Fourth generation entrepreneur Martin Keelagher is a venture capitalist and founder of PE firm Walford Cunningham and Hayes, which has bases in Stockport and Jersey. Although investments cover a range of sections, they include London-based Agile Automations and CNI Solutions, in Manchester.
The people factor is one of the most important things he looks for when listening to pitches and he believes the chief executive should be willing to present if possible.
“Qualitative aspects are more important to me – the personality of the team,” he says. “As an investor, if you can’t work with a team then it’s never going to work so the pitch has got to give you a feel for the personalities in a business.”
For that reason, he believes tech business should look to add a non-executive director to their board as early as possible – although he concedes start-ups don’t always do it. Having the right person on board can strengthen your business in the eyes of an investor because of the experience and contacts they’ll bring.
Keep it simple and show off your team
By showing your team is unique, an investor can see why you’re the ones that should be providing this service or product. “I’ll be thinking, if I had a room of developers what’s to stop me creating it myself? Why should I be doing this with you?,” says Keelagher.
Slides should be written like “a slap in the face” – brief and punchy to show why your business is the one to invest in. Don’t tell jokes and research what kinds of questions panels tend to ask afterwards so you can be prepared.
The best pitch Keelagher ever saw was by Agile Automations. “They had a great team with a mix of personalities, a proven model and market, and we could see the proposition was there,” he says, adding that the worst are those that haven’t done research beyond their own family and can’t take criticism. “They’re passionate about the business, which you can’t criticise, but they get carried away,” he says. “They get defensive which is a complete no-no.”
You also need to be realistic about the reward structure. “A lot of people say they want £500,000 and when we ask what they’re going to do with that money they say they want to pay themselves £100,000 each,” he says. “What we want to hear is that that will enable them to bring in two members of staff, increase branding, etc.”