Business

Pitching for investment virtually could be a lifeline for start-ups

Investor pitches have been taking place virtually for some time
Claudine Owens

HOW we go about our every day lives has changed considerably in the last few weeks. While some businesses have unfortunately had to close their doors and many others have furloughed staff, pitches by start-ups to business angel investors are still going ahead remotely.

We have 75 business angels involved in the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN), a joint initiative

of Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland and Invest NI.

A healthy 22 deals were reported by HBAN business angels at the end of last December following the HBAN Ulster launch at the beginning of October 2018. These deals represent £4.1m of investment from the HBAN business angels within deals totalling £16.5m. Those statistics show early stage VC funding has been thriving.

But while it's natural to expect the momentum may slow during the lockdown, not all pitches pre-coronavirus were taking place in a boardroom.

Pitching is a daunting task for any founder and doing so over the likes of Skype or Zoom can provide them with additional headaches. Some feel that by not being in the same room, the connection between founder and investor is harder to establish and it's true you might not be able to pick up so easily who is showing an interest in your presentation.

But companies like Jane VC have been running as a virtual team since they started, utilising Zoom to conduct meetings and pitches. They think it's a lot more efficient for both founders and investors, and it allows them to meet founders from across the world.

Here are some tips to consider when pitching remotely to business angels and venture capitalists.

:: Choose the right video conference software - For any remote pitch, you will need to have good video conferencing software. Make sure to take time to research which one works best for you and allows interaction between the host and viewers. Remember your investors will need to have the same piece of software and may not be as tech-savvy. Pick a common app that is easily downloadable such as Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Send a calendar invite ahead of the pitch and make sure your investors know how to connect to calls.

:: The setting for your pitch - Pick an environment that is quiet and free of distractions. Your investors don't want to hear noisy traffic or dogs barking or see your family walking past in the background. Sit still not too close to your web camera and speak clearly. The clearer the audio quality, the easier it is for investors to understand your pitch. And if you plan on using background visuals, make sure they show up on screen and are easy to read.

:: Test, test and test - Always make sure to test all your hardware ahead of time. You don't want to be halfway through your pitch when your microphone cuts out or your laptop battery fails. Do a timed trial run ahead of your pitch with a colleague, checking your internet connection, sound, visuals, slide decks and any documents you plan to share on screen sharing.

The virtual pitch will become an important lifeline for many companies over the coming months. Businesses looking to scale must embrace this technology and learn to work a room without being there physically.

Once investors and companies accept the benefits of remote pitching, it may become the new norm and could help you cast the net much wider geographically when it comes to the investors you are able to access.

:: Our next pitch event will take place online on Wednesday May 27. Contact me for more information on getting involved.

:: Claudine Owens (c.owens@clarendon-fm.co.uk) is portfolio manager at Clarendon Fund Managers in Belfast

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