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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Storytelling and Startup Fundraising

from Steve Reich





Every startup has an elevator pitch, but what comes next? Do potential investors’ eyes glaze over when you get beyond the quick, punchy one liner and try to REALLY describe your company? Successful fundraisers tell a complete, engaging story and close the deal.

Last week, the WSJ ran a great article on the value of college humanities courses, and used comments from a successful entrepreneur to make their case. I have to confess that I almost ignored the article, thinking that it was one more elaborate defense of worthless, expensive humanities departments that should be defunded in favor of more math, science, CS, and business classes. I was wrong, and the article was a good reminder that telling your company’s full story is a critical element in raising capital.

Malauzai is an example of a company that tells its’ story well. The company builds a SaaS mobile banking platform for community banks. Malauzai, founded by Tom Shen, is in the midst of raising a series A round to fuel rapid growth. The core idea is very simple—give community banks a powerful, customizable platform that allows bank customers to bank via their smartphones.

The bigger story? Tom does a great job laying out his heartfelt conviction that community banks are critical to the economy and the fabric of local communities. He then takes that emotionally gratifying picture—local bankers battling it out with the likes of Citicorp to serve their communities—and builds on it with the idea that Malauzai software turns the local bankers into formidable competitors armed with new technology that the big guys are slow to adopt.

It all flows into a great story. Mobile is important. Community banks are an essential part of the financial landscape. With the right technology, they can compete with the Megabanks and Wall Street. And Malauzai collect a monthly per user fee for each consumer. What’s not to like?

And the story gets better as you dig deeper. Tom has had two exits in bank technology. One of his early investors is a key banking software provider with hundreds of customers. Several members of his Board have very deep experience in the bank technology space. They have 100 customers on the platform already, and they are so excited about the product that they put it on billboards. It all hangs together.

The net result? A very attractive package, and a story that is easy to comprehend.

Does your investor pitch tell a story, or is it a disconnected jumble of elevator pitch, market sizing, technology and financials? People like and relate to stories on an emotional level. Learn to tell yours.

Steve Reich is a veteran entrepreneur and Angel investor in Southern California. Through his experiences with Digital Insight, LeisureLink, and Treasury Services, he has been with startups from launch to IPO. Reich has been funded by VC firms such Clearstone Venture Partners, Mission Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and General Atlantic. Steve is also an active member of the Pasadena Angels, and regularly mentors young companies. Steve's expertise includes leading winning sales teams, brand marketing, and operations management. He has extensive experience in business to business sales, SaaS technology, and eCommerce. Follow Steve at his blog at http://granitecreekblog.wordpress.com/. .


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