How To Stand Out in a Room Full of Investors
Four companies were pitching at the first ever closed pitch meeting I attended as an investor but, surprisingly, only one founder approached me during the mingling session that day.
By now it’s no secret that I’ve chosen only to invest in women-owned companies.
Even though the founder in question led an all-male team and knew I wouldn’t be investing in his company, he approached me anyway.
In doing so, he demonstrated a killer trait that I look for in everyone I invest in and remains the only business owner that I remember from that day.
Curious to find out what that killer trait is and how you can stand out in a room full of investors?
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HOW TO STAND OUT IN A ROOM FULL OF INVESTORS
I'm Kelly Keenan Trumpbour, angel investor and venture capitalist. In this episode, I'm going to talk to you about how to stand out in a room full of investors. I've sat in on many pitch meetings, and some of the most memorable entrepreneurs were the ones that recognized the outlier in the room. That's a killer trait, and I pay attention when I see entrepreneurs thinking outside the box.
At one of the very first pitch meetings I ever attended as an investor, I was the only woman in the room, and I was younger than a lot of the other investors there, too. Four teams pitched. They all happened to be male led. But, when it came to the time where we all could mingle and just talk after the pitches, I noticed that none of the teams were coming up to talk to me, all except one. The team with the youngest members, and actually the most ethnically diverse members, spotted me with no one to talk to and they came up and they said, "Aren't you an investor?"
And I really appreciated it that they saw that it was weird that in a room full of investors, there was one person that nobody was talking to. I can't be sure, but the assumption might've been that maybe I wasn't there as an investor. If I was the only woman in the room, maybe I was there for some support purpose. That team didn't make that mistake. They assumed I was an investor, and even though I only invest in women owned businesses, I went out of my way to help this team. Why? Because I liked what I saw. It was really great that they thought outside the box and recognized the outlier in the room. That skill is killer when it comes to running a startup. If you can recognize an opportunity that nobody else is seizing, that shows me you are on a great path.
If you really want to stand out, think about your competition. What's their first impulse? Their first impulse is to give a commercial and pitch, pitch, pitch to anyone who will listen, especially all those investors that are captivated in a room. If you want to stand out, talk to the investor like they're a human being. Just like you would in any interaction, warm up to them by just talking about what you might have in common, what they do for a living. Get to know them a little bit and let them relax, because the whole meeting is about judging you and your potential for their portfolio. Even though they've got the more powerful position, they're going to want a moment where they can just take a break too.
If you walk into a room and you know there are investors there, take a moment to get a sense of the energy in the room. This is really important. You might be walking into a pitch meeting, and if that's the case, investors have poker faces on. They don't need to show you their emotions, because they're trying to figure out what's the right fit for them. But, you might be going to a meet and greet, and that's a little bit different. Maybe people are much more likely to talk and just be convivial. Whatever the energy is, go with it, and just work whatever you see coming at you to your advantage.
It's tempting to assume that if an investor invited you to a pitch meeting that they'll be your guide and introduce you around. Maybe so, but understand there's a lot of pressure on investors to make very key introductions at the right time. They may still be feeling you out, so don't depend on someone who invited you to a meeting to do the work of introducing you. If they do, great. But, it's up to you to really make the networking connections that'll help you go to the next level.
Key take away, never, ever assume that you know who is or is not the key player in the room. There are a lot of investors who have reputations for being big players, and that may be well earned and well deserved. But, sometimes it's the quiet, unrecognizable investor who's going to give you the most help and the most connections to other investors, so make no assumptions.
Sometimes, in pitch meetings, there's an opportunity for entrepreneurs to mingle with the investors. If you get this chance, don't use it as another place to just keep pitching. This is a chance for them to really feel you out as a person, so shine as a person, not a commercial. If they ask you direct questions about your company, of course, give them any information that you have. But, this is really an opportunity to talk about what makes you the person that's captivating and interesting and dynamic enough to be a leader of this company, and that doesn't mean you have to even talk about your company.
To sum it up, the best business relationships start with a personal connection, not a pitch. Lead with who you are as a person. That'll take you great places. Any opportunity that you have to talk to an investor face to face is an opportunity for them to see you as the dynamic leader behind the company. They want to know that you're a person who can execute and take the company to new levels, but to really judge that and see that, they want to see how well you handle different situations and how you interact with regular people, because not all business transactions are cut and dry and meant to be strict commercials. Usually, there's some element of personality, who you are, who the other person is, that just creates the chemistry that's right for a good business relationship.
Wish there was a step by step guide for networking with investors? Head over to seejaneinvest.com/ultimatenetworkingguide, or click the link for your free copy.