People love great ideas, and great people. In the investment space, they will try to find ideas which they can relate to, and where they can appreciate the need, even if they do not have that need themselves. For example, people might invest in the current trend for vegan food. They don’t have to be vegan, but they can see that there is money to be made. For a GO! project, they may not be a potential consumer, but they might see that the idea would help a lot of people, and therefore be happy to support it.
Originality is key – in a commercial setting, it can be your competitive advantage, and if not for profit, people don’t want to feel that they are funding something that has been tried before.
Will studied BSc. (Hons) IT for Business at Aston, graduating in 2001. His course included a placement in IT at Goldman Sachs in London, and after graduating, he went on to spend five years in IT at Credit Suisse, before returning to Aston for a full-time MBA in 2006.
In 2007, Will joined BP in their IT department, and has worked in a number of roles in performance management, project management, IT strategy, and now mergers and acquisitions, where Will leads the IT separation or integration for large corporate transactions. He has been active in equity crowdfunding since 2013, investing in over fifteen startups in a number of sectors, from food and beverage to electric vehicle charging and even banking.
Will is currently a mentor on the Aston MBA programme, and also a Business Mentor for Virgin Startup.
In terms of people, it’s good to be personal – explain who you are, why this is important to you, and why it should be important to them. Explain what you have done so far, what you need to do, and what else you’ve ever done that might give you the experience to pull it off.
If there is nothing directly relevant you’ve done before, focus on your achievements in the soft skills, like communication, presenting, influencing, negotiating and selling. These are things you’ll need as you market the pitch anyway! Draw on your team if you have one – introduce them and what they each bring.
Say it in a video
Make a great video – engaging, perhaps funny, clear and concise, well-structured, and with a clear message. Make sure the viewer gets to know you, understand the idea, and is left with a clear call to action.
You want their money – imagine if someone wanted yours.
Take inspiration from the best adverts, influencers and negotiators you know. That thing on Facebook that went viral…how/why do you think that happened?
The video has the potential to be seen by many, many more people, so make sure it leaves a great impression.
…Who you know
Asking friends and family for money is (sometimes!) easy, but if you are asking for large amounts, you will need to really work (or build) your network. Make sure you mention your campaign to everyone you meet, from fellow students to lecturers, friends at home, even shopkeepers!
Think far and wide about all the groups of people you interact with – or could interact with, given the context of your product or service.
Who could it benefit, and how could you get to know them? Could you offer them a demo? Is it an app that you could help them set up? Is it a product that could be sold in shops or pubs? Everyone you meet is a potential ambassador for your campaign – you just need to make it relevant for them or their network, and leave a great impression.
If this is the one skill you develop from the whole exercise, you’ll be set up for success in whatever you do, and don’t be disheartened if a few people aren’t interested. Try the next person, and see what you learn. Are you in a sports team? What else do your team do with their spare time? Who else do they know? Might they be interested in your campaign? Might they know someone who can help?
Keep asking, keep learning.
Is there anything you can offer in return, or are you just asking for donations? Either is fine, but it needs to be clear, and if you can offer anything in return, then that should really help boost the coffers.
You don’t have to spend money on this – it doesn’t have to be a t-shirt, mug or prize draw. It might just be free access to your idea, for example a free lesson or session, or even just a discount.
Timing is Key
Finally, as you can see from the above, there is a lot to think about, and a lot to do! Make sure you allow plenty of time to do it, and don’t underestimate the time it takes to get it out in front of people, keep momentum, and answer questions. All this is valuable to your cause, and will increase your chances of success – so plan how it will fit around your studies.
Will Perrin, IT M&A Manager