How to win funding and influence investors, tech startup-style

Image credit: Bailey Hu/TechNode

At last week’s government-supported Cyberport Venture Capital Forum in Hong Kong, aimed at “driving [the] next wave of tech investment,” one speaker brought a crowd of entrepreneurs to their feet again and again.

They were standing up to see–and snap pictures of, repeatedly–his tips on how to both attract investors and win them over. Denes Ban, a managing partner at Jerusalem-based funding platform OurCrowd, kicked off a morning-long workshop with a slideshow presentation tailored towards tech start-up founders.

He advised entrepreneurs to keep their pitches concise (“anyone who gives over 10 words of introduction, that’s a total turn-off”) and showed a chart explaining points of emphasis for various types of conversations.

At this point, roughly the half the audience surged to its feet, smartphones in hand.

Image credit: Bailey Hu/TechNode

Ban had a few pieces of counter-intuitive advice to offer eager entrepreneurs in the room. To capture investors’ attention, he advised, “don’t talk about tech, talk about pain point”–at least during the initial stages of the conversation.

Pitching style must also “be true to yourself,” he added, while staying exciting: “[your solution] has to be the promised land.”

But it’s not all about big ideas. According to Ban, “the art of pitching” is to subtly convey one’s values alongside goals. He introduced a three-part schema to talk attendees through that process: ethos (credibility), pathos (connection), principle (logic).

While proving one’s business credentials might be difficult for beginning entrepreneurs, “everyone has [an award]” they can at least mention, Ban says. And there are multiple ways to establish a connection: listening for or researching an investor’s preferences in advance, for instance, or being honest about one’s limitations.

Image credit: Bailey Hu/TechNode

When it comes to perhaps the most important part of the pitch–the product–Ban emphasizes once again the necessity of keeping it short. Instead of a long-winded explanation, begin with an attention-grabbing fact or an educational tidbit, Ban says. Then, and only then, “go for the ask.”

Following Ban’s rousing speech was a talk by Matthieu Bodin, Greater China regional manager of US seed accelerator TechStars. Bodin seemed to be putting Ban’s recommendations in action as he proceeded to pitch the incubator chain.

Image credit: Bailey Hu/TechNode

TechStars, Bodin said, sets itself apart by providing extensive, months-long engagement between mentors and chosen entrepreneurs. In addition, he said, new businesses get access to an extensive network of alumni companies around the world.

He had an additional piece of advice for entrepreneurs seeking the support of an incubator. Around 80% of TechStars’ 1,400 accepted startups, he says, were referred to the company by alumni, mentors, managing directors or other staff. Although accelerators’ acceptance rate is generally very low, a company’s chances can grow exponentially if its founders simply reach out to an incubator’s team.

In other words, pitches can be painstakingly perfected, but first and foremost–as every aspiring entrepreneur knows–comes networking.