Now and again, you may meet an investor who pulls no punches in dismissing your business entirely, and it stings. So, in the moment of self-doubt as you consider whether it’s worth going on at all, how do you know if you should keep believing in your idea and moving forward?
Here’s some advice on how to escape negative thinking patterns and remain focussed.
#1 Look for the right investor, not any investor
First things first, remember that no business appeals to every investor. There are plenty of people who dismissed Apple and Steve Jobs back in the day and many stories of investors who shunned the likes of Facebook, Uber and Amazon. Like any successful business, these founders weren’t looking to win them all, but to find the people who loved what they do and investors who got excited by their vision. Just as your product or service is aimed at a specific target market, so too will your pitch appeal to the right type of investor. It’s a matter of finding those people, undeterred by the investors you come across who don’t get it.
#2 Remind yourself of what you are trying to achieve
Remember when you hit upon your brilliant business idea, and how hard you worked to craft the pitch assets to showcase it for investors? Go and re-read it all. If you’ve followed the correct steps in developing, testing and communicating your idea, the evidence of its worth will be there in black and white. Just as you need to prove to investors that this opportunity is one to back, you can remind yourself that your business idea is solid and investable. If there’s anything in there that you doubt, this is the time to go in and reassess or explore it further until you are satisfied you have it covered.
#3 Use the criticism constructively
Make a note of all the criticism or negative feedback you receive on your Fundraising Journey. This is gold dust because you can use it to improve your investability. By taking note of criticism and finding ways to answer it, you can pre-empt it the next time you pitch and have a ready-made response if it comes up again.
Don’t confuse this with the need to re-write your pitch. Often, when founders do this, they turn what was an engaging message back into an overloaded and confused narrative. The very fact that investors are asking questions means you’ve piqued their interest. They want to find out more and test you on your insights, knowledge and strategy to see if you’re the type of founder they would back. It’s an opening of a dialogue with an investor, it’s a good thing. In fact, you should be more worried if you don’t get any questions or criticisms. It most likely means that the investor is not willing to invest their time in understanding your business fully. And if they won’t invest their time, they certainly won’t be investing their money. Use every investor encounter as a learning experience in crafting your argument, expressing your business case and holding investor discussions.
#4 Talk to people outside your core team
The passionate people who form your core team will provide fantastic support and help bring your idea to life. However, if you’ve moved through the bootstrapping phase into startup, there should be outsider perspectives on your concept. Before you get to the pitch stage, you must work with people outside the business to check your pitch and your thinking. When you work with a pitch agency or consult industry experts or speak to other professionals in the space, you gain valuable insight. Without that insight, you risk being in an echo chamber and getting it wrong. All this is to say that if you have already done this and now feel riddled with doubt, speak to the people who don’t have a dog in the fight and can provide an honest perspective. These conversations can reassure you and help you to move on and identify the investors you can win over.
#5 Go straight to your target market
There’s no better way of reminding yourself why you are doing something than talking to the people it’ll benefit. You found a gap in a market, and you’ve created a product and service that’ll make a meaningful impact. Your potential customers are the people who’ll make or break your business in the end, regardless of what any investor thinks. If you’ve done market research and got positive feedback from an MVP (minimum viable product), go back over it. Customer enthusiasm should help rebuild your confidence and spur you on to make the business a success.