The mainstay of funding is the business plan and the pitch deck (or the “Powerpoint presentation” for those old-school folks among us).
A well-prepared and creative business plan is essential to capturing the attention of VCs who, unlike angel investors, want to know precisely “how much they’re going to get in return for their buck” if they invest in your startup.
The plan itself must be well-thought-out and appropriately worded. But, often, it also needs to go that extra mile to make an impression and generate momentum and enthusiasm, in the startup’s early stages.
In this blog, we’ll cover a few ideas on how to get creative with your business plans, as well as talk about a few other ideas on how to impress investors so that you can get your funding. We aim to completely answer the question, “What makes a business plan outstanding?”
An angel investor is not the same as a VC. And the way you pitch one is quite different from how you pitch the other.
An angel investor comes into play early in a startup’s existence, perhaps even when the startup is nothing more than an idea and two individuals in a garage.
Angel investors are often friends or family who want to help you get off the ground, or simply people who believe strongly enough in an idea to give it the initial impetus it needs to generate momentum.
Angel investments are comparatively “small”. An angel investment round might raise anywhere between $25,000 or $250,000, compared to the millions raised in later rounds. Angel investments tend to be much higher risk — the startup hasn’t built up a track record and likely doesn’t have any revenue streams of its own yet.
Raising capital from an angel investor might be as simple as having a conversation in someone’s study over a drink.
Venture Capitalist firms, however, work entirely differently.
Venture Capitalism is a business model. Investing is what they do. Because the entire business model of a venture capitalist firm is built around obtaining return for their investments, they tend to demand seeing some numbers and financial forecasts which are rock solid.
Fluffy graphics or cute multimedia presentations without any substance will get you nowhere with a VC.
So, first and foremost, your business idea must be solid. It must be workable. The plan itself must have a real chance of succeeding. “Spicing up” a business plan can only come afterwards.
Think of it as icing on a cake. The icing will get you to the cream in the middle.
Make sure your unique business plan has cream in the middle.
One amazing way to spice up your business plan and grab attention is to create a multimedia business plan.
The plan could contain links inside it to video, sound and other immersive files on the web; or it could be done entirely in video format.
Ideally, you would provide a text version of the plan as well, with time notations to show where the different sections begin. This way, if the VC wanted to jump forward to your Profit and Loss forecasts, they could simply open up the document, see the time notation on it, and forward the multimedia presentation to that point.
Using professional video in an outstanding business plan is a great way to capture attention.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then a video records ten million.
Think of a movie trailer — that’s the kind of quality you would need for each section of your business plan to really get your message across and show that you mean business.
Not only is video a great way to capture attention, but a video is also easy to understand and grasp quickly. A professionally prepared video summarising each section of the business plan might be just the thing needed to turn mild interest into deep concentration.
Hire some web developers and create a fully immersive, interactive business plan. Put together calculators that allow VCs to see what their ROI or your P&L figures might be, depending on variables they input themselves, such as sales, marketing, production costs, etc.
Maybe a ton of cartoon graphics might not work for the latest FinTech startup that wants to communicate how slick its new offering is.
But it would certainly work for a startup that plans on revolutionising CGI movies or the way animated videos are done.
Try and pepper your business plan with motifs of the specific product or service you are bringing to the world. The key is to transform that business plan from a flat, dull offering into something tangible and palpable.
Animated Video Business Plan
Animated videos are an excellent way to get a message across with minimal distractions and maximum impact. They are usually short, to the point and fun to watch.
Using animated video to explain your service or products is a brilliant way to give VCs a summary of each section of your business plan without them having to lose a lot of time poring through it. This way, they would be able to quickly see your entire offering at a glance.
This is where the doors of creativity really start to open wide!
Entrepreneurship is all about creativity. No one entrepreneur can come up with a single formula for success because success depends so much on the brilliance of that entrepreneur’s creative mind.
Look at Elon Musk, for example. Or Steve Jobs, for that matter. These two people have changed the course of tech forever. The products they developed were nowhere on anyone’s radar until they actually came out, and now we can’t imagine living without them.
The same is true for developing an app to encapsulate your business plan.
But why stop only at the business plan? You could have the app send a notification to a VC every time you hit a financial milestone. You could use it to keep them intimately connected to your business, perhaps even offering them a secure chat option via the app where they could get a hold of you immediately for any questions they might have.
The app could contain news, maps of where you have opened up branches, etc.
Or the app could simply walk the VC through your business plan with interactive elements that allowed them to understand each section of the business plan better.
These days, it is so simple to develop an app that there is no excuse to omit this option when trying to make your business plan stand out.
Why stop at multimedia!
Virtual Reality Marketing has taken the world by storm, with more and more companies leveraging VR to add that extra oomph to their marketing campaigns.
By hiring a VR company to generate a VR version of your product or service, you can immerse your potential VC in ways never dreamed of before. VCs will be able to see and experience your offering long before it is ready to go to market.
Often, an entrepreneur and those closest to them are the only ones who truly see a company’s vision clearly. Indeed, a Vision Statement is a key part of any business plan.
But why stop at a mere statement? Turn that vision into a reality by sending a Google Cardboard viewer along with your Business Plan so that the investor can view your VR presentation on their phone.
That’s the finest way we know of to turn your vision into their vision.
Successful funding rounds are as much about the buzz as they are about the substance. One way to spice up your business plan and your funding round is to introduce gamification techniques to it.
It’s important to keep this professional. VCs and Private Equity firms likely don’t want to play “the first one to invest gets a higher share” game. Still, they might indeed appreciate a certain degree of leaderboard status with commensurate recognition for their investments.
This is a tricky one to navigate — one doesn’t want to alienate investors who have invested less than others.
But, with some degree of creativity, a certain amount of gamification can certainly be introduced which turns the seed round — and the business plan driving it — into something hot and worth getting excited about.
Utilise infographics to convey the essential elements of your business plan quickly.
There are even automated tools that allows you to do this easily, although we personally recommend hiring some pros to create something unique to you and your brand.
You could use an infographic at the start of each major section of the plan, or just one large infographic at the beginning, summarising all that will follow.
If a big name has endorsed your product, put a link to a video of them saying so at the start of your business plan. (Or, if you’ve opted for a digital plan, embed the video in it.)
A “big name” is whatever your investor thinks it is, not necessarily a celebrity. (Although, a celeb endorsing your product might inspire confidence in investors that your product will initially sell well.)
Remember that your investors want to be assured that:
To them, a “big name” might be another highly respected investor that took a gamble on you or your company and then won.
Art gets a bad rap, possibly because not enough artists are also business people.
But art is everywhere in the business world, and the finest examples of marketing and salesmanship stem from programs and ideas that utilise artistic principles at their core.
The Coca-Cola Christmas commercial of 2020 is a masterpiece of cinematographic art. It encompasses emotionally-driven storytelling and high-impact visuals to get a powerful message across to its viewers.
Amazon likewise created a stunning 2020 commercial titled “The Show Must Go On”, drawing upon the same artistic skills in storytelling, empathy, human emotion and powerful impact.
What does this have to do with business plans, you ask? The answer is twofold:
Business is as much about emotion as it is about numbers. Ultimately, businesses appeal to people, and one of the things investors will look at is what emotional impact your product will have on the market.
The surest way to impart that emotional impact is to generate that same emotional reaction in the investors themselves — you need to get them excited about your product. You need to get them feeling that same sense of drive and belief that this is something the world needs, and which customers will adopt.
Imagine Amazon was an unknown and that it was about to go into a Series A round of funding. What impact would the “The Show Must Go On” ad have on potential investors? A huge one. And they would certainly put their money into a company that had put the time and thought into making something of that calibre.
Why? Because the ad appeals to human emotion, and human emotion is a tremendous force when determining purchasing decisions.
Human emotion drives the markets. Social media faux pas leading to emotional revulsion can have catastrophic consequences on brands and images. Just look at how much effort big corporations put into ensuring they are loved (human emotion) by the public.
The key thing to understand here is that human emotion is a quality elicited by artistic presentation, which then results in tangible financial gains because of the public’s adoption of that product or service.
By now, you should’ve realised that raising “the big bucks” requires a large degree of professionalism. That doesn’t mean you need to necessarily walk around in a suit all day — but it also doesn’t mean that you don’t.
DIY might work to get your mum and dad and maybe the elderly neighbour to angel-invest in your garage product, but those homebaked Canva images can only get you so far when it comes to raking in the big cash for investment.
You will eventually need to hire pros.
Indeed, preparing a business plan isn’t only up to the C-suite and the accountant. It’s also up to the marketing department.
After you and the finance team have crunched the numbers and put together your forecasts, bring in the marketing team or even an external agency to finesse that plan into something that will elicit an array of powerful human emotions.
Bring people in who will take those numbers and work out the best way to present them artistically and professionally.
It helps to think of your business plan, pitch deck and live-event startup pitch as a first-date. Maybe the investors have heard of you; maybe they haven’t.
But it’s a date — they want to fall in love, and they want to find “the one”.
Love is all about the burgeoning excitement in the beginning which will carry you through the hard times which inevitably appear years down the line.
Your business plan and startup pitch are the first date. You need to show your best side, try and impress, save the talk about your incurable snoring until later on.
Your startup’s snoring won’t matter that much if there are plenty of other things to love about it. But if you put the snoring up front and centre, you’re unlikely to go on date number two.
Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it might feel like it’s all just PR and that your once-pristine dream of changing the world is being reduced to the shady give-and-take which drives our capitalistic world.
Alas, that is business. And, if you want to change the world, you need to play by the rules of business.
By all means, keep your dreams, and even try to convey those dreams to investors using artistic presentation. But understand that seeing those dreams come to life will require you to write a hard-selling business plan, deliver spectacular pitches, appeal to people’s emotions and talk in terms of money and return on investment.
If you can talk the language of business, you can gain support for your business.
If you do it with finesse, and you’ll win.
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