NIC HARALAMBOUS AND VINCE MAHER, MOTRIBE
Nic Haralambous and Vince Maher did not launch Motribe until they knew that they were absolutely ready. They were both permanently employed, and they knew that launching a start-up would mean a big shift in their lives. As much as they wanted external funders to enable the business to put new products out quickly and learn from the market, they wanted to be a lean start-up that would grow organically. They wanted to cover their bases.
The result? They created a lean start-up that they have kept lean, despite an injection of funds, which has enabled them to focus on developing new products and getting them to market quickly.
“We were able to prove that we could generate interest – and revenue – before we started expanding, which is invaluable for potential investors to see,” says Nic. “Together, Vince and I have a lot of experience and knowledge of the mobile market, its needs, gaps and consumers. We used this to develop our business idea, and it gave our investors confidence.”
In order for Motribe to grow even bigger – particularly into the global market, Nic recognises that the company needs to attract the interests of a foreign investor as well. “4Di focuses primarily on seed funding. Having an investor already on board makes it easier to find additional investors who want to see that the risk is spread out. But to break into the oversees market, we need to have offices based there as well, so that’s what we are currently focusing on.”
What investers want
Attracting 4Di’s attention, and now working on creating relationships with US-based VC funders, has given Nic and Vince a strong sense of the VC world and what investors look for. Here’s their advice for fellow entrepreneurs:
- VCs like to hold your hand and guide you through the process. If you are unwilling to accept this involvement in your business, you shouldn’t be looking for venture capital funding.
- There is a big difference between bootstrapping a business and having cash in pocket. As an entrepreneur, you need to know how to spend money from investors – and involve them.
- Do your due diligence. You need to break down your financial models and prove them. You can’t just quote figures – you need to show how you reached those figures, and you can only be convincing if you really know what you’re talking about and you’ve done your research.
- VC is not a loan – you don’t pay the money back. The investor will eventually be bought out, and that requires the business to have a certain growth path. Milestones will need to be met before you receive further funding, so be sure you can reach those milestones – or can explain why you missed them.
- VC money can effectively be used for growth. You will need to explain exactly what you need the funds for, where every cent will be spent, and how this will help your business grow.
- VCs are typically looking for a return on investment of between four and ten times their initial investment over a period of five years. Can you prove this is what they will get?
- You need to show an exit strategy for either you or the VC from the word go – they are looking for a return on investment. How will they get it?
- A profitable, income generating business will raise funding. If you don’t have that, you won’t get the cash. Go back to the drawing board and figure out what’s wrong. Are you approaching the wrong funder? Is there a problem with your business model? Do you understand your market? Have you done enough research?
As an organisation that focuses on providing seed funding, 4Di is made up of early-stage specialists who focus on deploying smaller amounts of capital.
So how did the Motribe team attract 4Di? “I was already well aware of Vince and Nic and their activities in the mobile sector, so we connected through mutual circles,” says Justin Staford of 4Di. “The real trick is to be visible. We made contact by a private message exchange online, followed by an in-person chat, but Motribe was already networking, and that helped us get started.”
For 4Di, Motribe demonstrated domain experience and had recognised a gap in the market. The combination pointed towards a business that would work – which is of course what investors are looking for: will they get their money back, with interest? “Nic and Vince demonstrated passion, domain expertise and insight into the market,” says Justin.
“They wanted to tackle mobile platforms in growing emerging markets based on their hands-on experience in the field, which we agreed was a growing market opportunity waiting to be tapped. They also showed that they had the skills, knowledge and networks to build the technology and market it. This combination proved credible enough to move forward.”
When looking for a business to back, here are Justin’s top five things that investors look for:
- An attractive founder team. The core characteristics of hungry commitment, passion and dedication, appropriate skills and domain expertise/experience are a must.
- A sound business thesis and business model with appropriate potential are paramount. Can you demonstrate low costs, high leverage, the ability to scale exponentially, and how you will tap large, hungry growing, markets?
- The ability to demonstrate why you can best execute on the business thesis. Do your research and consider every angle.
- There will always be possible deal-breakers, so be aware of them. IP issues can pose a big problem. VC investors want to invest where the IP is owned and developed, for instance, and not in a pure operating entity, and they typically don’t want to invest in any IP that is encumbered in any way. VC investors also prefer clean entities without legacy encumbrances. Be prepared to answer these questions in your pitch.
- Different VC firms have different focuses. If you pitch to the wrong firm, and your business does not suit their mandate, you will get a no – and a poor reputation to boot. – nadine von moltke
Why You Need A Million-Dollar Pitch Before Your Start a Business
You’re not ready to launch your business until you can explain in 20 seconds or less how it helps someone.
I would argue that you should not try to start a business until you can clearly articulate how you help people in a pitch. Pitching is vital to your success so it makes sense that you need to master it before you can launch a business. Why? It forces you to focus on what you can do right now and what problem you solve in the marketplace. It’s the value of your business in just a few words.
You will need to pitch your product, idea, or service to:
- Turn strangers into customers
- Attract investment partners
- Hire new employees
Before anyone is going to do business with you, you have to get attention. A million dollar pitch is a short commercial that will attract attention and make the benefits of your company tangible to a customer. It should be 20 seconds or less and help the person take an immediate interest in what you do. It’s a simple statement with a specific goal.
How much time have you invested perfecting your pitch?
If you’re saying to yourself right now that what you do is “too complicated” to put in a few words, you probably lack clarity about what you’re doing. It might also be a sign you’re only thinking about making money instead of how you can add value to others.
A lot of people cannot articulate their value in a few words.
There are so many distractions out there, so you need a well-crafted pitch to cut through all the noise. People call me all the time on my shows with long-winded explanations about their business. When you’re pitching, no one wants to hear about your company history. I don’t say that to be disrespectful, but because it’s just the truth. You have to give someone a reason to want to ask more about you – that’s what a good pitch does. The other party knows the immediate benefit and whether it’s big enough for them to want to learn more.
What can you do right now?
Have you ever thought “I could do that too” when you hear about someone doing a particular activity to become successful? I always laugh when people tell me stories like this. Let’s agree that you can learn anything. Here’s my question: is your idea something that you could do if you learned it or is it something that you can do right now?
Before you can be successful, you have to base what you do in your reality. Ask yourself what you can do right now, not what you could do in the future. Unless you’re planning a career change, assess your income-producing skills that you currently have and centre your pitch around that.
What problem does this solve?
After you figure out what your skill is, you have to ask what problem it solves. If a lot of people are having the same problem then it could be a great idea for a business. Who is your audience? Who do you already know in the marketplace that already needs your product, that wants your product? Most likely it’s not going to be people around your street corner. Look for a market that already exists and see how what you do can help that market.
Putting it together
Now that you have a business idea based on these two requirements, create a 20 second or less commercial out of it. The shorter the better. Most people just string something together without much thought. It’s your job to create a powerful statement that makes it impossible for someone not to want to learn more about you.
Here’s one of my pitches “My company increases sales by 15 to 20 percent and we’ll do that in less than 14 days.” Look how it’s based on something that I can do right now and that solves a problem for a large group of people. Do you think that my prospective customer would be interested in what I have to say after they hear this pitch? I’ve used it many times so I can answer for you – yes!
Is your pitch effective?
What kind of response are you getting from your pitch? Are you getting people to take action or ask more questions? Aside from creating a compelling pitch, it has to be practiced to be effective. Why do you think I wrote the Closer’s Survival Guide? It’s a training manual for closing – it’s essentially a bunch of pitches with the goal of closing the customer. I wrote them out and train them all the time. That’s what a lot of people miss. They could have killer pitch but are horrible at delivering them. You will only sell someone on your pitch if you train, drill and practice it until it’s second nature.
3 Tips for pitches
Clarify Your Goal: What is the purpose of your pitch? To have a successful pitch, you need to clarify your goal. Do you want the other party to sign a contract, agree to a meeting or sign up for your email list? If your goal is clear, then it’s much easier to create a pitch that serves that purpose.
Ask for Attention: You’ll have to get the full attention of the person before they will listen to your pitch. Never start your pitch before you ask them if you can share what you do. The best way to do this is to simply ask them. If you’re in an elevator ask, “can you give me your attention for the next 20 floors?”
Make It Memorable: A pitch is not an explanation of how your business operates or your company history – it’s a well-constructed value statement and it has to be BIG. You need to wow the customer and you’re not going to do that if your pitch is dull. It has to hit hard using a big claim. If you use my pitch as an example, it has a quantifiable result for the customer. That’s a good strategy to use. Show exactly how you can help that person. I always say show me don’t tell me.
Building a business one person at a time
Remember that strangers have everything that you want. Using a well-crafted pitch is the best way to introduce yourself to someone because you created it to get attention. It’s your job to make them interested in you. You must network and make your contacts grow so you can grow your business.
Promote and market yourself using your pitch 24/7. The better it is, the more attention you’ll get. Don’t be like everyone else and “start a business” before you have created a million-dollar pitch. I can tell you from experience that if you follow these simple steps, you’ll have a better business and will be able to sell more people on your ideas. Let me know how this strategy works for your business.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Financing That Backs Entrepreneurs
The SME landscape is fast and flexible. It requires financing that understands how entrepreneurial businesses operate. Through its unique processes and assessments, Spartan’s finance solutions are geared to do just that.
It takes an entrepreneur to know entrepreneurs, which is why Kumaran Padayachee and his team at Spartan are dedicated to financially backing an often-underserviced sector: SMEs.
“We’re fast, we’re flexible, and we’re understanding,” says Kumaran. “Every single person who works here is SME-centric. We hire for fit, looking for empathy and alignment in every position. All of our processes and assessments are done with empathy and understanding towards SMEs.”
Becoming funding ready
Thanks to these systems, processes and the team’s unique way of assessing SMEs, Spartan typically grants finance within seven days, although the fastest approval has been six hours, with the longest 15 days.
“How quickly we can approve finance is determined by how prepared the business owner is,” explains Kumaran.
“Do they have all their basic documentation ready? These include financials, management accounts, debtors age analysis and creditors age analysis. From a working capital context, this information makes it easy to assess the health of the business. Every business owner and financial director should be on top of these figures.”
Finding a funding fit
Not every business needs funding. Some can grow organically and draw on their own cash reserves. Others choose an equity route.
Spartan is a debt funder. However, even as a debt funder, the team’s aim is to back entrepreneurs and help them grow their businesses. They evaluate what the finance will be used for, and if the return is greater than the repayments.
“There are numerous ways that finance can be applied incorrectly by SMEs,” says Kumaran. “One of the first flags we look for is debtors age. If the industry norm is payment in 30 days, but a business is typically paid by its clients in 60 or 120 days, then we know there is something wrong with their internal processes. Either the company is too shy to be assertive with clients, or it lacks the capacity or capability to invoice clients and collect cash efficiently. Either way, the result is a shortage of cash.
“Business owners in this situation apply for a loan in order to be able to pay the bills, when they should be reviewing their own business, pulling one or two levers, and improving their cash flows.
“A customer project or contract is an example of an expansionary and positive need for finance. These cases are ideally suited to bridging finance. The problem is that there’s a lead time gap. You need to start the project, spend cash to hire people or purchase equipment, build internal capacity, deliver on the project and then the customer only pays you. Working capital and bridging finance allows the entrepreneur to do just that, and the company grows as a result.”
Bridging finance, in particular, is high risk and requires a large amount of flexibility, which is why more traditional funding institutions shy away from it. Spartan, on the other hand, offers revolving bridging loans to customers the team has worked with. “We understand this space, and our aim is to support the entrepreneurs within it,” Kumaran concludes.
Alternative finance solutions
Spartan is a 36-year-old Non-Bank Finance Company — that specialises in financing Small and Mid-sized businesses by providing:
- Growth Finance [structured finance for expansion]
- Specialised Asset Finance [equipment/machinery/technology/software/office fit-outs/energy/etc.]
- Working Capital Finance [bridging finance & medium term loans].
Bridging Finance is available for one to three month terms and is ideal for contract or project-based businesses. It is a solution that assists businesses with solving cash flow issues due to growth related challenges in their business and is either for a once-off need or for revolving business use.
Spartan is an Authorised Financial Services Provider 47631 and Registered Credit Provider NCRCP8669.
Is Venture Capital Right For You?
Take this online test to find out if venture capital is what your business needs.
It’s important to know the ins and outs of venture capital before applying for backing as it may not necessarily be the right solution for all entrepreneurs, or for the particular stage your business is at.
To help prospective businesses determine if they are suitable candidates for venture capital funding, Mark Shuttleworth’s local venture capital company, Here Be Dragons (HBD), has compiled a venture capital readiness test. To check your readiness – visit the South African version of the site – Knife Capital below.
Take the VC Test
The HBD test is quick and practical, designed to educate and prepare potential applicants for what they can expect from venture capital.
The test guides applicants through an umber of important decisions and points they will have to consider carefully should they wish to embark on a partnership with a venture capitalist. Consisting of three deal breakers and another 15 questions, it looks at the components of a venture capital investment.
Questions such as: “Will your revenue grow by at least 30% each year?” and“Are you prepared to part with a significant ownership stake in your business which may result in the loss of control?” are tough choices that need to be made ahead of time. Your answers will determine whether you are on the right track for venture capital.
Take the test at Knife Capital.
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