Welcome to Ask Jen, a weekly Q&A with the “career doctor” herself
If you would like to submit a question, please e-mail email@example.com and she’ll do her best to get to them all. Oh, and don’t forget to register on YSN.com – Your Success Network and fill out your profile so we can link back to it!
Eric Tam asks: What are some good networking places to find investors?
Jen responds: You’ve probably heard it before, but it really is true. The best place to look for your first investors is almost always going to be your inner circle – friends and family. People who know you. From there, it’s all about friends of friends, or friends of colleagues – great referrals and contacts made by people who can vouch for you, your character and your business savvy. The next natural step is to more structured angel groups, or even venture capital forums. You’ll have to submit your executive summary, and maybe even a plan, for the chance to get invited to present to their group. This can be a great way to meet lots of prospects in one shot and get your feet wet with more formal, full time, and/or institutional investors (like VCs). But at the same time, realize you are still making a first impression, not to mention the fact that you’ll have to share your concept with a group or larger audience.
Some great networking places? Venture forums and VC mixers for sure – even if you’re not presenting. Most major cities have some sort of venture association that holds networking events. Also look into the Chamber of Commerce, the Junior Chamber (JCI) in your area, or better yet, the closest major city. Other great places are industry conferences and events. And if any of the major universities or colleges in your area hold business plan competitions or entrepreneurial events, definitely check them out too. Speaking of, your own alumni network is probably packed with its own possibilities.
Bottom line, always be making connects and let people know what you do and who you’re looking to meet. The best investors sometimes come from the most random of encounters. Also realize that raising money is a tough process that is totally unpredictable and comes with a very very steep learning curve. That’s another reason people say that you have to LOVE what you do… because you dedication and passion will certainly be put to the test.