Getting Funded!

I'm going to take a bit of a detour from typical product management, and talk about funding.  One of the sessions I attended at the MassTLC Unconference was for entrepreneurs looking for funding.  This session was led by Fred Destin with help from Dave Balter.  (If you don't know these two individuals, I encourage you to follow them - they're truly inspirational!)

It seems easy, right?  Build a great product, get customers and then get funding.  If it could be that easy, everyone would do it.  Here's my two-cents...

First, talk to your friends and family to get the initial funds for your business.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I figured I'd start with the obvious.  Once you have your pitch down, go over it again.  And again.  And again.  There are a lot of resources (5 Lessons from 150 Start-up Pitches (Pragmatic Marketing)  in the Boston area (and beyond) that you can use to help with your pitch.  Here are a few:

After you've refined your pitch, refine it again and again.  Okay, you get it.  Now it's time to start getting funded.  I'm sure many of you have heard of these, but I hadn't heard of a few of them so I figured I'd pass the information along.  There are a few ways to get funding with "no strings attached".  I've seen success, and backed a few projects through these...
If you do a Google search you can find a TON of companies similar to these in your area.  A good way to identify your group of VC's is to figure out what group you belong to - Female Entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs, software, manufacturing... if you identify what group you fit into, you can narrow down the people you are targeting.

Make sure you were being realistic. Figure out how much you're going to need, how long it will last, what your milestones to get there are and what happens when the money runs out.  "People want to invest in ideas and people who set realistic milestones... fully think through your idea in all aspects of the business."  When you present your idea, they investors are looking for growth rate, which you should compare to industry standards.  Choose a company that is realistic - don't choose Google or Apple, they are doing great but do you really think you'll get there in 6 months with 3 employees?

Prove that their investment is a wise one.  Think about what an angel investor or VC is looking for - they want to help as many companies as possible, so the sooner you can get them a large return, the better. 

I'll close with the most important thing I got out of the session - within 5 minutes an investor knows if they want to back you, and withing 15 they know if they want to back your business.  You have 15 minutes to make your mark - make sure you use it wisely! 

Any thoughts?  Comments?  Additional resources?  I'm going to plan on doing all of these things, so you'll hear about my experiences.  As product managers, how often do you find yourself on the side of pitching an idea to get "funding"?  Is the funding always money, or is it buy-in?  How can you translate some of these tactics to product management?  Do you practice your product pitches before you get buy-in from your teams?

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