Three Ways Social Entrepreneurs Can Increase Their Fundraising Luck at SOCAP
Catalyst Fund’s “How to SOCAP” for Entrepreneurs #1
Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity — Seneca
As the date approaches for SOCAP16, we all wonder how to best navigate its ocean of opportunity. Some attendees want to find inspiration, others seek new career opportunities. If you’re a startup CEO, chances are you’ll be chasing investors for your new round. This post shares a few lessons that should be useful if you’re learning the extreme sport of fundraising at a conference. The lessons are organized in three steps:
One. Do your homework
Two. Get a little help from your friends
Three. Hustle on the conference floor
One. Prepare by Doing Your Homework
Yes, we’re all busy and homework is rarely fun. But unfortunately it’s the key to being prepared and alert to the opportunities. So block a few hours and grit your digital teeth following these steps:
Set a Goal.
Start by setting a clear and realistic goal, similar to your intention before a yoga practice. What would you be proud to achieve during the conference? For instance, something SMART like “Get 10 new investors to ask for my round materials”
Prepare your Materials
And prepare them well. Your elevator pitch should be short and sound unscripted. One-pagers should be elegant and concise. Presentations should tell a clear story. If business cards are not memorable, ditch them and save a few trees. And look good in your clothes. Your materials are crucial to sustaining conversations, so don’t let them fritter initial interest away.
Create a Target List
There’s only 2500 attendees, so random interactions will surely start the fire, right? Nope, don’t mistake luck for serendipity. Instead, be clear about the investor profile that will be attracted by your venture. Then go find them by scouring SOCAP’s Pathable. Yes, click through all the result pages and research the investors with fit in mind. For the interesting ones, use a spreadsheet to write Name, Contact, Fund and your Rationale. This list is the top of your funnel, so add another column for Status (brownie points if you fill columns for Priority, Colleagues)
For your top leads, reach out through Pathable, email or LinkedIn (or carrier pigeon!) using a well prepared template. The warmer the connection, the likelier you’ll get a response. If you have no prior relationship, check your LinkedIn for common contacts that can provide a warm intro. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to schedule a few meetings even before you show up. Those that don’t answer will at least have seen your name in their inboxes.
Two. Get a Little Help from your Friends
Any investors or advisors in your boards should be very valuable by providing intros to your target list. After all, they have a clear incentive to keep your company funded.
Beyond them, consider your fellow entrepreneurs in the following communities:
They’ll be chasing investors too (even if not as well prepared as you ;-). And they will likely have complementary networks to yours. So reciprocally leverage the asymmetries by discussing your respective target lists and following up with warm intros. Also ask them to keep an eye for your targets once the conference starts.
Three. Hustle on the Conference floor (and beyond)
Opening day is here. You have a sizzling pitch and a gorgeous deck. Your target list is itching in your pocket. Your team is multiplying your tentacles. What do you do now? Simple, just be an elegant hustler with these tips:
Ask People about your Targets
Without being creepy, ask those you talk to about investors they know that might be interested in your venture. Double down if they mention anyone from your list (it’s ok to check your smartphone here, it actually impresses people!)
Be Kind to Others
It’s not a one-way world out there so listen genuinely to others and if someone asks you for help, make an effort about it. You never know what might result and heck, you are a social entrepreneur so show it!
Refine your Pitch
You should have boiled down its sweetness ahead of the conference. But now incorporate the feedback you’re getting: what catches people’s attention? What question do you keep getting? No pitch survives first contact with investor frenemies.
Approach Investors Elegantly
Once you spot one of your leads, don’t be the uber-driven entrepreneur that elbows lesser beings out of their conversations with an investor. Much better to wait politely for your turn. It might be less efficient but it’s a lot more effective: finding investors is like dating and who wants a rude first impression?
Get Yourself Invited (or just crash respectfully)
There are a lot of side events organized by the main funds and sponsors behind SOCAP. Investors tend to concentrate there and have a merry disposition with time to speak. So find out about the events, get invited using your ninja powers or just show up. Again, your extended crew is invaluable at this.
Work the Halls and Corridors
While the panels and keynotes make you learn and bubble, a real conversation can only happen outside. Consider a balance between your goals and chase laggards in the halls. The enhanced line of sight can only help.
Keep your Eyes Wide Open
There’s no chance your target list included everyone that might be interested, so stay flexible to wait for the muse of serendipity just make sure it catches you working)
Review your Target List
Every day, all the time. You want to assess progress, revel in success and plot your way out of impasses. Keep the goal in mind and pivot tactics when necessary.
Follow up with everyone
Remember to connect with everyone you met at the conference, add them on LinkedIn with a personal message. Follow up promptly with those you want to have a more detailed conversation. Humans have a short memory, so don’t let time erase you.
Karma is a Boomerang
Armed with the above approach and tips, hopefully you’ll get to your goal. They certainly turned my SOCAPs and other conferences into more productive investments of my time. They’re no guarantee of success but should be valuable to you too.
And they’re definitely not comprehensive, so please share your own tricks in the comments. What other ways have helped you generate luck in the past? Any tips on networking at SOCAP, pitching and pursuing fundraising conversations?
Attending SOCAP 16 in September?
Come learn more about BFA’s work at the Catalyst Fund Panel at SOCAP 16 , “Next in Financial Inclusion: A New Type of Fund to Catalyze Inclusive Fintech.”
Use the Discount Code SOCAP16_Speakers to get $200 off registration.
Note: the panel session time and date have yet to be confirmed. Keep track of the updated schedule on SOCAP 16 on Pathable.
David del Ser is the director of the new Fintech Practice at BFA and has attended SOCAP three times as a social entrepreneur and panelist. His other large conference creds include attending the World Economic Forum as a 2011 Young Global Leader, the Echoing Green All Fellows Conferences and Mobile World Congress numerous times.