The word on the streets in Manhattan and inside my network of CEO’s is that the Venture Capitalists are back. They collected their gains from 2009 which ended strongly and started off a robust Q1 2010. With funds starting off 2010 with $5 billion, -a 41% increase from 2009- venture capital funds have more to offer early-, mid- and late-stage companies — great news for technology and web startups. How will your startup stand out THIS early stage in order to get some funding? Spend some time on PR and see how VC’s find it easier to reach you. Pitch investors as if you’re the next ‘twitter’, ‘Facebook’, or the next great telecom solution.
Venture Capital funds have learned their lesson. In 2004 they raised around $20 billion, increased to $36 billion in 2007 and, well… you know what happened next. With this in mind, $5 billion of course is put in some perspective. The point being, it’s much more competitive out there. If you know you truly deserve it, follow these next steps to gain vantage point when they seek for new opportunities.
The one concept is the creation around buzz – the need to fund your company, That is, the solution, the lack of alternatives, and finally – the promise coming through innovation. A few concrete ideas:
- Blogs: start 2 or 3 blogs around the topic. Join existing blogs which cover your field. Start raising the issue. If your startup is solution-based focus on the problem first. Don’t reveal your product, and don’t push the problem too much either. You don’t want to lead anyone towards the solution. Be personal and introduce yourself using your ‘elevator pitch’. It’s a good practice.
- Social Media: with the problem-solution model in mind, you can join LinkedIn groups; create your social network with people on the provider, manufacturer, analysts and finally investment guys. In addition repeat advice #1 on relevant groups in LinkedIn. Integrate your group posts with your blog posts and vice versa. Its very effective for SEO.
- Twitter: in contrast to what you may think, twitter is NOT a popularity test for brands and people. It’s a practical marketing and business tool. Use it wisely. Open a twitter account both for yourself and your brand as well as for each of your team members. Use it to create conversations frequently over the solution you’re offering as well as the need for it in the markets. Tap both the markets as well as circles around financial and investment operations. Choose your followed twitters carefully by relevance. Sign your account up on twitter directories for the fields your startup is catering to. End-users as well as developers, programmers, marketing and all players in the tech field.
- Media relations: this is probably the most challenging for startups but also one of the most effective way of attracting funding opportunities. It’s especially difficult if you don’t really have a PR firm taking care of you yet. The logic behind it is obvious: you want to throw the word out there that you exist, that you are relevant and that you are highly needed to fill up a gap, a social and technological demand etc. In order to have YOUR product answer these questions you need to strategically plan your way in advance. This requires frequent communications about trendy and timely issues that revolve around your startup.
- Integration: No, not the technological term “integration” but the PR concept. You just have to lead the choir in perfect harmony. Your website, blogs, twitter, social media sites, and various publications should all be well connected. THAT’s the essence of a buzz. Make people from different sources reach the same conclusion: brand ‘X’ is the solution to problem ‘Y’ that we have. I guarantee that if followed correctly, the media will pick up on the buzz themselves. The conversations you lead on twitter, the insightful posts on your blogs, and the presence of your brand and yourself in social media and of course the opportunities granted by media placements all have a crucial role when it comes to the investor.
Venture capitalist read newspapers on the way to work. They have a social-media life too. They seek information online through search engines. And rely on industry analysts. These analysts put a finger up to feel where the wind is blowing. Make sure you blow that wind when they do.