Getting Investors: A Guide for Startups

Getting Investors: A Guide for Startups

Investing in a startup can be a risky business. It's not just about having a great idea, it's about convincing investors that your idea has the potential to become a huge success. In this guide, we'll explore the key factors that can help your startup attract investors and gain their trust.

Understanding the Basics

Before we dive into the details, it's important to understand the basics of investment. When we talk about startups, we're talking about companies that are in the early stages of their development. These companies need funds to grow and expand, and that's where investors come in.

In return for their investment, investors usually expect a share in the company, or a return on their investment once the company starts making a profit. The goal for the investor is to make more money than they initially invested. Therefore, they're looking for startups that will be very successful.

However, predicting which startups will succeed is not as simple as it sounds. The success of startups often follows a power law, with a few big successes overshadowing the rest.

The Importance of Being Formidable

The first and most important ingredient for attracting investors is having formidable founders. Investors usually decide in the first few minutes whether you seem like a winner or a loser. Once their opinion is set, it's hard to change.

Being formidable means being confident, but not unjustifiably so. It's about being able to convince others that you'll get what you want, regardless of the obstacles in your way.

This doesn't mean that you should try to imitate the confidence of more experienced founders. Investors are good at judging genuine confidence. If you try to act like something you're not, you'll likely end up in an uncanny valley, where you depart from sincerity but never arrive at convincing.

Stick to the Truth

The best way to appear formidable as an inexperienced founder is to stick to the truth. Your confidence will vary depending on what you're saying. If you're saying something you know is true, you'll seem confident.

The secret to convincing investors is to convince yourself first. Evaluate whether your startup is worth investing in. If it isn't, don't try to raise money. But if it is, you'll be telling the truth when you tell investors it's worth investing in, and they'll sense that.

Become a Domain Expert

To evaluate whether your startup is worth investing in, you have to become a domain expert. If you're not a domain expert, your conviction about your idea will seem no more than an instance of the Dunning-Kruger effect to investors.

It's crucial to know everything about your market. Investors can tell fairly quickly whether you're a domain expert by how well you answer their questions.

Raising Money at the Right Time

The time to raise money is not when you need it, or when you reach some artificial deadline like a Demo Day. It's when you can convince investors, and not before.

If you try to convince investors before you've convinced yourself, you'll be wasting both your time and theirs. They're far better at detecting dishonesty than you are at producing it, even if you're doing it unknowingly.

Understanding the Market

In addition to having formidable founders, you need a plausible path to owning a big piece of a big market. Founders often think of startups as ideas, but investors think of them as markets.

Your target market has to be big, and it also has to be capturable by you. But the market doesn't have to be big yet, nor do you necessarily have to be in it yet. It's often better to start in a small market that will either turn into a big one or from which you can move into a big one.

Handling Rejection

Not all investors will be convinced by your pitch, no matter how good it is. Some investors might reject you for various reasons. When this happens, it's important to handle the rejection well.

Instead of feeling discouraged, use the rejection as a learning opportunity. Find out why the investors rejected you and use this information to improve your pitch.

Being Different

Being different can be a good thing when it comes to attracting investors. If your startup is doing something unique, it can be a good selling point.

When you're raising money, you're not trying to convince investors of something uncertain. Rather, you're trying to convince them that your company is a good bet.

Presenting Your Ideas Clearly

When you're pitching your ideas to investors, it's crucial to present them clearly and concisely. Many investors use this as a test, reasoning that if you can't explain your plans concisely, you don't really understand them.

Here's a simple recipe for impressing investors:

  1. Create something worth investing in.
  2. Understand why it's worth investing in.
  3. Explain that clearly to investors.


Attracting investors can be a challenging process, but with the right approach, it can be made easier. Remember, the key to attracting investors is to be formidable, stick to the truth, become a domain expert, raise money at the right time, understand your market, handle rejection well, be different, and present your ideas clearly.

By following these steps, you'll increase your chances of attracting investors and securing the funds you need to grow your startup.

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