For small businesses, getting the funding to grow to the next level can be particularly challenging. Whether you’re trying to expand an established enterprise or just want to get off the ground, sometimes revenue alone isn’t enough to bridge the gap. You can turn to external sources of funds, like grants and loans. For a subset of high-growth businesses, there is a third option: venture capital.
But what if you don’t know any VCs? Getting a meeting with a potential funder can seem out of reach, something only available to a few elite well-connected business owners. Luckily, that’s not the case. You can get in front of VCs with a mixture of research and strategic networking.
Here are three tips for getting a foot in the door with venture capitalists.
1) Research Their Values, Mission, and Past Ventures
Before you make first contact with a venture capitalist, it is important to make sure that your business aligns with that VC’s values. If sustainability and the environment are important to them, your business should be sustainable and minimize its footprint on the environment– or it should be helping reverse climate change. If equity and diversity are important to them, your business should be advancing equity and diversity.
This information will help you catch their attention when you get in front of them and make it clear why your venture is a good match for their funding priorities. If the VC doesn’t clearly list these values or priorities online, you can make an educated guess based on what types of companies they have funded in the past.
2) Ask for an introduction
Venture capitalists get hundreds, if not thousands, of messages in a day. A cold email, call, or DM will get lost in the noise.
Your chances of getting noticed and responded to are exponentially higher if you ask someone they already know to introduce you to them. Utilize resources like Linkedin to see if you have any first or secondary connections in common, and approach those contacts to ask for an introduction.
The mutual connection you approach should be someone you know well, or at least someone who knows the work you do. Keep in mind that making an introduction to a venture capitalist puts that person’s reputation on the line, so they will not do it for a stranger or a weak connection.
3) Use Accelerators and Incubators
In addition to providing mentoring and training, accelerator and incubator programs often facilitate introductions to venture capitalists as part of the program. This can be through social events, pitch nights, or “speed networking” sessions.
Do your research on the accelerator to see if the connections they provide align with your needs. Do they work with early-stage companies or companies that have been established for several years? Do they have connections in your industry, or do they specialize in an unrelated industry?
The Bottom Line
Venture capitalists may seem like legendary, elusive creatures of the business world, but it’s far from impossible to get a meeting with them. All it takes is careful research, planning, and strategic networking to get a foot in the door with the people who can fund your business’ ascent to the next level.
Want a Shortcut? Enroll in EnrichHER’s Business Financing Accelerator
Still feeling nervous about meeting with VCs? In EnrichHER’s Business Financing Accelerator, you can get individual feedback on your pitch, personal business coaching, and access to a library of outreach message templates with a track record of success in getting responses from funders.
EnrichHER is a financial technology platform that matches revenue-generating companies led by women and founders of color to individual and institutional sources of funding. Since 2017, EnrichHER has deployed upwards of $4 million through its platform and matched business-owners to $13 million in working capital through its Accelerator. By providing capital, coaching, and connections, we are fueling the fastest-growing demographic of business owners. Our network has engaged with over 23,000 advocates through its digital community and in-person activations.