The prime intention behind this essay is to empower startups to rethink their game plan, develop strategies and go out into the market with the right attitude and a fair amount of structure that could enable them to identify their potential investors and provide them with what they might be looking for in a prospective investment-worthy venture. There are 12 steps that need to be looked at by budding entrepreneurs, perceiving these steps as a guide upon which they could engineer their capital acquisition strategy. However, I would like to argue that these 12 steps are not exhaustive, because there is never a tried and tested strategy. Every game is different and every players react differently in the field.
Step 1: It always starts with an ‘Idea’.
Having an idea is not enough to attract funds. You will need to dig deep into your idea, breaking your idea into parts with the intention to identify what is ‘unique’ about it. What solution are you providing and to what problem? You will have to find out what is your ‘Most Unique Feature’ that helps you stand out from others. Once you have identified it, try to define it in a couple of words and that becomes your ‘Unique Selling Point’.Use this to develop your elevator pitch, starting what is the problem, what is your solution and how is it unique? All summed up in less than a minute.
Step 2: Transform words to a prototype.
Now that you are able to define your USP, try to develop a ‘prototype’ around it. When I say prototype, it is not necessary that it has to be a finished product sample. You could take that unique feature of yours and put it into a PowerPoint, Photoshop, or draw it out on a piece of paper, so that you could show it to your potential investors. Investors like to see things that are‘tangible’. And also you could develop a ‘small animated video’ about how your product and the key feature of it ‘works out’ to be (could be as simple as a ‘flowchart’).
Step 3: Take an outside perspective (sampling).
Once you have your prototype, see if you can ‘test it/do a bit of reconnaissance’, which means go out see what others have to say about your prototype. When I say others focus on your ‘prospective customers’. Take a ‘good proportionate and a representative sample’ of it and try to ‘record’ their experience, this will help you in developing a market research report, that will come handy later on. During this step, see whether your customers are able to make head or tail of it. Also try to identify the reasons why your prospective customers ‘will/will not’ see themselves using this product/solution that your company is providing.
Step 4: Develop a ‘functional prototype’.
To many this could be considered as ‘the most difficult and challenging step’ that you may encounter in your journey to raise capital. Transforming a pictorial prototype to a functional prototype is ‘not a cake walk’ as many would agree with me here. However, the intention is not for you to develop a full-fledged product, just try ‘develop that one unique feature of your idea’. Try to develop it by seeking help/support from your friends, friends-of-friends, anyone and everyone who could help you. If you can try to black box your product idea and get pieces of it done from different people. This is essential to protect the ‘Intellectual Property’ of the idea, bearing in mind ‘Ideas are no one’s monopoly’. You could also go for the signing of a ‘Non-Disclosure Agreement’ (with an anti-conflict clause) between yourself and the developers. Having said that, if you could develop the functional prototype on your own or with your partners, there is nothing better. But this is a ‘very tricky ground, so trade carefully’.