How to Grab an Investor’s Attention: Six Proven Steps

How does one grab the attention of an investor is a question asked by every startup, and investor, alike! Bridget Harrington, Executive Director of Innovate Raleigh, recently moderated a panel, which included Tim McLoughlin at Cofounders Capital and John Cambier with IDEA Fund Partners as well as founders Ursula Mead of InHerSight and Nick Jordan of Smashing Boxes.

Brought to us by Marlana Bunn at TriNet, in partnership with WeWork, CoFounders Capital, IDEA Fund Partners, Jake Shepherd at Vaco and Wade Ficken and Wes Pollard at Tech CXO, the atmosphere in the room was collaborative and curious, allowing everyone to walk-away from the conversation with six actionable items to improve their attention-grabbing skills. The actionable items are:

1.    Network constantly and maximize every conversation by including “the pitch”. Go to as many networking events that you can. Remember that every conversation can lead to an introduction or a valuable piece of advice. Use every conversation to tell people who you are and socialize the concept. Notice the responses that you receive and the feedback offered. Sharpen your presentation accordingly. “Test. Learn. Repeat.”

2.    Build relationships with other founders, in addition to the relationships that you are building with investors, fellow founders will provide valuable “experience shares” that are especially insightful for first time founders. Also worth noting is the positive experience that everyone in the room has had with the NC area peer groups and networking events.

3.    Look for a diverse investment team and build a leadership team with complimentary skillsets. The need for inclusion and diversity is as prevalent in the startup space as it is in the Boardrooms. Initially, Ursula Mead, founder of InHerSight, spent a lot of time enlightening men on the challenges faced by working women. With limited time to pitch an idea, this background, while critical to understanding the market landscape, took valuable time away from discussions detailing the proposed solution. The importance of having a diverse leadership team, with complementary skillsets, was strongly supported by local investors on the panel - Tim McLoughlin at Cofounders Capital and John Cambier at IDEA Fund Partners.

4.    Practice techniques that will allow you to achieve and maintain a stable mindset. The entrepreneurial journey is filled with highs and lows. Some are able to use the lows to self-direct back to a neutral or high outlook. While entrepreneurial panelists, Ursula Mead, founder of InHerSight and Nick Jordan, founder of Smashing Boxes have experience with these waves of emotion, they acknowledged that staff may/may not be as resilient. Therefore, take a moment to celebrate the wins with your team and let these moments serve as strength, when needed.

5.    Understand the metrics of your Go to Market Strategy. Bootstrapping keeps the founder in control by relying on the support of people that personally believe in them. Nick Jordan, founder of Smashing Boxes, spoke to the importance of building investor relationships at the same time and validating as many components of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as possible while in bootstrap mode. Credibility begins from the very first meeting and serves as critical success factor, as the revenues are developing. 

6.    When things go really, really well….Do you want to be a CEO or do you want to be rich?  This was likely, the most memorable quote of the evening, and it is important for both entrepreneurs and investors to consider what they want, and what feels right for the longer term. Across the country, you can find examples of options to meet every situation.

 Success is a numbers game. Make as many opportunities for yourself as possible and take advantage of each conversation to socialize your idea. For budding entrepreneurs, Raleigh provides all the ingredients necessary to take an innovative idea, build a team, and bring a product successfully to market.


Guest Author: Sharon Lewis is a proven leader, advisor, and market developer with a strong track record of creating first-of-kind program launches with high stakeholder engagement. Perpetually curious and able to simplify complexity, Sharon helps clients gain customer insights through qualitative research that uncovers differentiating opportunities for customer engagement. She believes that learning opportunities are everywhere, and that only one’s imagination limits the transferability of best practices across industries and cultures. The integration of her experiences across the retail, financial services, healthcare and non-profit sectors provides acumen for this diverse perspective. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc  


Sharon Lewis