I was reading Ben Dyer’s ‘Where Do You Work?‘ essay on TechDrawl today and his comments about being asked for introductions to investors after passing on a deal. The article reminded me of a time in high school when my brother called a young woman named Dana and asked her to a school dance. She politely turned him down. Undeterred, Mark quickly followed up with “put your sister on the phone”. As you would expect, he didn’t fare any better with her sister.
Like my brother’s flawed strategy to find a date to his dance and as Ben highlights in his blog, an introduction from an investor that passed on a deal probably won’t lead to success. The article led me to think about what I tell Atlanta entrepreneurs that ask me for similar introductions.
The article points out the best place to start is with your own network – beginning with investors that know you. For those that don’t have an extensive network, I usually share some combination of these 6 suggestions to get them started:
The Southeast is an underserved market for capital and it can be hard to get the attention of the active investors in town that are busy looking at other companies and helping their current portfolio. Hands down, the best way to get their attention is an introduction from another successful entrepreneur. Investors value those relationships and opinions. They will almost always agree to meet with an introduction from an entrepreneur they respect. So get out and network with other entrepreneurs. Move into a co-working space like Atlanta Tech Village. Attend one of the many startup events in town each month.
ATDC (Advanced Technology Development Center and other startup groups)
ATDC’s mission is helping Georgia’s entrepreneurs. Book office hours with ATDC EIRs (entrepreneurs-in-residence). Take the classes on raising funding. Get paired up with a mentor through the mentor program. The ATDC team has relationships with most of the investors in town and can help identify the ones that are the best fit for your deal – and get you ready for your pitch. The same goes for many of the other 20+ startup organizations in town.
Atlanta Technology Angels
If you are one of the ‘newly minted graduates’ or ‘40+’ entrepreneurs that Ben talks about in his blog that doesn’t have a network of investors that have seen you perform, ATA is a good place to start. Each month they screen dozens of startups and select 3 to 5 to present to their angel group. If your presentation generates interest, they’ll assign a team that will dig deeper and coordinate with those members interested in the deal. ATA has been very active in recent years. Visit the ATA site to learn more about their process and what types of companies they fund.
Southeast Investor Group (SIG)
SIG is another active investor group composed of partners from VC funds in the Southeast, corporate venture funds, and angel investors. Each month they screen and select 2 or 3 companies to present to the group. SIG typically looks for companies that are past the friends and family rounds and up through series A & B rounds. Some of the sectors they invite include: IT, Cloud systems, network security, communications, wireless, media, healthcare IT, financial processing, data processing, and logistics among others. The best way to get an opportunity to present to SIG is through one of their members, or by connecting with Martin Tilson.
There are no shortage of pitch events in Atlanta – Venture Atlanta, Atlanta Startup Village, Startup Riot, TAG Business Launch, etc. Applying to pitch at these events is a great way to get in front of investors. Even if you aren’t pitching, you should attend and network with the other entrepreneurs and investors at the event.
Flashpoint is an accelerator program that takes founders through an intense customer discovery program they call ‘startup engineering’ and gets them ready to raise the funding they need to succeed. Each cohort concludes with a demo day where the startups meet dozens of investors.
Raising money is hard work. It won’t happen by blasting out cold emails to investors, and probably won’t come from an introduction from someone that has passed on your deal. If you are looking for investors for your startup in Atlanta, leverage your network and consider the resources listed above.