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7 Things that every investor looks for in a winning proposal

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Prepping for your big pitch

There’s an unfortunate reality about getting a startup off the ground: having a promising idea simply isn’t enough to get you funded. If you want to gather the capital necessary to get your business operational, you need to have a good idea as well as a solid bank of statistics, plans, outlines, and documentation to support that idea. Though it would seem like many ideas simply “sell themselves,” this is almost never the case.

The prudence of investors

You’re going to be pitching to potential investors, so remember that investors aren’t looking to give money away for free; they need to get something out of this. This is a risky endeavor, and they need to be assured that this isn’t just a good idea, but that it’s also a practical one with a genuine potential return. That’s the entire reason behind the standard formatting of a “pitch deck,” which theoretically tells investors everything they want to know.

So what is it that investors want to see in a successful proposal?

Ingredients for success

These are the things investors want to see in a winning proposal:

  1. A unique value proposition (UVP). First and foremost, your idea needs a unique value proposition; something that explains exactly what the company does and why it’s valuable, not to mention why it’s different than everything else on the market. This is a strong lead-in for any investor, as most prospective investors will only give ideas a cursory glance before dismissing them or probing for more information. Your UVP will also be useful later down the line, when you’re convincing clients instead of investors to do business with you.
  2. A detailed financial model. Ideas are powerful conceptually, but investors are going to be putting real, countable money into your startup. You need to be able to quantify everything in a detailed financial model; explain how you came up with the exact figure you need to get started, and how that money’s going to be used. Figure out and explain your cost basis, your potential for profits, and how you expect to grow over the coming years. The more detailed you are, the better.
  3. Thorough market research. It’s easy to form a hypothesis about how your idea might sell in a specific target audience, but again, investors like to see numbers here. What is it about your demographics that make your business so necessary? What hard evidence do you have to support your hypothesis? Thorough market research shows you’ve done your homework, and adds a layer of validation to your idea.
  4. Acknowledgment of the competition. You aren’t the only business doing this; chances are, even if your specific niche is unfilled, there are related businesses doing something similar already in play. Ignoring these competitors is a glaring flaw investors will see in your pitch deck immediately, so be sure to list at least a handful of your toughest competitors and explain why your business has an advantage over them.
  5. A reputable leader. Companies may be based on ideas, but they’re built and supported by people. All businesses, no matter how good they are in theory, target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”need strong leadership if they’re going to survive. If you’re the one who’s going to make the decisions, you need to justify your acumen and experience, proving that you have what it takes to lead the business. Otherwise, you’ll need to find partners and employees with niche expertise who can compensate for your weaknesses.
  6. An expectation of return. This should be a part of your financial projections already, but make sure you have a specific callout for how you expect to return on your investors’ contributions. You’re asking them for a hefty sum of money, but what are you going to give back to them when you’re successful?
  7. Challenges and risks. Finally, your pitch deck shouldn’t all be blind optimism and pep talking. Be sure you include a section on the significant risks, challenges, and obstacles your business is going to face. This isn’t pretty, and it may not be fun to think about, but it’s a necessary admission for an all-around strong business plan.

If you can put together a pitch deck that addresses all seven of these items satisfactorily, you’ll be in a good position to convince any investor that your business is worth investing in. These are basic and practical factors that, when presented, show that you’re a competent entrepreneur and that your idea has real merit. The other benefit in including these factors is that they’ll force you to confront the weaknesses of your business early on—when you have time to correct them.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Finance

Rize is the tech nerd’s version of hiding money in coffee cans

(TECH NEWS) Rize savings tool helps users stash away money without having to bury it in the yard.

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Finding the self-motivation to save money is hard. Manually going into your bank account to pull money into savings is a drag.

And it means you have to look at all those transactions where you spent too much money on donuts or shoes when you should have been saving.

Let something else do it for you instead. Rize is a savings service that helps you automatically save and manage your money. After creating an account, you simply set your monthly goal and Rize does the rest.

Your chosen amount is automatically moved from checking to your Rize account after each paycheck.

At any point you can change, delete, add, or transfer savings between goals as many times as you want. You can create multiple goals with differing amounts.

No savings account is necessary to use the app. Money is held in your account until you choose to withdraw it. There’s also no limit or extra fees for withdrawals.

You don’t need to worry about overdrafting, either.

Rize double checks your checking account to ensure sufficient funds, and notifies you before making any withdrawals.

Nope. This app is legit. Their team features investors, advisors, and leaders with solid financial backgrounds. It’s a free, pay what you want model. If you’re able to throw some bucks to the developers, go for it. If not, (after all, you are saving up for that cool vacation or whatever) Rize is still totally free.

Bonus: you earn 0.9% APY, which is 15 times more than the national average.

Plus, your savings are SIPC insured up to $250,000, and Rize is an SEC-registered company. Your information is anonymous and encrypted with 256-bit encryption.

Rize works with over 2,500 banks and credit unions around the country. It’s currently only available for U.S.-based checking accounts, but they plan offering international features in the future. A mobile app is also in the works. For now, Rize is accessible on any mobile or tablet browser.

Did I mention it’s free? No excuses. You can start with just $5. Get signed up for Rize now. Start saving today for your business and personal financial goals.

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Business Finance

You got an LLC and you’re ready to hire – 3 things lenders look for

(FINANCE NEWS) Yes, securing a small business loan of any kind is tedious and depends on varying lending organizations and business needs, but there is a list of general requirements small businesses should be aware of before getting knee-deep in conflicting information about lenders.

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401k retirement fund

If you are reading this, you probably have an LLC for your small business already, or money talk gets you going. If it is the former, let me say CONGRATULATIONS, and insist you pat yourself on the back in honor of your small business’s progression. Your arrival at a point where expansion is necessary is no small feat given half of small businesses fail in the first year. So, kudos to you.

Now, back to the money talk…

For LLC businesses looking to expand, please don’t fret about all of the information you’ve seen on the web. Yes, securing a small business loan of any kind is tedious and depends on varying lending organizations and business needs, but there is a list of general requirements small businesses should be aware of before getting knee-deep in conflicting information.

After some extensive research posing as the owner of imaginary businesses and annoying every loan officer who’d take my call, I’ve found three general lending requirements. I also provide a collection of the tangible information banks will likely review to meet those requirements. Take a gander:

Assets
Small businesses must have necessary assets: steady cash flow, financial reserves, personal collateral to support a variety of business fluctuations (i.e. unexpected employee loss), and a realistic pay off plan. These assets and financial safety nets are necessary for any lending organization to be confident in your business’s ability to support employee expansion in lieu of current expenses.

Proof of past
Just as you will come to expect from your soon to be employees, lenders want proof of the past and how you’ve managed past loans to align with your business goals. Historical evidence will further determine if your expansion is feasible, but also if it is worthy for the company to accept the lending risk.

Specific plans
Finally, be prepared to provide your small business’s explicit expansion plan, including how you arrived at your suggested loan amount and how you intend to divvy out the funds. It is important that you are as specific as possible in your projected numbers, seeing as one employee could make a $60,000 difference, and largely affect your expansion plan and financial need.

Before you go…

Now that you’re equipped with the magic three, you’re probably feeling empowered to walk into your nearest bank and demand your small business loan. Let’s first be sure you have all of the necessary information on-hand and ready to produce.

Lending companies that look for the magic three before investing arrive at their conclusion after collecting data from the following pertinent information:

– Proof of collateral
– Business plan and expansion plan
– Financial details
– Current and past loan info
– Debts incurred
– Bank statements
– Tax ID
– Contact info
– Accounts receivable information
– Aging
– Sales and payment history
– Accounts payable information
– Credit references
– Financial statements
– Balance sheet
– Profit and loss history
– Copies of past tax returns
– Social Security Numbers
– Assets and liabilities details

Now, my friend, do I release you as proud as a parent unto your nearest bank to secure your small business loan and begin growing your staff the way you’ve dreamed. I’m confident you will find the aforementioned information helpful in said quest, and would like to wish one last time (because it’s impossible to over-congratulate) a sincere CONGRATULATIONS on your businesses growth.

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Business Finance

How cryptocurrency works – basic vocabulary and concepts

(FINANCE) Cryptocurrency is a concept that dates back a decade, but as it becomes newly mainstream, many are struggling to catch up – knowing the basic concepts can get you up to speed.

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One of the most exciting things to arise out of new technology is the idea of better ways to optimize and improve concepts that we already find in the real world. None of us should be surprised when that includes currency.

With cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, Dash, NEM, Ethereum Classic, Monero, and Zcash (to name a few), it may be hard for the average consumer not to just keep up, but to know what’s going on in this revolution in our modern day economy. Knowing how crypto works makes you a better consumer, as well as investor in your future. Let’s get started with the basics.

What is a cryptocurrency?

To ask what cryptocurrency is, one should also contemplate what modern day paper or coin currency is. At its most basic, all currencies share this core trait: you can exchange a unit (or units) which has predetermined value for either goods or services. Whether it’s dollars, Yen, the gold standard, or Dogecoin, all of these currencies allow you to complete basic transactions.

Where cryptocurrency is different, is how these transactions are completed and how cryptocurrencies are processed.

How does crypto differ from common currencies?

Cryptocurrency allows you to send money directly peer-to-peer (p2p) electronically instead of operating through third-party systems like banks or governments.

The technology that makes this happen is called Blockchain. Blockchain technology is the primary difference between the dollars in your wallet and the virtual currencies in your crypto wallet. The Litecoin School of Crypto uses a great analogy to explain how blockchains work:

“In its simplest form, blockchain is data. It’s a list of recorded information called “blocks” strung together in a chain. Think of blocks as folders stuffed with information i.e. how much Litecoin was sent, who sent it, and who received it. The great thing about blockchains is that it’s public and anyone in the world can see it.”

How does a normal crypto transaction work?

Here’s an example using the fictional cryptocurrency, bitquarters: Karen owes Jamal 10 bitquarters for her movie ticket, so she’s going to pay him back. Karen first requests the transaction through her digital wallet. Because of the nature of cryptocurrency, she can’t send him bitquarters she doesn’t have (there is no “overdrawn” account status in crypto, like modern banks), so it’s a good thing she just got paid!

When Karen initiates the transaction, she uses her private key to virtually “sign” it. When a transaction is completed, an individual will “sign” their transaction with their private key – the reason why cryptocurrency is called as such is because of encryption, after all. The requested transaction is sent via peer-to-peer (p2p) sharing to a network of computers called nodes. These computers validate Karen’s key and verify the transaction.

After the transaction is verified, it is added to the blockchain, the virtual ledger, that all bitquarter users have access to. After that is finished, in only a matter of seconds, Jamal is paid!

What is this cryptocurrency “mining” thing I’ve been hearing so much about?

Mining is a vital part of the cryptocurrency transaction. Miners are the only individuals in the crypto process that can confirm transactions. Their job is to take a transaction, to verify that it is legitimate, and spread them p2p in the network.

To make it a part of the public ledger (the blockchain) every node has to add it to its database. Because mining takes a computer’s energy and electricity to perform, miners are rewarded with small amounts of cryptocurrency per transaction (like how you pay to pull money from an ATM). However, to prevent fraudulent transactions, a computer must solve an encrypted puzzle in order to add it to the blockchain.

What are other important crypto terms I need to know?

Address: the only piece of information that needs to be used for a transaction, similar to a user name or email address. Each transaction uses a different address.

Block: a unit of data in the blockchain that holds and validates transactions. A blockchain is where all blocks of transactions reside.

Double spend: the action of trying to spend cryptocurrency to two different recipients simultaneously. Mining as well as the blockchain prevent malicious actions such as this from taking place.

Cryptocurrency is held up by some as being the currency of the future, while many others think that due to over-speculation, that it will be a investment bubble with irrevocable consequences for brick and mortar institutions. Regardless of any market forecasters perspective on cryptocurrency, the technology is here to stay and knowing the basic vocabulary can help you understand where things are going.

Don’t be intimidated by all of the language around this concept – if you choose to dive into the crypto waters, you’ll learn as you go along. If you invest in stocks, you know a specific concept and vocabulary list, and crypto functions differently but is just another finance mechanism, both of which can be overwhelming but learning the parts necessary to your goals is all that matters.

PS: If you’re more of a visual person, there’s a short video available that has circulated that explains Bitcoing well, and applies to crypto in general.

This story was first published in February 2018.

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