Don’t ignore criticism – especially the constructive variety. Don’t be deterred by it – but do use that criticism to help you spot pitfalls and, if they’re unavoidable, be brave enough to accept that your plan’s not going to work.
- Protect your idea by all means. Although you could ask prospective investors to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), I’d advise caution here. Investors tend not to be keen on signing NDAs and might be put off before you’ve even made your presentation. Don’t forget that, as a rule, investors aren’t looking for other people’s ideas; they’re looking to buy into talented people with amazing ideas of their own. That said, if you are worried that someone could steal your product idea, you might consider applying for a patent if it meets the criteria, although this can be expensive.