Among the most important audiences for any tech start-up or SME is their early stage investors.
Long before their tech solution attracts the attention of institutional investors or VCs – or even raises a blip on their radar – most start-ups will rely on funding raised from smaller investors and angels.
These incredibly important people are the life’s blood of any tech start-up, providing vital resources at a crucial time, usually well before many are able to raise revenue from other sources like sales or larger investment institutions. In addition to their direct investment, these individuals provide the vital ‘matching %’ of funds which is required by many government funding programmes before they can even consider offering you their support.
So as well as money, small investors also provide that vital boost to further investment, as well as the imprimatur that qualifying for such government support offers.
Regular contact with your early stage investors as a group is therefore vital. Given their faith in you and your enterprise, and the fact that they are putting their own hard earned money on the line, they should be considered a key audience that warrants a specially tailored communications programme all of their own.
Early stage investors are typically an experienced, well informed and savvy group, so your messaging should be direct and on point. You want to give them general communications about the company and your progress, but you will also need to offer more specific financial information to reassure them and let them know where their investment stands.
The following are the headings messaging for this group might touch on over time to ensure your investors are kept informed: the problem you are addressing, and your solution to it; up to date reports on market size; milestones in your own product development, including any patents filed; your traction; your team – additions etc.; news of your competition; and most importantly, your financials and how you are progressing through it, plans for further fundraising rounds or support from outside – government, institutional etc.
Obviously, some of these – particularly the last headings – are highly sensitive, and so should be reserved for limited and confidential circulation only. But others: milestones in your product development; your traction; your team – additions etc.; news of your competition; fundraising and support from outside – government, institutional etc. – are also key elements in your storytelling that can be communicated to a wider industry audience.
Thus, your programme for communicating with your early stage investors should include a mix of public and private channels, but with the emphasis on maintaining regular and reasonably frequent communication. A communications programme targeting your investors might include:
press/media campaign, which will offer reassurance of market engagement through industry and wider press appearances;
regular (quarterly) newsletters, gathering together all the threads of your story for the period on an ongoing basis;
regular email communication *for investors only* from the founders/ceo - outlining key financials, burn rate, upcoming fundraising etc. – this could be a bi-monthly exercise and be marked confidential – and should be undertaken whether there is ‘news’ to impart or not;
regular ‘town hall’ meeting whether in person or using secure online video conferencing app., such as Teams, occurring say, every 6 months or so, giving investors the chance to voice their support and opinions and offering a Q&A opportunity.
It should go without saying that your early investors are among your most important audiences – apart from their faith in you, start-ups often find themselves having to ‘return to the well’ - sometimes more than once. So keeping on good terms with them through constant communication is vital.
And it should be constant, offering reassurance that your venture is on track, and flagging any delays in good time and outlining your way through. This will smooth your way, and this valuable group of supporters will help see you through to the next stage of your development.
"They did a really good job of staying relevant and selling their story to private backers during the period before they could get institutional investors to back them."
John Flynn, Managing Director at Act Venture Capital speaking to the Irish Times about DecaWave.
For help and advice with any of the above, please feel free to contact me here.