Navigating the Investment Landscape for Startups in Guernsey with Marc Cohen
During Global Entrepreneurship Week 2023, Digital Greenhouse member Marc Cohen, Sole Partner at Unbundled VC, joined us to discuss gaining investment for businesses that are looking to start and scale.
Guernsey's entrepreneurial ecosystem is an ever increasing ground for innovation and business development, highlighted recently at the 2023 Véyaon Awards and with even more founders joining our 2024 programmes looking to start and scale their businesses! Whether your initial funding for your venture comes from your savings or a family/ friends loan, there comes a time when founders might need to look for outside investment to take them to the next level.
Kicking off our Global Entrepreneurship week series for 2023, Lucy Kirby, Digital Greenhouse Director was joined by Marc Cohen, Sole Partner at Unbundled VC for a fireside chat. The chat focused on gaining investment for your venture, exploring key thoughts and considerations. In this article, we will take a look at the key points in their discussion, such as where to start when looking for investment, how to get your business noticed and what to do if investors pass on your business.
You can watch the event in full at the bottom of this page
Unlocking Investment: Tell Your Story
There are many things to consider when looking to gain investment, but Marc suggests starting at the basics. "Know what your story is, and what it is that you are selling potential investors on. Are you selling them a chance on a worldwide, large-scale venture or a more local business that can be bootstrapped and still succeed?"
With a good grasp of the basics, it will be easier to prepare the material you need to approach potential investors. The first thing you will need to prepare is a good pitch deck - a series of slides that tell your story - Use this as a narrative of your business, that makes sense of your journey and need for investment. A good pitch deck will secure you that first conversation with investors so it has to be short, succinct and credible. Make sure it clearly outlines your company's vision, mission, target market, competitive analysis, and financial projections. Investment is as much about the founder as the business, it can take a very short amount of time for an investor to decide they do not want to work with a founder, for a wide array of reasons, regardless of the quality of the business. As Marc says, "Pitch decks get meetings and founders get funded."
Another facet of your preparation must be to develop a comprehensive list of investors, using tools such as the LinkedIn navigator, to meet a variety of professionals and see if you can get some introductions to others to build your network and find people who might invest in your business. This is a hard and long process. Marc warns that this kind of journey can take months of effort to get to the people you need, from finding the right investors to securing meetings to sorting the legal side of things takes time on top. Marc says that looking for investment can almost be a full-time job with the amount of work that’s included in it. Establish connections with potential investors and industry experts through networking events, conferences, and online platforms. Actively participate in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to gain visibility and credibility. Local events like Tech Mex, Founders Connect and TEKEX, can help you connect with fellow founders from all sectors and create new connections that could prove abundantly useful in your journey!
Be a founder who people want to back.
Aside from showcasing business facets such as value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential, it is important to ensure that you are a founder worth investing in. For example, Marc is looking for three core skills in a founder during his investment meetings:
Sales skills. You are going to need to be able to sell your product/ service to customers, investors and potential employees. It is imperative that you can not only sell this but also your business and yourself.
Decision-making skills. Very early on in the business, key decisions have to be made to have a chance at being successful. This is a valuable skill that can be used throughout your venture's journey.
Tenacity. Your venture is likely going to be a 5-10 year journey with a lot of ups and downs. You need to be able to pick yourself up and pivot quickly when faced with adversity, especially in a volatile market or often shifting sector.
If you can embody these life skills then you are likely to have a head start on the bumps that appear in the road ahead, but what do you do if an investor says no? An investment rejection could happen for a variety of reasons, and you are likely to come across them a lot, for as we know, it is a long and difficult process to secure investment. But how do we make the best of what feels like a bad situation? Marc suggests that after rejection and some feedback, it may be pertinent to ask if that investor could introduce you to other investors who may be more interested in your offering, as it could be that the investor who has just rejected your pitch deck simply doesn't deal with businesses of a certain sector or size. See if they can connect you with an investor that may be more aligned with your goals.
It's also worth asking if you can add that investor to your updates mailing list, this way you can show that your business is actively evolving and taking their feedback into account through monthly or bi-monthly updates and you may be able to persuade that investor to change their mind further down the road.
If you have made some significant progress 6 - 12 months after your initial meeting it may be well worth reaching out to that investor again to say ‘Look this is where my business is now, is it worth another chat?’ This kind of tenacity may lead to success if your growth has been significant enough.
The investing landscape is always changing
Remember, failure is not a blocker to investment! If you have had a venture that didn’t work out, investors are not likely to refuse you on that evidence, because the way you bounce back and pivot can be a reassuring trait in a founder for an investor. As Marc said earlier, tenacity is going to be a golden trait if you can show you are willing to make things work.
All in all, Guernsey's supportive environment, and access to inspiring networks and supportive initiatives, present a promising investment landscape for startups. You can also look globally for support, using Guernsey as a home hub. By adopting a strategic approach and demonstrating growth potential, all founders have the opportunity to successfully navigate the investment process and secure the funding needed to fuel their success.