Author’s Blurb: We had the opportunity to attend WORQ’s Entrepreneurial Quriosity Pitching 101 Session. On the event page, this session looked as if they were targeting aspiring entrepreneurs and those brand new to the startup scene. Falling into the latter category, I wanted to see what words of advice I could walk away with.
Panellists for this event included personas that were already familiar with our startup scene.
Among them were:
- Raja Adam, CFO of MoneyMatch, a fintech firm focusing on international transactions and payment,
- Clarence Leong, founder and CEO of EasyParcel, a logistics solution provider,
- Farrah Azlin, Senior Investment Manager of Cradle Fund, who has been in the business for 7 years.
The entire session was monitored by Adam Ramskay, Venture Development Manager Of Cradle Fund.
It’s clear that this EQ event was targeted towards aspiring entrepreneurs, or even those simply with a budding idea, just looking to test the waters with what to expect.
So, I believe this article would benefit those who want some reassuring advice about pitching that might not necessarily be found with a quick Google search.
1. Ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the entrepreneur themselves that really matter.
For Farrah, she always puts emphasis on the entrepreneur.
“We look at both, first (assessing) if the entrepreneur and their team are able to carry out the idea. Then, we look at how this can help with the economy, job market, so on and so forth.”
The takeaway from this is that it ultimately falls onto the shoulders of the entrepreneur to carry out the idea, and that’s something investors have the ability to pick up on from a pitch.
According to Farrah, it’s even more of a plus point if an entrepreneur is able to bring previous experience and solid connections in the industry to the table, which is attractive to investors.
For Clarence, who’s been a part of many pitches, he’s also always assessing the entrepreneur from the get-go.
“When you invest in the people, it’s all down to the execution. Ideas don’t get to become reality without the execution,” he continued.
2. A pitch can work in more ways than one, and it’s not all about raising funds.
Clarence shared a bit of EasyParcel’s journey. “When we went out for pitching, all we wanted to do was to build a relationship first.”
He urged entrepreneurs to understand what their intentions were. “Is it for marketing purposes? To build strategic partnerships?”
At the very initial stages of EasyParcel, they started out just looking for strategic partners.
“Our first and second investment came in quite naturally. We started with partners, who then started to ask ‘Do you guys need money? Can we invest in you?’ and it happened that way instead of us going out to pitch,” Clarence explained.
3. Pay close attention to your investors’ appetite.
For most of the pitches he sat in, Raja Adam has always made it a point to ask entrepreneurs about deployment.
Deployment in the context he gave would be questions surrounding the execution of their product/service, the timeline for distribution, etc.
This can then be used to understand what types of investment would be best suited for them.
For example, a startup with a shorter runway might look to angel investors, since the funds can come in faster due to the fact that they invest from their own pockets.
Another example he gave was that if you’re a growing startup in the pre-series A stage and an investor asks you to give them a 5 to 10-year revenue forecast, this might indicate that you’re not suitable for each other.
“Perhaps they (the investors) are more traditional, looking for a more traditional asset class,” Raja Adam explained.
Ultimately, getting the right investor is all about finding chemistry between both parties, much like in a relationship.
Raja Adam described this perfectly. “As much as you are courting an investor, investors are also courting you.”
“Are they the right vertical of investors you’re looking for? You have VCs, you have angels, and more,” Clarence added, with regards to what questions an entrepreneur should ask themselves before asking for funding.
All of this should factor in during an entrepreneur’s preparation so that they’d be more equipped to answer the questions thrown at them.
4. It’s okay if you only have a prototype, investors are still open to hearing your story outside a pitch.
Even if you have no real traction yet, Farrah still urged entrepreneurs to get their ideas out there.
“If you ask for a sit-down, it’s very rare that people in Cradle will say no. Even if it’s a half an hour chat, just drop by,” Farrah said.
She continued. “It’s good to connect, even if it’s just to understand the expectations and if they match your direction.”
5. Not all investors are good eggs, so do your homework.
This issue of genuine VS fishy, up to no good investors was brought up by someone in the crowd.
“We’re in a very competitive space (remittance) so surely there are investors who could compare pitch decks, perhaps,” emphasised Raja Adam.
He explained that they try their best to hand out NDAs before giving out more sensitive information—but it’s definitely not foolproof.
On the other hand, Clarence takes on a different approach—being as transparent as possible.
Adam Ramskay also brought up the topic of investors that sit in for pitches just to analyse the competition, before using the information to feed other startups they’re already investing in.
For that, Clarence believes the onus is on the entrepreneurs to look into the investor’s portfolio to avoid falling into such traps.
“How many rounds have they been investing in? At what level of companies? That will tell you what kinds of information you can share.”
6. The best pitches solve a problem with simplicity.
When asked about the best pitches she’s seen, Farrah actually brought up her experience with EasyParcel.
“A few things were memorable for me, firstly because it was something so obvious that one else seemed to see,” Farrah said, referring to EasyParcel’s business model of aggregating logistic players.
Clarence urged to make it as human and personable as possible. He pointed out that ‘technical jargon’ can only bring a pitch so far—but what should be emphasised on is the storytelling.
“Before you start pitching about the real business, start off with telling a story about the problem that you’re solving,” Clarence advised.
Bottom Line: As someone who’s relatively new to the whole scene, it was interesting to hear the opinions of both parties (entrepreneurs and investment managers). Bringing in their real-life experience was definitely beneficial, as it helped me understand how pitches are carried out locally.
- You can read more about other events we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: WORQ