These are Investor quotes from the Company Partners web site who were asked what their likes and dislikes were when considering an opportunity. While there are differences , there is a lot of agreement on what gets a plan read and why some plans head straight into the waste bin.
These candid comments are valuable for those seeking funding and perhaps helpful also for other Investors to know the ways in which their fellow Business Angels view prospects.
” A few things that really irritate me in business plans:
- The worldwide market is $XXm and we only need to get 1% to achieve our projected turnover.
- Start-up, no track history, no firm orders – projecting exit in Y5 of say 20x investment.
- Management team expecting big salaries, without investing own money and offering little equity.
I am sure these are fairly standard but they lose my interest very quickly.”
“I’m busy, I need:
- Clear, jargon-free language which gets straight to the point ; no hyperbole.
- Clear lay-out for easy fast reading – concise executive summary.
- Credible References for all the main product claims and honesty about how market size estimates have been arrived at.
- Detailed explanation of why some one should buy the product and why the channels should take it.
- Evidence that people with experience of the target customers and market have been involved in the project/product design.”
“Any proposal has to be absolutely, positively grammatically correct. There can be no incorrect use of the reflexive pronoun, e.g. “Myself and my colleagues are raising funds….” or “please contact myself on 07740….”. This has become a very common and irritating error.”
“I’ve been more successful in buying businesses than taking minority stake investments, but for what its worth the things I’ve found most irritating in the plans I’ve considered are:
- A well prepared plan let down by wholly unrealistic growth figures. It doesn’t look impressive, it just brings the credibility of the whole plan into question.
- Valuations that don’t sufficiently recognise investor risk and value the opportunity almost as if realising it is a formality.”
Can I get on with them , will they listen , will they take advice and act on it ( small point but they want to spend my money) , have they experience in the sector , do they look like they can run a business or are they really looking for a job.
I think anyone can stand in a shower and come up with an idea which I think most proposals are, do I understand it, do they understand the market, have they fully understood the costs of running a business and costs of getting stuff to market.
Has the product potential to become a business employing people, turning a profit, pay a dividend, and maybe someone will want to buy it. I always start from the point where there will be no buyer and think what am I investing in.
In reality the guys and gals who want the cash never seem to get the bit about what is in it for me. I blame too many of them watching Dragon’s Den and think that’s what it’s like getting cash, 10 minute chat and away we go.
The other bit that get’s me is what EVIDENCE do they have to back up the numbers. Chatting to friends and family, or the guy down the pub doesn’t work for me, maybe it works for them, but if they want my cash then it is my bat and ball.
I could go on but the last point would be, is there a plan B or maybe a plan C, I have run businesses and the one thing I look back on is things change along the way and have they thought what is plan B. I get the impression their Plan B is GET A JOB.”
“There seems to be a wide range of capabilities amongst aspiring entrepreneurs.
If they are start ups, they tend to be a bit vague in their pitches and appear to avoid giving any numbers. Often they don’t appear to have been thought through and the only input from the ‘entrepreneur’ is the idea, so they have nothing to lose, whereas the investor has everything to lose. I expect to see them have some ‘skin in the game’ as opposed to being an alternative to an unsecured bank loan.
I’ve seen some established businesses that look pretty good but again there seems to be a reluctance to give any numbers up front. I can understand why entrepreneurs would want to hold back on the detail until an interaction is happening, but I think they should give some top level numbers in their pitch, to whet the appetite of potential investors.
Also, I’ve had a couple of pitches from firms with web sites and the web site content contradicts something in the pitch – it is critical that they match otherwise the credibility goes straight out the window.”
“As a business investor I often get frustrated by the way in which certain individuals take a good few pages talking about their plans in a business and what they hope to achieve , I don’t need to know too much in that department , as an investor I’m interested in figures.
If a business proposal has the best plan and the best 10 page report but won’t make me any money then it’s not a business to me so as an investor I retreat from it.
I feel business people seeking investments should focus more on the numbers and dates, if I receive a 1 page report from an individual with figures they can achieve and the dates, I would invest into such a venture without delay. It’s about quality not quantity.”
“Pet hates, I could go on about this all day, but here’s a few good and bad that have a canny knack of annoying or pleasing me.
- think that we will take all the risk
- don’t want to give any form of security
- grossly over value their business and then get hacked off with you when you ask them to justify it
- who prepare business plans that are only a couple of pages long with no detail or proper business assumptions
- have unrealistic expectations from their business ideas
- get annoyed when you ask them about their own financial footing or net worth
- e-mails that are written in phone text slang
- who get annoyed because you don’t want to invest
and on the good side
- are professional in their approach
- spend time explaining in detail what there aims and projects are
- reply to e-mails on time and in a professional manner
- who are not afraid to offer personal information about themselves
- are prepared to share the pain of going into business”
- “Oldest cliche of the lot but most entrepreneurs want us to love their product or their idea while investors want to love the profit. It is the potential investment returns that are of real interest and while we need to know what the product is the emphasis needs to be on the investment returns.
- Smaller investors don’t like start ups, too risky. I would rather invest in development of a business where the business model is established i.e. into first growth or funding expansion.
- Very few pitches or business plans explicitly detail investor returns. We need numbers e.g. Business plan assumes loan at x% paid off over y years giving total returns of z or 20% of company with expected earnings of x in y years with a PE of z.
- When offering equity few entrepreneurs show they have thought about an exit plan for the investor.
- Very few Business Plans highlight risk. Good risk analysis adds confidence that the entrepreneur has thought things through.
- Most overestimate revenue, underestimate or overlook costs and consequently have over-optimistic cash flows.”
“I always look for a full detailed business plan with a page overview about the person I am investing in, what they have done previously, what they have achieved etc.
Business plan should include the basics, the opportunity, competitor overview, the usp, marketing plan.
I do understand from running a business that it can be very hard to do a actual plan and financial forecast for a start up venture, but it’s very important to lay your vision down, create a timeline, a realistic costing and financial forecast, if needed create the worst case scenario and higher performing scales, this allows you to plan for what happens if the business does not go as planned.
To me as a potential investor it shows some thought has gone into a business and challenging area have been thought about in detail with the best scenarios being listed.”
“My pet peeve is people who haven’t properly looked at my profile and so were taking up my time with geographically inappropriate requests.
Second pet peeve is the “I’ve got a good idea, check out this synopsis” type of requests – carpet bombing in the hope that someone might say yes. Such people are unlikely to succeed in business in my opinion (that takes discipline, persistence and hard work).
Third pet peeve is the “this is going to make a fortune, honest it will, really….” requests.
Contacts to investors should:
- Demonstrate the professionalism that it will take to run a successful venture
- Be personalised, matching the offer to the investors profile – they need answer the Win Win question. If the profile doesn’t fit it is a waste of both our time.
- Recognise that the single purpose of the first approach is to start a dialog and thus it should contain sufficient information to enable me as an investor to decide whether there is the possibility of a good fit.
+ if there is a ‘fit’ stage 2 is more info (preserving my anonymity)
+ Stage 3 telephone call
+ Stage 4 face to face meeting
The decision to invest is usually taken after I look the entrepreneur in the eye and assess:
- Do they have the balls to make it happen, how hungry are they?
- What is their risk in this, do they have the right amount of skin in the game, not too much and not too little.
- Are they going to be pushing water up hill – is there a clearly identifiable niche in the market that they are targeting, if not and they are a minnow in a sea of sharks the probability is that it will end in tears.
- Can I add value and will they consider my input and make a reasoned decision based on their views and mine (neither of us are going to be right 100% of the time).
At the end of the day people buy people, investment is no different.”