Your address will show here +12 34 56 78
Startup

Practically every startup founder has or is on the hunt for investors to seed their vision. While the wrong ones won’t necessarily ruin a company’s chances, the right ones can make your life as a founder infinitely easier through those all-too-critical initial sales. Below we look at five areas of alignment between a founder and investors and then explore five common returns entrepreneurs want from their investors.

A lot has been written about what to look for in an investment, a founder and a company, but a major part stays in the relative shadows; what founders should look for in their investors.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve found that while they are scrutinizing you, you need to be equally as diligent in learning about them. One of the magic beans to growth is having a group of seasoned, understanding, early-stage investors on your side who can turbo charge your company’s growth. Startup business is all about people in the early stages, expertly building the correct mix of development talent and product management and sales and executive strategy. Topping this team off are investors who believe in the vision, the founder and the opportunity. When all the pieces fall into place the chances of success skyrocket.

On the inverse side, if the investor is not right for you – maybe they see a quick exit but don’t believe in the vision – then the results can be disastrous.

Before signing with an individual, an angel group or larger investment organization, consider what you want to ensure your investors are aligned with you and your company.

 

 

1. Vision & Values

Many investors take an aggressively active role in startups. There’s a fine line between offering wisdom, insight, and productive thoughts and flat out taking over the direction of the company. Taking the wheel and driving the vision isn’t what you’re looking for. You need investors who understand that you’re going to make mistakes. The goal is to avoid as many as possible, but they are guaranteed to happen.

 

Sharing common values not only affords quick bonds of professional friendship but can help cement the right type of corporate culture early on. Having strong alignment on values will radiate from the top giving your employees a clear understanding of what the company stands for while providing the leadership to follow through on them.

 

2. Trust

Startups are an emotional and financial roller coaster. You’re up, you’re down, you’re upside down, wait, how did we stop sideways? Through it all, you need to remain positive, optimistic and focused Easier said than done. You’re a founder, but you’re still a person who experiences negativity, pessimism, and depression, which the startup ecosystem is finally starting to address.

 

Many entrepreneurs keep these feelings suppressed (I know I did, a lot). A great investor is someone you can confide in during these tough times of the journey. Trust, transparency, and understanding are some of the most powerful qualities an investor can bring to your company.

 

Do you trust your investors with your rawest emotions? Will they trust you to be honest about everything happening in your startup? The sooner trust, true trust, and transparency can be established, the sooner your investors can jump in to help when problems arise. 

 

3. Goals

Not everyone company is looking to become the next unicorn with a flashy exit and their face on the cover of Fast Company. In fact, most entrepreneurs start their businesses because they want to change the world, and they have a unique product/solution that they believe can do just that. Entrepreneurs have a burning fire inside that drives them to take smart (and sometimes foolish) risks, but those risks are all in service of the common goal of success. The right investor will be aligned with your goals and plan.

 

They will not act as a force to push you in another direction, or question your ultimate goals – they will challenge your assumptions and question milestone goals, which is their job as a proverbial ’third eye’ on the company – but will help you establish attainable goals that service the ultimate vision.

 

4. Their Desired Role

While you might have already formed a complete picture of who your investors are, and what role they will play in your startup, it’s important to understand where they are coming from. They will undoubtedly have their own concept of what role they are to play and sometimes those visions are not in alignment. Ask yourself, does your investor need to be:

 

Active: Someone who is intimately involved in the business, on a near day-to-day basis. Someone who has the company’s best interests at heart and believes in it so much they’re essentially a co-founder?

 

Passive: Someone who can help finance the business, but has no desire to be involved in the operations and would prefer to receive quarterly (or monthly) reporting on the health and growth of the business?

 

Advisor: Someone who can be involved on a weekly basis? Someone who can work with the executive team to help guide them through the weeds?

 

CEO Mentor: This is someone who could actually encompass an active investor and an advisor. Someone who has an active interest in the operations of the business, but takes a specific interest in growing the CEO’s potential so they can slowly extract themselves from the operations as the CEO realizes their own skills to effectively lead the business to scale. 

 

This type of planning comes out through conversations and building the relationship while bringing the prospective investor into the fold. Just remember to go into these conversations with an open mind and flexibility so you can both aim to meet in the middle, or better yet, on the founder’s side.

 

 

5. Positivity

Everyone is happy at the start, but how we act under pressure reveals our true selves. This could not be truer when dealing with someone who has put their own, hard-earned money into your venture and trusted you to produce results. Aligning yourself with someone who has a positive outlook, and knows that there will be ups and downs can help be a steady hand when things get rocky, but also a much-needed boost of enthusiasm for beleaguered founders in times of need.

 

Now you have an idea of how you should be aligned, it is time to ask, what do you want from them?

 

1. Strategic Expertise

Strategic expertise is real-world experience. An amazing MBA GPA doesn’t count – theory and case studies are great, but clean hands don’t build buildings. You want someone that has gotten their hands dirty. They’ve lived on instant ramen and spent years of their life building something great. They know what it means to be an entrepreneur in practice, not just in theory. 

 

The best investors leave decisions in your hands and respect your authority as CEO, but they’re also not afraid to speak their minds and voice thoughts and concerns that they’ve amassed through experience. If they’ve invested in a company like yours before – or even run one – then they’ll have first-hand knowledge of the various pitfalls and opportunities that lie ahead of you.

 

To become an entrepreneur is to embrace failure every day. An experienced investor has made errors of their own and typically, they’ll be able to tell you how to avoid them. If you’re going to make mistakes, they might as well be new ones! An investor who has ‘been there, done that’, is the one you want behind you, championing your company.

 

2. Contacts

The importance of this one is self-explanatory. A robust network of connections within your company’s industry can help quickly forge important early partnerships and customers to help make your first sales. As a founder, you should reach out to investors who have specific industry connections in your specific industry segment.

 

An investor who has 10 years of experience in your industry is far more valuable than an investor who has 30 years of experience in a completely unrelated industry. Do your due diligence on any investor you’re speaking with and figure out who they know and how long they’ve known them – these could be your key connections moving forward. Platforms like LinkedIn, AngelList, and good old-fashioned telephone calls are your best bet here. Don’t be afraid to ask about the connections you consider valuable. While LinkedIn might say they’re connected, they might have met once at a conference but cannot offer any more of an open door than a direct message via Twitter could offer.

 

3. Successful Track Record/Serial Entrepreneur

Ideally, you will find an investor who has either been an entrepreneur themselves or has invested in early-stage companies that have gone on to be successful. If they’ve built a company that has successfully exited, or if they’ve invested in a company that has, they will know what it takes to punch above their weight and scale a company to success.

 

Having an individual with a reputable name as an investor or serial entrepreneur can afford your company a sense of competence and prominence in the marketplace that could have taken years to build up if you follow the bootstrapping path to growth.

 

If your investor can point to past successes in your industry or other relevant industries, that should give you confidence that they’re good to work with. Even better if they can point to specific examples of how their influence helped businesses like yours grow and achieve their potential.

 

4. Mentorship

Particularly in the early stages of your relationship with your investors, you will need to be comfortable working with them on a fairly regular basis, taking the opportunity to become a sponge for knowledge and knowing how to manage their expectations and their opinions about how things should be done. While the ultimate decisions fall to you as the founder, there will be certain situations where your investor’s experience will be far greater than your own and you’ll need to let them call the shots (behind the scenes). Taking this opportunity to learn and be mentored by someone who has been there and done that can tremendously aid your development as an entrepreneur – after all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

 

However, giving up the reigns can sometimes be difficult for founders, particularly first time entrepreneurs who are used to making all decisions. The test for this is to ask yourself when speaking to potential investors if you would be happy working for them if they were the ones running the business. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with that, then they may not be the investor for you.

 

5. Straight Talk

Entrepreneurs are emotionality invested in their business, how could you not be! This is your baby, you conceived the idea, poured many sleepless nights into forming it, took the risk to strike out on your own and have grown it to today. 

 

For many founders, their company becomes a part of their personal identity. This makes it very difficult for entrepreneurs to step outside of themselves and think about things from an objective perspective. Great investors help the entrepreneur see situations from a different point of view. They’re able to present the third eye approach to problems and give you the straight goods on where the pratfalls may lay, and more importantly, advise on the best course of action to find the right solution. 

 

They know you’re personally invested, but they’re financially invested so it is in their best interests to give it to you straight and quickly so that solutions, pivots or dodges can occur and you can get on with building the next unicorn. 

 

While these are some of the areas of alignment and wishes to have in an investor, by no means is this a complete list. Each company has its own unique needs and requirements. Each investor has their own checklist for due diligence on a founder. It is where they meet in the middle that the great partnerships are formed and the founder and investor work together to build to scale. 



Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.



0

Startup
“That seems like a lot for a freelancer, why don’t we find a cheaper junior option?” And with those words, the start of the project from hell came to be. Not because the project had crazy requirements, but because in the quest to save some cash, a founder hired a lower cost freelancer only to get stuck in revision purgatory and with it, a vicious final bill that was over triple the intended project cost. 
 
Lots of entrepreneurs face the dilemma – hiring in-house or freelancer? Junior or senior? Think about it in this frame:
• You can hire a full-time senior creative (designer, writer, etc…) for $120,000 per year,
• You can hire a freelance senior creative for $120 per hour.
 
What is right for your business, of course, depends on where your business is. Some examples of when it’s time to hire a freelancer, and if spending less is a good idea are:
• Have you started marketing?
• Have you raised a Series A?
• Is your internal marketing team stretched beyond their skill sets?
• Do you need a part-time Chief Creative Officer?
• Is your brand strong, or is it time to build a professional, robust brand?
• Is advertising part of the plan?
 
Saving money is great, but there are discernible downsides when it comes to low-cost freelancers, such as:
• Saving money, but quality could be questionable,
• Saving money, but revision costs could eat up any savings,
• Saving money, but projects could take longer due to misunderstandings (and not knowing when to ask for help),
• Saving money, but no oversight that your freelancer is billing accurately,
• Saving money, but dealing with a junior that doesn’t know what they don’t know, and you end up paying for their education.
 
Most creative freelancers on the market are senior talent, individuals who have honed their skills over the decades working in agencies, production houses or studios. These creatives have seen it all, and have a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw upon. Most importantly, they know what they don’t know and are not afraid to ask questions. 
 
The disturbing trend recently, with the advent of Fiver, Upwork or 99Designs (to name a few), is that juniors are joining the ranks of freelance creatives. While they have great ideas and undoubtedly skilled portfolios, they lack experience in dealing with clients. Worryingly enough, their confidence masks that they truly don’t know what they don’t know, so they don’t know what questions to ask. This is where revision purgatory starts.
 
Consider this low cost scenario: The project starts off well, the work produced looks great on screen but then all of a sudden when part of the project needs to live in the real world – away from screens and on printed pieces – the colours look dull, the front and back don’t align and the fonts didn’t work. Everything now needs to be reformatted and reprinted. Costing you not only double in print costs, but also in revision costs, not to mention your marketing team’s time in dealing with everything. It turns out your junior freelancer only has experience in digital design and has never produced for print before. 
 
While a company might see savings through junior talent, those savings can be eaten up through miscommunications, excessive rounds of revisions and overall poor client/project management. All of a sudden the senior creative seems very reasonable and might be the best solution to troubleshoot the project to completion. 
 
To help pick the best solution for your company, start by doing a thorough portfolio review. Quantity does not always equal quality, and most top creatives will only present a handful or projects; the ones they are the proudest of. When interviewing a junior, their portfolio might look great, but how do you know it is their work? Always ask specific questions about their creative rationale. If it’s shaky or doesn’t add up, they might have plagiarized it. Ask to see a copy of their creative brief. This is the window into their thinking by learning what type of questions they ask of you, and how deep are they willing to dive to learn about your needs? You can also ask to read testimonials or references from their past (or current) clients to understand what it is like working with them. As seasoned marketers, you know what flags to look for in this process.
 
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for producing creative marketing for any company, however, there are steps you can take to decide which freelancer is right for your business – junior or senior – and what the ramifications could ultimately be when discovering that you truly get what you pay for. 
 
 
Do you have a creative project that needs troubleshooting? Or are debating what freelance option you should look for? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and review your needs, find the holes and propose solutions to get your brand on track.
 
0

Startup
“We really need some design help on this! Should we get an agency, or does anyone know a good freelancer?”
 
This phrase has been uttered one way or another in practically every startup’s office within their first year of business, and it leads to the common dilemma, agency vs. freelancer?
 
In my career – which spans running an agency, working as a freelancer, and helping startups as an advisor and consultant – I’ve heard this question countless times. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, there is a framework that I use to help startups decide what kind of design help is right for them.
 
All too often, companies start by evaluating different freelancer and agency options without really understanding their needs. Just like starting a marketing plan, you need to know where you want to go and have defined goals before you can know which content outsourcing option is right for you.
 
The first thing you need to do is understand the difference between the two:
 
A freelancer is an individual who is self-employed. They are selling a specific service to you and are usually the only person working on your project.
 
An agency is a full-service team. They will provide you with an account manager to manage your business. They then have a team of designers, art directors, copywriters, media buyers and strategic planners at their disposal.
 
What Does Your Business Need?
The next step is to ask yourself (or your team) some questions about the project and consider the following:
  1. What kind of work do you need executed?
  2. What is the size of the project?
  3. What is the complexity of the job? Does it need an efficient team or can it be achieved by a skilled individual?
  4. What is the budget?
  5. What is the timeline? 
 
From these 10,000 foot questions, you can dive into the deeper questions that are applicable to your specific situation. These don’t necessarily cover all the questions but are a good start for branding, marketing and product development.
  1. Do you need a logo? Are you looking to establish your brand? Do you need a complete visual identity to reinforce what the brand means?
  2. Do you expect an informal deliverable (e.g. a logo with rough brand guidelines) or a comprehensive package including brand vision, voice, and use guidelines?
  3. Do you need help with the content, messaging, and structure of your marketing website?
  4. Do you need help with your social media strategy? Do you need support over time to execute that strategy?
  5. What about advertising, email campaigns, product videos, analytics, or marketing insights?
  6. Do you plan to build a marketing department internally, or are you focused on product design and engineering?
  7. Do you know what problem your product is solving, and for whom?
  8. Do you need help designing and testing your product?
  9. Have you figured out how all the pieces are going to fit together — stories, content, screens, UI/UX,  video, animation?
  10. Do you need a polished, sophisticated product at this stage? Or just a basic functional interface that will capture the attention of users and the imagination of investors?
 
With answers to these questions, you can limit your search to the agencies and freelancers who specialize in the kind of work you need. Listen to what kind of work they say they do, but don’t forget to look at their portfolio for concrete examples of the kind of deliverables you expect.
 
Where Are You As A Business?
Once you’ve figured out what you need, you’ll want to consider the state of your business — size, stage, culture, etc — so you can look for help that will be a great fit.
 
Traditionally, creative teams evaluate potential clients along three main verticals, which you can also use to evaluate your business as well:
 
Growth
How fast is your business growing? Is your primary focus to continue feeding and accelerating growth? Or do you plan to evolve more slowly, refining the technology and product while looking for the right application along the way?
 
Direction
Where is your company headed? Are you offering a specialized product that’s aiming for a specific result? Or are you defining a new business, paving the way as you go? Or maybe your business is so disruptive that it will affect an entire culture.
 
Agility
How easy would it be to shift your focus if you identified a more attractive business goal? Would you be slowed by infrastructure, investors, team, or culture? Or would you be able to react nimbly to the new opportunity you identified?
 
Finding Your Solution
Let’s use your answers to find a good starting point for your search. Here are a few examples that should help you decide where to look for your company’s design needs.
 
Big Agency
Our company is focused on a clear target market (direction) and we need to move quickly (agility). We can’t afford to make mistakes. We’ve passed our Series A and are well funded. We need an experienced team that offers a range of top-level services. 
 
In this example, your team probably needs a big agency.
 
Small Agency 
Our company is growing rapidly due to unexpected demand, but we’re not quite sure where we’ll level out, or how our focus may change along the way (pivot anyone?). We’ve received our seed financing, and have had a couple of bridge loans to help us along to our Series A. We need a team that can run with us, adapting as needed and growing with us. 
 
In this example, your team probably needs a small agency.
 
Freelancer
Our company is just got our seed funding. We have a really great idea, but the target market isn’t entirely clear. There’s not a major sense of urgency or competitive pressure to go-to-market, we need to make sure our product-market fit is right first. We need a partner who can help us explore and experiment with limited cost and uncertain expectations.
 
In this example, your company probably needs a freelancer. 
 
Glossary
Big Agency
A big agency has over 100 staff, usually around 250 – 500 in each office and are frequently (but not always) multi-national corporations with offices around the world that can pull from a massive network of talent and media connections. They tend to service Fortune 500 type brands and mostly produce consumer-facing traditional advertising and branding solutions.
 
Small Agency
A small agency is usually fewer than 50 people – lead by a team of experienced senior specialists who in turn lead smaller teams of junior and intermediate account managers, art directors, copywriters and media planners. They frequently call in support for photography, animation, video production, audio production and other specialist skills from trusted freelancers with whom they have long established relationships.
 
Freelancer
A freelancer is usually a highly skilled senior specialist (design, copywriting, front-end development, photography, video production, animation, etc) who has established their career in big and small agencies over a 15-20 year period. They know their craft and can help guide you along acting not only as a hired gun, but as a mentor to educate you and your team on their specific discipline. 

However, not all freelancers are senior specialists. More and more frequently freelancers are bidding on jobs with only a couple of years experience in the industry. These are the ones to watch out for, their lower cost might fit your budget now, but the long-term cost in foresight planning, revisions and mistakes can end up costing your company multiples of the initial project fee. This is a much larger topic, which I’ll be discussing in a couple of weeks in a blog focusing on the tradeoffs of spending less on writing/creative (and is it worth it).

Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

0

Design, Startup
We’ve all dealt with difficult clients — every studio has them. You know the one, the client who frustrates you to no end, who seems to have no respect for your craft/business, monopolizes your time and makes continuous unreasonable demands.
 
Sometimes you might have more than one, and you probably spend your weekends in the studio putting out their fires. It’s the classic 80:20 principle; you spend 80% of your resources on 20% of your clients. Which makes the remaining clients seem like the greatest ever (and they usually are!).
 
 
Two things are important to understand before jumping in:
  1. If 20% of your clients take 80% of your time, your revenues will not keep up, and your resources will become depleted when they’re not focusing on the right clients who are keeping the lights on. This post isn’t for you; you need to focus on finding new clients!
     
  2. If the painful clients are also your top revenue drivers, the tips below should help you identify and manage them more effectively.
 
 
The, “I Don’t Know What I Want” Client
Characteristics: Says one thing on a call, something completely different in a meeting, and totally different over email. They’re all over the place!
Management: Get everything in writing at the start – like a detailed project brief – and reject any major change of scope after the fact if it is not negotiated, quoted and signed off before starting.

The, “I Thought This Was Included” Client
Characteristics: They insist on getting a little more out of the scope of work, but don’t want to pay an hourly cost. The scope is always expanding without compensation.
Management: Agree to any additional out of scope work, as long as it is billed by the hour. Even better is to quote the additions and take an additional retainer on it.
 
 
The, “I Need This Done Yesterday” Client
Characteristics: Our work looks simple, so it doesn’t take long. If they have the idea, the work is 90% complete.
Management: Don’t sugar coat it – if they expect the impossible it’s your job to educate them on the realities of the job.
 
 
The, “Everything Is An Emergency” Client
Characteristics: They believe that you don’t have any other clients, meetings or a life, so they deserve 100% of your time and attention.
Management: Similar to the, “I Need This Done Yesterday” Client, stand firm and establish clear timelines for the project that you both agree upon. Employing a project management system that has client updates (such as Asana or Monday) allows them to see where progress is without getting in your hair.
 
 
The, “I Don’t Care, Do What You Like” Client
Characteristics: Total hands-off approach – you’re the designer so make something ‘cool’.
Management: This is your chance to have some fun. Chances are you were hired by referral, or from your portfolio so they know what you can do and want something unique. However, that is not a license to go wild, establish your milestones and always get client approval at critical steps along the way so you’re not left with a beautiful product that you need to start over (and won’t be able to bill for).
 
 
The, “I Don’t Know What I Want, But It Isn’t This” Client
Characteristics: This client may not know what they want, but theyreallyknow what they don’t want. They’re evasive in meetings and send back one sentence briefs.
Management: This one is a major flag before starting anything. If it’s not a big account, consider finding another client as the potential for wasted time, headache and frustration is massive.
 
 
The, “Will This Cost Extra?” Client
Characteristics: Probably an accountant lol. The penny pinching, deal-making, client is looking at one thing only, the cost. They worry about every element in the quote and turn white when the discussion turns to hourly billed revisions that fall outside of the two rounds included in the quote.
Management: This is where your quoting and scoping abilities come out strong. Agree on the scope and quote before the retainer is paid (which you’re doing anyway, right?) and if they can’t pay for any additional revisions outside of the scope, then the project is finished at that point. As long as the understanding is established and written out in advance, you should be okay.
 
 
The, “I Work On Weekends, You Should Too” Client
Characteristics: You’re receiving emails at 4:30am, daily. Meetings are asked for outside business hours, calls come in to review the work on Saturday morning.
Management: Don’t be afraid to say NO! If what they’re asking for is pulling you away from your life, or other clients, let them know that they cannot monopolize your time.
 
 
The, “My Cat Likes This Colour” Client
Characteristics: They have a habit of latching onto one small thing; colour, font, word and then use it to drive the project well outside of the plan or slam the breaks until the minor issue can meet their satisfaction.
Management: Don’t ask what their cat’s favourite colour is. Ask questions that lead them to discovering what they want to accomplish from this project. This is your chance to showcase your expertise by recommending options to achieve their goals.
 
 
The, “I Thought This Would Take Five Minutes” Client
Characteristics: They’re the greatest at everything and they can do your job much faster than you, they’re just too busy/important to do it themselves.
Management: Wow, they are way, way to detached from reality. You’ll need to become an educator here, taking less than five minutes to explain why their request won’t take five minutes, but more like five days. Then launch into your milestone and timeline planning, getting sign off on the timeline so you can hold them to it.
 
 
The “Design By Committee” Client
Characteristics: Usually found in large/enterprise level corporations. Your point of contact is just one of the many heads at the table, and might not even be a stakeholder in the project. Everything is done via committee, from colours, images down to line breaks and words. They usually get caught up in irrelevant issues while missing the big picture.
Management: Force agreement! Really, you’ll need to herd them towards decisions and approvals. Use your one point of contact as your ally, getting them on board with your work and plans so bringing everyone together is an easier process. If you don’t have one point of contact and have to work with the committee, do whatever you can to get them to decide on one point of contact. And as always, remind them you bill by the hour.
 
 
The, “I Love It, But We Need Something Completely Different” Client
Characteristics: Seems like a dream client, until the final product is delivered. Then they want you to go in a completely different direction (whether it’s their fault or not).
Management: Make it clear, right out of the gate, that additional costs WILL apply to major changes that fall outside of the scope of work, that you’ll happily quote on the change and that revisions will be billed by the hour.
 
 
With all clients, best practices are to get a detailed brief in writing, defined timeline with major milestones established, approved quote with two rounds of revisions included in the cost, understanding that additional revisions will be billed hourly and then client sign-off on all of the above. Then get your 50% retainer paid up front and kick off the project!
 
 
Lastly, with all the above problem clients, you have the option of saying ’no’, and/or terminating the relationship. No client is worth damage to your mental health, so take care of yourself and your clients will continue to see you deliver successful products.

Here are 6 tips for effectively dealing with client demands.

Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

0

Startup
The moment you start fundraising, you begin running two product lines.
 
1. The flagship product that you sell directly to customers (what most people know you for).
AND
2. Your company.
 
Investors are not clients of your product, they are looking at your whole company as a separate product that they may want to purchase part of. This means they look for nice “features” in the business like; founding team, traction, business model, revenue, etc.
 
Here are 10 more things you should know about fundraising:
 
  1. Build a sales funnel of investors just like you would for your product. Expect to talk to at least 150 QUALIFIED investors.
  2. 100 pitches to get 3-5 commitments is not unusual. This means you’ll get rejected ~95% of the time– even with a highly qualified and pre-vetted investor list. Prepare for this.
  3. Find investors on Crunchbase, PRHub, InsideVenture, VenturePulse, Quora, Techcrunch, Medium, Pitchbook (paid), CB Insights (paid), Foundersuite, or LinkedIn.
  4. Asking someone for “investor intros” is too broad of an ask. If you don’t know what you want, they won’t either. Do your homework in advance and ask for intros to specific people who you think would be a good fit to increase the likelihood of an intro.
  5. Avoid investors who have: invested in competitor startups, are low on funds, have done no recent deals, invest in a different sector/stage/location than you’re in, have a bad reputation. Diligently cut down your list at the research stage for a better investor conversion rate.
  6. Create a tracking system or CRM to keep track of relationships as they move from “new lead” to “money committed” or “declined”. Remember, you’re selling a part of your company. This is a sales process.
  7. Do intros in parallel – you want to talk to as many qualified investors as possible at once. Build momentum!
  8. Send regular progress updates to all investors who haven’t explicitly told you “no”. This creates FOMO in your favor. Investors have a tendency to want to be the last ones to join. They won’t know they’re last if you don’t tell them others are jumping on board.
  9. Use a tool like Foundersuite or Docusend to see who’s viewing your deck (and plug emails into re-targeting so you can infiltrate their attention).
  10. When you see momentum building, go for the close! Ask for interest level and next steps. It can take 3-6 meetings before you get a term sheet, so expect to follow up frequently and move the relationship along. This is your responsibility. Don’t let up until they say “no” or you have money in the bank.
 
Every pitch is different and every Angel, VC, lone wolf and PE firm are different, and they all weigh your pitch through different methods. Always know who you’re talking to and play to their strengths. If you find a great investor but they don’t invest in your field, then don’t waste yours and their time. However if it really seems like a good personality fit, then invest in building the relationship and seeing it through. 
 
Now that you’re ready to keep pitching, here are some tools to help source investors in your area:

Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.
0

Growth Hacking, Startup

Thousands of marketers use LinkedIn to get data and they know this. So recently, they put in stricter limits to scraping and ghost profiles so now these profiles are getting banned.

What if there’s a better source than LinkedIn for data?

It’s called Angellist and it’s not using their company or job search- it’s using their new feature: Source. You can get it up and running in a few minutes and have thousands of resources at your fingertips. 

This is how it works:

Register your company on Angellist with less than ten employees.

Now click on Recruit.

Upload a relevant job to the profiles you want to search for:

You can now view relevant people using the Source search:

Angellist returns relevant results:

You can also pay to filter by more criteria (hence why it’s important to put less than ten employees):

Here’s where the fun begins.

Look at the data you have available:

  1. City
  2. Bio
  3. Social profile links
  4. Job title
  5. Company name
  6. School name

All this data is yours.

Unlike on LinkedIn where you need to click through to a profile to retrieve data (same process that gets you banned), you can grab it here without ever clicking through.

Before you know it, you might have a thousand LinkedIn profiles of software founders, even Facebook profiles, too.

Talk about powerful.

*Originally appeared in the BAMF Group Blog, courtesy of Josh Fletcher.

Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.
0

Growth Hacking, Startup

This hack is so incredible, I had to share it with the world. Originally posted into the BAMF Growth Hacking group. 

Do you want thousands of followers on Instagram?

You can make that happen.

And without lifting a finger.

In this blog post, you’ll get the entire guide to automating your Instagram account to thousands of followers and generating revenue. We have every detail you need to start.

 

Build Your Foundation

Use Heepsy to identify influencers in your niche.

Use the filter to find people by keywords in their bio or even location. You can also choose whether the profile belongs to a person or a company or has a certain follower ratio.

Once you have a list of relevant influencers, let’s dive into the rules of Instagram growth:

1. Post a new picture every day.
2. Test to find the ideal posting time as it’s different for every niche.
3. Post the same type of photos as the influencers in your niche post.

If they post pictures of beautiful San Francisco, then you should post only pictures of San Francisco. Don’t mix it up. If they don’t post pictures of San Francisco food, then don’t post pictures of San Francisco food.

4. If you want to post pictures of yourself, you can’t entirely automate the process. 

You’ll still have to take pictures. Again, look at what works for influencers in your niche and take the same pictures. They know what works best. After all, that’s part of how they got a loyal following. 

5. You don’t get exceptions.

If you’re taking the pictures yourself, they need to be on the same level of quality as the influencers in your niche.

Getting Over the Hurdle
To avoid getting your Instagram account banned, you must gradually raise the automation settings for the first month. It takes time, but you’ll see results soon after. The gradual raising of Instagram automation took me months to learn. I had to restart each time my account got banned. Now, I have settings that work every time.

You may be wondering if this works for your business. Ninety percent of the time, the answer is “yes.” If you sell software, you can still market your team using lifestyle pictures with quotes from industry events. 

Implement Cheat Codes
1st Day:
First, grab a username. Make it memorable and easy to find.

Add a retargeting link to your bio using ClickMeter. This allows you to keep track of followers and retarget them on Facebook. Next, buy and install Instazood. Post three photos every day for the first four days.

2nd Day
Pay Instaboostgram for 500 fake followers = social validation. Remove 150 fake followers for every one thousand real followers. Make sure to turn off your automation settings the entire day you remove fake followers.

3rd Day:
Run Instazood on slow and only Like tags with “like4like” and “likeforlike” posts for 4 days.

5th Day:
Add 2-3 highly relevant hashtags in addition to “like4like” and “likeforlike.” If you’re in a yoga niche, the added hashtags might be #yogini or #yogi. You get the idea.

Continue to post 1-2 photos a day.

Once you’ve posted 20 photos, remove the “like4like” and “likeforlike” hashtags. Now, change your targetingfrom these hashtags to followers of relevant influencers in your niche.

Scale Your Profile With These Steps

1. Once you have, at least, 15 pictures and 500 followers, move your Instazood settings to easy. Only turn on the auto-liking feature.
2. At 600+ followers and 20+ pictures, begin Instazood auto-commenting.
3. Once you have 650+ followers and 22+ pictures, use Instazood follow and unfollow settings on easy.
4. At 700+ followers and 34+ pictures, move the settings to normal.

5. At 800+ followers and 50+ pictures, move the settings to fast.
6. Manually turn off the follow/unfollow settings to see faster results. Try to keep a 2/1 ratio.

Pay Attention to the Details with Auto Commenting


Automated commenting is powerful when used right. When used wrong, it can hurt your brand.

The first rule of automated commenting is to use mostly comments that mention the entire profile, not the picture it’s on.

Here’s what we know:

  1. People love their Instagram profile
  2. People post random pictures

Having an automated comment of “that’s cool” on a baby picture is not cool.

Use comments that reflect their overall love for their profile such as “awesome profile,” “nice profile,” “great photos,” and “cool photos.” You should have at least nine comments you switch around. Make sure you don’t comment on the same users! Posting the same comment on a user’s profile screams spam.

Let’s Get Rid of the Work

If you’re looking to repost content without ever creating your own, then discover photos by searching hashtags on Instagram. Make a list of the most relevant hashtags and influencers so you know where you can quickly grab photos to re-post. Outsource this process to a virtual assistant through Upwork.

Use this tool to download photos for reposting without leaving a watermark: https://downloadgram.com/

To help with organization, add photos to DropBox folders labeled by month. Download the DropBox app. Now you can easily log in and log out of Instagram to post pictures by simply saving them from DropBox to your phone. Posting 5 pictures to 5 different accounts takes about ten minutes. Don’t worry, there’s an even easier process.

Include the description of the photo in the DropBox file name. This enables you to quickly copy and paste the description when you upload photos. Just click “Rename” in the DropBox app, then copy the description.

On average, you should collect and add a description to 30+ photos in an hour and a half. Make sure to remove “.jpg” at the end of the description before posting.

What photos should you repost?

Look for ones that have quality contrast and a significant amount of likes and comments compared to other photos the accounts have posted.

For your uploaded content, people like worldly descriptions, such as “A beautiful day no matter rain or shine because yoga replenishes your soul.” That took me two seconds to write.  It doesn’t have to make sense. Most of my descriptions don’t. It just needs to sound nice.

If you repost someone’s content, then @ them in the description  = “A beautiful day no matter rain or shine because yoga replenishes your soul @username”

Don’t ask permission to repost their content. It’s fine as long as you tag them. Trust me. You won’t get sued and ninety-nine percent of the time they don’t care.

After the worldly description, write the “benefit+ solution +CTA @ in my bio @.”

If you’re a noob marketer, ideally the link should go to a dedicated landing page. I’ve created a two-hundred thousand dollar sales funnels with this strategy.

It’s Time for a Major Upgrade

Once you have 1000+ followers, use Jarvee (only works on PC – need a VPS for Mac) to auto schedule every post so you don’t have to do so manually or simply hire a virtual assistant from Upwork. I’ve started on Jarvee with accounts that had only 500 followers, but there’s a risk when doing this to getting banned.

As you notice, the follow setting in Jarvee is at an average of 230 followers/day.

I make sure to be selective about the users I follow. If you follow more quality users, then you can have an increase of 1000% in your follow-back rate. I do this by skipping non-English Users, making sure they have a profile image and are active on Instagram. I also don’t want to target people who are influencers because they won’t notice my follow. So I target smaller accounts, but not too small.

For Follow Sources, I target the most active engagers of target accounts. That means interacting with people who interact with the target posts on a relevant influencer profile. They must’ve interacted with recent posts as well.


Settings for Unfollowing:

For Unfollowing, feel free to do up to 250 people/day. Notice in the first setting how we give a one-day barrier to ensure whomever we followed has a chance to follow us back before we unfollow them.

It’s important that when you unfollow people you do it to the people who don’t engage with you. This feature will enable you to only follow the people who provide the most reciprocity.


Settings for Liking:

For Liking, we engage with upwards to 400 pieces of media content/day.

Similar to commenting and following, we ensure we only engage with the most targeted users.


Settings for Commenting:

For Commenting, we engage with upwards to 400 pieces of media content/day.

I make sure to be selective about the users I comment on. If you engage with more quality users, then you can have a huge increase in your follow-back rate. I do this by skipping non-English Users and making sure they are not already in our network. I also make sure to target people who are active.

I make sure to be selective about the users I comment on. If you engage with more quality users, then you can have a huge increase in your follow-back rate. I do this by skipping non-English users and making sure they are not already in our network. I also make sure to target people who are active on Instagram.

In regards to commenting, I use spin syntax to engage with relevant comments on relevant users. That means either targeting by geolocation, hashtag, or interactors of posts on a target account.

Notice how we use comments that compliments their overall profile. This way, the comments look genuine.


Put the Followers, Leads, and Revenue on Autopilot

You’re done setting up your account for Instagram automation. Still, there are always more advanced tricks you can use if you’re running many accounts at scale.

Before you jump into asking how you can work horizontally with more accounts, let’s see how you can improve the processes we already have – that’s thinking vertically. One way is to use the right hashtags and engagement groups for even more follower growth. Engagement groups are communities of influencers who engage with each other’s posts to boost them in the feed. These are both proven strategies to get more followers.

Now that you have less work and more time – you have all the opportunity to think of new ways to grow your company’s online presence. Best of luck.

*Originally posted into the BAMF Growth Hacking group, courtesy of Josh Fletcher. 


Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

0

Startup

Starting a company and trying to change the world isn’t easy.

RenderLife is winding down. No easy exit, no soft landing. We simply failed.

Ideas were explored, concepts were tried, conventions were challenged. Our team worked tirelessly on building world-leading 3D content, juggling the phones connecting buyers with sellers, networking and partnering with some of the industry’s best and brightest, and consistently launching new iterations of our marketplace software platform. 

Building a business is hard. Building a technological business around user-generated content is even harder. While we had a great concept, amazing product and strong technical team, we simply weren’t able to get dollars flowing from our marketplace to cover our expenses. Although we achieved a lot with RenderLife, we failed to create a scalable business. RenderLife didn’t scale because we were dependent on a single channel for too long. Our focus was too narrow at the start which blinded us to larger opportunities. I took the blinders off too late and tried to make a list ditch course correction but by that time we had run out of capital. I lead us to focus on sales initiatives, and not marketing initiatives, which limited awareness within our core audience. Mass marketing was the right solution for our company, and I started it too late.

I received lots of conflicting advice from lots of very smart people. The mistake I made was acting on some of it, without internalizing the advice and listening to my gut. By the time I learned that, it was the beginning of the end.

One year ago I started to feel burnt out. I was RenderLife’s founder, leader, and new CEO, but the problem with burnout is that you become hopeless; you lose your creativity. I’d go to work feeling tired and exhausted, I was entering into a spiral of depression. I lost two friends to this venture, countless hours of sleep and 10 pounds. There are not many people who know the pain of failing as a private equity backed CEO. I not only let down my employees and our partners, but the people who believed in my idea the most; our investors. Although I’ve let both constituents down, I’m buoyed by the knowledge that they taught me how to build a business, be an effective leader and become a CEO. I’m proud of the amazing team we built, their dedication and their passion. They created some incredible content and breakthrough ideas.

What’s next for me? That’s a good question. This is the first time in over 10 years that I’ve faced a blank slate. I don’t have that next great idea lined up, and to be honest, am not chomping to launch a new startup. Time will be needed to decompress and reflect on what has occurred over the years. I did just get a very focused, three and a half year education for the low low price of $1.1 million dollars!

I want to thank my team over the years, there are no words to describe how amazing you all are. You believed in me and my idea and worked tirelessly to bring it to life. To my senior advisor – Mike G – I’ve learned more about the nuances and details of running a business in the last year than in my previous nine years as an entrepreneur. To my investors – Paul, Phipps, Jeff, Walt and Greg – I could not have done this without you, thank you for taking a chance on me. To my friends, family and everyone else who supported us over the years, from the bottom of my heart, I can’t say it enough; Thank you.

This journey has been amazing, but now, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Cheers,
j

— – —

RenderLife’s seven deadly sins:
1. We didn’t sell anything.
2. We didn’t focus on marketing until it was too late.
3. We didn’t focus on discovering other revenue sources.
4. We focused too much on an unsustainable quality system with high staffing overheads.
5. I made compromises in hiring decisions, choosing expediency over competency and talent.
6. I stuck with the wrong strategy for too long.
7. I didn’t fail fast enough.

RenderLife by the numbers:
– 2 CEO’s
– 4.5 years.
– 5 investors.
– 15 employees.
– 758 Hollywood quality 3D assets.
– 86,547 lines of code.
– $1,100,000 raised

Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

0