Entrepreneurs

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

As an entrepreneur, your pitch is arguably the most important message about your company’s investment-readiness that you will ever deliver. Most entrepreneurs develop two versions of a pitch: a short, elevator version, and a longer, investor presentation with a slide deck. Your elevator pitch is much more than a compressed investor presentation without the slide deck. It’s a precious few seconds of your listener’s attention in which to communicate your passion, describe your innovative product or service and clarify its value from an investor’s point of view.  

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

A few weeks ago, I spoke to MBA candidates at a business school conference. They were passionate about becoming entrepreneurs and were in the process of refining prototype products. Yesterday, I met with another aspiring entrepreneur – a corporate veteran with a product, a patent and a launch plan. Despite the obvious differences in career and product development timing, the students and the corporate veteran shared common traits: they were passionate about their ideas, dreaming big and determined to perfect their investor pitches.

What does it take to be named the most innovative ACA angel invested company for 2015? Well, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based RetroSense Therapeutics, has just raised the bar. The high-flying biotech is developing life-enhancing gene therapies designed to restore vision in patients suffering from blindness due to specific ailments.

RetroSense Therapeutics CEO Sean Ainsworth stated, "It's really exciting and an honor to win the Luis Villalobos Award, which highlights some of the amazing innovations that can come to life through the power of angel investing. Our angel-backed series A, of $7 million, has enabled us to complete studies needed to enter clinical trials and will fund early clinical development.  It's great to have the recognition from ACA for the progress we're making toward restoring vision.

Which of the thousands of startups funded by the 12,000+ members of the Angel Capital Association (ACA), the world's leading professional association for angel investors, will win the coveted Luis Villalobos Award?  It will be one of these three just announced finalists: ActX (Seattle), GroundMetrics (San Diego), and RetroSense Therapeutics (Ann Arbor, MI).  These companies will be honored and the winner will be announced in a special awards ceremony on April 15th at the world’s largest gathering of angel investors, the 2015 ACA Summit taking place in San Diego. The award is named in memory of Luis Villalobos, who angel investors nationwide admired for actively investing in and mentoring ingenious, creative and innovative startups.

“These finalists are at the top of their game and represent the pinnacle of startup innovation and ingenuity,” said ACA Executive Director Marianne Hudson. “Each company is representative of the strong leadership driving the type of innovation that ACA’s 12,000+ angel investor members look for when selecting companies to financially support and mentor.”

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

As an entrepreneur, you live for that big idea that blends innovation, an untapped market and high growth potential.

It’s been said that ideas are the currency of the 21st century, and like all currencies, the value of a big idea can fluctuate. Some days, you can’t seem to find the discipline to execute. Other days, you’re distracted – a competitor surfaces, a strategic relationship falters or a regulatory issue becomes a setback. Your business focus vanishes and distraction takes over, keeping you up at night and making you miserable by day.

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

Carmine Gallo, author of “Talk Like TED”, calls ideas “the currency of the 21st century.” It’s true that consistently refining and taking action on relevant ideas leads to business innovations and scientific breakthroughs.

For entrepreneurs with an innovative business concept, the process of refining a big idea and taking relevant action includes the ability to synthesize input from a wide range of sources. Input from too many sources can leave you feeling as though there are a hundred voices whispering in your head, muddying your refinement process and making it harder, not easier, to make decisions and take action. Making sense of this varied input requires having a framework for filtering and evaluating those voices.  Here are three framework components to consider.

By: Christopher Mirabile, ACA Board and Launchpad Venture Group

This post originally appeared on Inc.com

Most people are pretty confused about what crowdfunding is and is not. Here are the ten key concepts entrepreneurs and investors need to understand.

1. Product crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding are really different.

Most people still confuse them. Product crowdfunding is done on sites like Kickstarterand Indiegogo. It allows you to finance innovation directly, at the product level; contributors pre-purchase products or simply donate. Conversely, with equity crowdfunding investors take stock ownership in the company making the product, which is very different and quite a bit more complicated. Equity crowdfunding is not yet fully democratized for ordinary investors, but sites like AngelList and WeFunder allow larger (accredited) investors to do it.

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

Asked to explain his investment philosophy to a group of entrepreneurs, the founding partner of an investment fund put it this way: “There are only two things I care about: Can you make product, and can you sell product?”  If you’re the founder of a startup, you know first-hand that sales drive revenue, and revenue drives both investment and growth. How good are your sales skills?

All sales are the result of creating a connection with the buyer, and the best salespeople are adept at developing meaningful business relationships with their prospects. Here are some essentials to developing relationships like a sales pro.

By: Christopher Mirabile, ACA Board and Launchpad Venture Group

This post originally appeared on ScratchPaper.

Competent entrepreneurs can explain their company in terms of what the product does. Good entrepreneurs can explain their company in terms of their customer and their market. Fundedentrepreneurs can pitch their company in terms that an investor can relate to.

For most entrepreneurs, it’s not easy or intuitive to put the investor version of the story together. They can talk a blue streak about the product, the customer, maybe the market. But they cannot pitch the business as a good investment in a way the investor can quickly grab onto.

Turns out, there is an easy formula that works nearly universally. The key to this formula is that it covers all the required subjects, but strings them together into a coherent and engaging narrative flow. Once you grok the formula, it all kind of clicks and you suddenly understand what it is you are trying to convey. From then on, it’s easy.

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