Six Common Mistakes Startups Make When Looking for Investment and Attention

Posted by Jacob Serebrin

You have a startup. You think it’s the greatest thing ever. Now it’s time to get some media attention—and maybe even attract some investors. But that can be a challenging process and a couple wrong steps can leave you back where you started.

Here are six common mistakes entrepreneurs make when they’re looking for attention or investment and how you can avoid them.

1. HAVING A BROKEN WEBSITE

Your website might not be a high priority, but it’s often the first thing a reporter or potential investor looks at. Broken links, unfinished pages and problems with loading look unprofessional.

If you can’t get you website to work, it’s going to raise questions about whether you can actually build an app.

2. PITCHING TO THE WRONG PEOPLE

Reaching out to reporters is a good way to get coverage and approaching potential investors can get them to take notice. But if you’re approaching the wrong people, you’re wasting your time.

Kevin Carroll, managing director of innovation at economic development agency Invest Ottawa, says he spends a lot of time helping startups identify the right investors for them.

According to him, entrepreneurs need to be aware of which venture funds invest in their space and which funds are actively making investments.

3. PITCHING TOO EARLY

If you don’t have much to show, you might want to wait before you approach reporters or investors.

“Back in the heyday, ideas were getting funding,” says Carroll. “That’s changed. You have to have customers and traction.”

Reporters might not be as concerned with sales—though having customers will definitely help get press attention—but they aren’t going to report on a startup that doesn’t have a product. Lots of people have great ideas but execution is more interesting.

4. NOT HAVING A GOOD STORY

Back in July, I covered Kite, then a brand-new startup. Why were they interesting? In part, it was because they had a great story; they had a narrative that explained the problem they were trying to solve and why they chose to solve it.

Having a great story is probably the best way to get media attention: after all, reporters are storytellers. Even if you don’t have a product yet, having a good story can plant the seed that will get you media attention once you do launch.

Having a good story might not be as important to investors, but it’s a great way to get them to take a deeper look.

5. FLYING UNDER THE RADAR

That’s some nice, clean, website design you’ve got there. In fact, it’s so clean it doesn’t say anything about your company, your product, or why I should care.

If you’re at a networking event talking up your startup, don’t say its top secret when someone asks what you’re building. Being “mysterious” isn’t going to build buzz, it’s going to get you ignored. It’s a crowded market out there; you have to say something to stand out.

Even though your product is available worldwide, your company is still based somewhere. Most angel investors in Canada invest in companies that are geographically close to them and local media is a good place to start getting coverage.

And if you have a job posting on your website, it might be a good idea to have some information available about where you’re located.

6. NOT KNOWING WHO'S BESIDE YOU

How are you going to compete if you don’t know what your competition is up to? And how will you know what they’re doing if you don’t know who they are?

Jeffery Johnson, a partner at Deloitte says that investors “want to know who’s in the space already and what makes you different.”

And they want to hear “the context around your plan for success.”

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Jacob Serebrin

Jacob Serebrin

Jacob Serebrin is a freelance reporter based in Montreal. He specializes in covering small business and the business of tech. His work has appeared in publications including The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star. Having previously covered higher education and politics, he started covering business almost by accident, but talking to passionate people about interesting things soon had him... more



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