How to nail your Q and A to secure your startup investment

February 25, 2018

The latest episode of my Entrepreneur Agony Aunt podcast tackles the subject of how to secure investment by getting your post-pitch Questions and Answers (Q & A) absolutely right.

My interviewee, Evelyn McDonald, is CEO of the Scottish Edge fund, an investment competition that most early stage companies based in Scotland will be familiar with. Round 12 closes on the 7th March 2018 and roughly £1million will be invested, with maximum investments of £150k per business. Young companies based in Scotland can apply here.

I set this chat up, because having sat both sides of the table (as both entrepreneur and investment judge) I’ve seen first hand more founders lose their investment opportunities at the pitch stage because they handled their Q & A badly than through any other cause. And that is not true of Edge, I have seen it time and time again and made many of these mistakes myself.

What Evelyn had to say what so important for any founder or entrepreneur about to pitch for investment, that I decided to invest £30 of my rapidly vanishing personal money to get the episode transcribed.

Also - embarrassing confession time - I managed to slightly mess up the recording quality compared to my usual standards, gaining a faint hiss that I just couldn’t edit away. Turned out I’d acquired this by leaving my husband’s electric guitars plugged into the amplifier on the other side of the wall in the next room. Turns out high performance microphones to aren’t too keen on that! Who knew? Anyway, please accept this transcript as my penance!

As ever you can subscribe to the Entrepreneur Agony Aunt podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Podbean or listen to/download the episode here:

 

 

 

Transcript: Nail your Q & A to secure startup investment, with Evelyn McDonald

 

Entrepreneur Agony Aunt Episode 15, released 25th February 2018

Vicky: Hello I’m Vicky Brock and you’re listening to the Entrepreneur Agony Aunt Podcast. My guest week is Evelyn McDonald, CEO at Scottish Edge, a £5million fund that awards young companies up to £150k to grow their startups, through a competition format. Previously she was head of growing businesses at the Princes Trust Youth Businesses. It is safe to say Evelyn has seen more startup pitches - good and bad - than most of us would ever care to.

One question this week - distilled down from many I have received as emails, calls and drunken rants.

“I recently pitched for investment, and although my presentation seemed to go well the questions I got from investors afterwards were pretty idiotic and showed they didn’t understand my business or the opportunity in front of them. I keep getting irrelevant questions and contradictory advice and suggestions - it's getting exhausting and becoming a huge waste of time. How am I supposed to get the money I need when I don’t seem to get a fair chance?”

So welcome to my living room and the agony aunt sofa Evelyn…. I bet you've never heard that question before?

 

Evelyn: Only about 200 times....

Vicky: As you know I set this chat up, because I have seen first hand more founders lose their investment opportunities at the pitch stage because they handled their Question & Answers badly than through any other cause.

But first tell us about about your role as CEO at Scottish Edge and your work with entrepreneurs….

Evelyn: What we were looking to do through Scottish Edge is invest in early stage, innovative, high-growth potential businesses, headquartered in Scotland. The reason we're doing that, if you like to start with why is because we're hoping that those businesses will make an economic impact, in Scotland. The reason we're looking for innovation, is because we're looking for businesses that are more than local businesses, they can sell out, what Scotland can sell, in Europe, and beyond, and in so doing, bring cash back into the economy.

 

Also, we do more from the work that we've done, the research that we've done, the businesses that we've supported that they do create high-quality jobs. You're talking about graduate jobs, and above, and obviously, that's important to the economy, as well. That's the kind of thinking behind it.

 

With this round, we're looking to support around 30 businesses, and invest around a million pounds. We're hoping that, based on the experience of the last few rounds, that we'll get around 225 to 250 applications, coming into the competition.

 

We usually get about 100 people coming back to us, from previous rounds, and then about 125 to 150 new ones. I expect that'll be a similar process. One of the reasons we get, that as people coming back is because, and unusually for a business competition, we give feedback to every single person that comes in. We collect feedback from the judges, at each stage of the process, and we share that with the businesses.

 

Some people respond to that differently, shall we say. So, some people think, "Okay, there are some good points, there are some things I can address, and if I do those things I can come back next time," and other people, of course, think, "The judges don't know what they're talking about, it this is a waste of time, I'm just going to move on," There are different approaches.

 

Vicky: I should declare now, at this point that, this time round, I was one of those judges. I was a semi final judge. I've also been in Edge winner. I've been on both sides of the table. I pitched and won at the very first round of Edge, and that was fantastic. Then almost five years later, I was back on the other side of the table as a judge. It was really interesting, to be the other side of the table, because some listeners may be aware, I've been out pitching raising money as a founder, as an entrepreneur, I must have pitched at least 100 times.

 

Some of those, I did a brilliant pitch, and brilliant Q&A, and I didn't raise money. Sometimes I did a shambolic pitch and a good Q&A, and I raised money. It's an endless process, but it is a process. I've talked about this in the investment episode, which is why I want to bring Q&A in, now. What is it, from an investor's perspective, or from a judge and I'm going to talk to you guys as though you are investors, because you are, you're investment decisions. It may work on a slightly different model, but it's still an investment decision.

 

When you are down to these semi final, final decision-making points, you're seeing a pitch, and then you're seeing question and answers, what's the thinking behind that, and what decisions are you trying to make, about those businesses, if they stand up?

 

Evelyn: What you're saying is just to pick up on your point about investors, yes, we are. The initial first four rounds of Edge is grants only, in a way, you could put that money out there, and then just see what happened. When I got involved with Edge, because Edge was initially Scottish Enterprise, and then, when it came out and became private companies for a social enterprise, we introduced a leading element.

 

It's important to us, that we get that money back, that is creating a long fund for the future. All the repeats that come back in, are going back out again as Edge awards. We are looking at, "Is this a credible proposition? Are we going to get our money back on this?" or, "What is a risk worth taking," if you like. Also, the point about pitches verses Q&As, they're obviously both important, but actually, I think, in terms of your ability to land that funding, you think you do in Q&A more than the pitch.

 

So I think a good Q&A will leave judge feeling confident about your abilities. Because essentially, anyone can stand up, and reel off some information. But, it's your ability to respond to the probing questions, to, "What is the size of the opportunity?" "Have you considered this aspect, in terms of your digital marketing plan?" "Do you understand about costs of custom acquisition?"

 

When people get into those questions, and you answer those questions confidently, and you can demonstrate that you've thought through those aspects, that you've planned for them, or that you have people on your team considering them, then, that's when you leave the job just with that feeling of confidence. That actually, behind that story, there is some real meat and bones, and that's something worth investing in.

 

Vicky: It's really interesting, because it's part de-risking, and part, understanding the context. I reckon, in the last six months, pretty much, since I put out an open call to talk to me about anything [laugh] broadly related to startups.

 

I've had weeks where I've seen 10, 15 startups a week, and I have to go through a process where I need to understand where they are, and I'm looking for about five things. "Is this a delusion, or is this real?" "Is there something there, have you built something?" "Is there a prototype, or is this a concept?" It's actually really hard to tell, and sometimes there's really obvious questions that annoy entrepreneurs so much, that make them think, "This person doesn't understand my business."I feel is actually, "You just pitched to me, and I'm still none the wiser, whether this is a business, or an idea, and whether you've done anything, or haven't done anything."

 

Not that one is necessarily wrong, but I need to understand the context of the conversation you're having. Likewise, I need to understand, "Yes, this might be a great idea, it might even be a great solution, but really, is there any reason on the planet why you are the right people to do this?"

 

I've had tons of ideas, they're great ideas, but I am not the person to execute those ideas, and turn that into business. Why you? I think I've been informally going through that questioning process, and, what I've observed as a judge at Edge, but also watching the finals, and looking back at the many, many, many times I've pitch to investors, they're doing the same thing. They're trying to map you out, and understand really broad things about, "What kind of opportunity is this?" "Do you understand the customer?" "Why now, why you, why this," and actually, "If we inject cash, what are you going to do with it? Where's that gonna take you?" It's not a complicated framework, really.

 

Evelyn: No. I think that's a good point that you brought up. Actually, is just, "What have you actually got?" because I have seen people that pitched something a lot further advanced than actually is.

 

Vicky: I've been guilty of that.

 

Evelyn: I've seen that happen, a lot. I can understand that, because at the end of the day, if you're an entrepreneur, you have to have a vision, and you have to be seeing that completed product or service, in your mind. I also do think, you need to be honest about what stage you're at, and also, what funding you need, to get it to that point where, either you're able to put something out, and make metadata as you go along, or you've got to get it to a certain level before you can release it, and what's going to cost that.

 

Sometimes people say to me, "It's actually going to take quite a bit of money, and quite a few years before we're going to get there." And I say, "Look. The right investors, the right backers, don't care about that, if they're excited about the team and the idea. They can see that it might take you three four years to get to market, and it might take another 1.2 million pounds. If they think it's worth doing, they'll still get involved. What you don't want is to be trying to pull the wool over their eyes."I mean, in a Q&A, if it becomes a pattern, that actually, you're not being completely honest about the money and time it's going to take, then you get into trouble.

 

Vicky: I think it's really interesting, the ones that have oversold where they are, and oversold the vision -- sometimes they have become very good pitchers, because they've been going through pitch school, or they've been out doing competitive pitching, which I did, you become very good at a certain style of pitching, because you're not being measured on, "Is this a valid business?" The people judging you, when you're competitively pitching are not making an investment decision, they're making a decision about how good you are at pitching. Completely different things. I've seen people who are very good at pitching, who are actually appalling at explaining where they really are, and selling this as an investment opportunity, as opposed to something to get super excited about.

 

But it surprises me, the number of people in pitches that I'd observed, not just at Edge, but at Angel Clubs, where you go and you see everybody else's pitch, or open pitch, and you have absolutely no idea of their financials. Literally, they getting destroyed because they can't talk about the numbers of their business, cost and acquisitions, you say, "How much is it going to take, to get a customer, how much is that customer going to be worth?" The basics of if you have a business or not.

 

Evelyn: I think people practice a pitch, you can do that on your own, you can practice your pitch in front of the bathroom mirror, you can practice your pitch when you're driving, so lots of people practice the pitch over and over again. They don't practice the Q&A. Get different people, get your most challenging friends, get your most challenging business contacts, sit them down, get them to keep asking you questions, over and over again. Make sure that, if you can't answer, you away and think of it, why you can't answer it, you research it, and then the next time, you can answer it, so that you are actually at that stage, where you think, "You can throw just about anything at at me."

 

And then, of course, if you do get the situation where, if you're confident and handled a bunch of questions, then you've got one you can't answer, the fact that you've done well with the rest, you can say, "I can't answer that, but that's a good question, I'm going to go away and look at," and then move on to the next one. Practicing your Q&A is so important.

 

Can we go back to the point earlier about, you were saying that the question you got is, "Panel don't understand my proposition?" Well then, I would have to say, "That's on you." If you've had three to five minutes, or even some people get 10 minutes to pitch, and you then don't get good questions, what's gone wrong with your pitch, is what I would say.

 

Because if the panel don't understand your business, after your pitch, there's something wrong, in how you are presenting your business, and your opportunity.

 

Vicky: That's the point, that in a pitch, when you are having any kind of investment conversation, that's particularly in a pitch environment, it's not just Edge where you will do that. If you're going to Angel funds, like Angel Academy I raise money for, Angels Den, where I raised money for, these are structured exactly the same as Edge. A five to 10 minute pitch, and then 10 to 15 minutes Q&A. The timings vary, but the structure is the same. If you don't understand that what you're selling is not your technology and not the minutia of how it works, you are standing there selling an investment opportunity.

 

I talked about it in episode 12 with Anne Ravanona you're selling a pie, invest in the ingredients to my pie, I'm going to make this amazing pie, and it's going to get bigger. It's business opportunity that you're selling. If you are feeling very frustrated, people don't understand your business, or your technology, or they just didn't get it, you're going to have to look at yourself and go, "What did I fail to convey, about what my going-to market strategy is?" "What did I fail to convey about how I make money out of this?" "What what type of business this is?" because if you're not getting that across, it's on you.

 

Evelyn: What you want to get is, you want the people sitting asking you the questions, to be excited about the opportunity, and for you be excited about the opportunity for you to deliver, that want that, to also buy into you as a person. They want to see your enthusiasm, and your passion. They want to get what's possible there, what you can actually do with this. How you can take this money, and grow this idea, so it's really key to get that over.

 

That's why I think, constantly practicing your Q&A, and making sure that you've got slick, still enthusiastic obviously, that is always difficult, too, if you over-practice, but slick, enthusiastic answers to questions. The other thing, as well is, I think succinctness is really important. You get seven minutes for Q&A at Edge, less than than in some other investment institutions, and I've seen people manage to get three questions in their seven minutes, because they just go on, and on, and on, and on, of course, the judges switch off, the audience switches off. The judges don't get chance to ask the questions they want, they're left feeling slightly frustrated.

 

They haven't addressed the opportunities, or the issues, and therefore, there's no way you're going do as well as the next person that comes on, and manages to answer 14 questions in seven minutes. Slickly, succinctly, knew the answers, they leave the judges feeling confident, there's nothing I couldn't ask that person.

 

Vicky: It's interesting, I took my chairman to a practice Q&A when we were raising money, it's actually the round that we did the quickest, we raised the most money that we ever did, in shortest in that time. It was a complete dream of investment round, which hardly ever happens. She came with me, to the pitch practice in the Q&A, and she made the observation that I worked up to my answer. She said, "You get to a really concise point in the end, but you need to turn the pyramid upside down. You need to start with the salient point, and add some detail to it then shut up." Yes, we can do that, we've thought about this, and this is why. Whereas I was answering it, "Yes, we've done all of these things, blah, blah, which means we thought about that." It was literally all the same information, it was just flipping the pyramid around, so that you decisively, firmly, competently, answer the question, pause, and then perhaps give a little bit more, and then shut up.

 

Evelyn: And then shut up. Yes, that's actually the tricky thing, in this situation especially when, obviously, you're hugely nervous. When we're nervous, we tend to talk too much. I think learning when to shut up, when to get the information over, and then stop. Smile, stop, let them get the next question in.

 

Vicky: Yes. I've seen some Q&As where, you just want to run up and put your hands over the person's mouth, and say, "Stop talking now, you were doing okay, and now literally, every word that comes out of your mouth is making this worse." Especially when it's self-depreciating, or it's about negative things, or it's self-criticism. I do remember once doing this in an investment meeting, where I was stressed, I was tired, I was overwrought, and I was just too frank about all the things that were going wrong.

 

Evelyn: You can't do that, either. Although I'm all for authenticity, but there's also oversharing, as well. It's tricky to get that balance, but you're right. I sit in the front row at every Edge final, and I write down every question, and a summary of the answer, so that, when we have conversations with people afterwards I can say, "Okay, you were asked this and this is how you answered it, in summary." and I watch people lose it on the Q&A.

 

There's very few people who come to an Edge final now, and don't pitch well, actually, because I think they realize they are pitching in front of an audience of 300 people. They realize that, it's hard in front of five judges, there's a lot stake, so there's a lot of practice. I think, most people come on and equip themselves, well. I watch them lose it in the Q&A.

 

There was one in the last round, where the Q&A just revealed a whole area of knowledge that this business didn't have. Subsequently to that, I was able to discuss that with this entrepreneur. I have matched them with three other Edge winners, who are all assisting him to address that skills gap. I'm very confident that, if he came back and he was asked any questions in that area, at all, he would now be able to address that.It was just one of those things where, the Q&A sadly, revealed a whole lack of knowledge around digital marketing, cost of customer acquisition numbers, and they couldn't get past that.

 

Vicky: I think that's one of the things that the entrepreneur needs to do is, control their nerves, and stop, and listen to the question behind the question. People have said to me, "How can I possibly prepare for all these questions? I've got no idea what the questions are going to be."

 

I've said "Actually no, you have. There's five buckets of questions pretty much." Have answers to your five buckets of questions, and pause, and go, "Right, which risk, or which bucket of concerns, is this question really about?" because it's only going to be about a few things.It's going to be about, whether you're the right people to do it, whether you understand both the problem and the solution, whether you clearly understand who your market segment is, and why that is the right market segment, and what they're going to be commercially worth? One bucket of questions is literally about the business model viability.

 

If you do all the things that you're going to say you do, is it possible to make money? Have you thought the costs? The final one is really, kind of, what do you need next? Where is that going to get you? Are you realistic enough, in your understanding of your costs, to really be able to get where you're going., on what you're asking for? I mean, there's not that many things these questions really have.

 

Evelyn: You're right. As a judge, you know that you were asked to score against six criteria, and that's the same six criteria we use, all the way through Edge. We say, "The judges always ask questions around that, because they're also under pressure to score against those six criteria. In order to do that, they have to pick up their scores against those through listening to the pitch and asking questions."

 

Back to what you're saying, individual buckets of questions, you're absolutely right. There's not that many, they're going to fall into the criteria that that particular organization are investing against, and as you said, there's just some standard ideas that we all ask.

 

Vicky: And that's still true, when you go out to angel funds. I reckon I'd probably pitched, over the years, to about 25, 30 different angel groups, and they had their own little areas, for example, if I was pitching to a group that only invested in enterprise software, they're not going to ask you your enterprise software as a service, because you wouldn't be in the room, about that. They get much much more granular, so the questions that they're asking are things that they've seen before, like, "How much of a software as a service is this really, or have you got a really big customizations, have you got loads of setup, where's your rationale on pricing, how replicable is this?"

 

They're asking very intelligent questions around software as a service. For you to be able to have that conversation, they need to be able to have mapped you. "Okay right, they're enterprise, their software is a service, they're talking to retail. They understand the context, now we get into the questions. I think sometimes, when you see Q&As, they seem to have not got the point. It's because the entrepreneur hasn't given them enough to help then map. "Right, this is a product, this is a licensing business model, it's aimed at this market, this is how they're going to make money. Okay, I get the basic gist of what this is. Now I can ask questions."I think, sometimes you see when the question are all over the place, it's those investors still trying to go, "I don't get the business model."

 

Evelyn: Yes. I think that's true, actually, something's gone wrong in the pitch, in terms of getting that over. I think you've mentioned in previous podcasts, about the importance of getting to know your audience as well. At Edge, I think, "What are the Edge judges looking for?" They're looking for economic impact, and innovation, so that's your key things that you're looking for. To go on the Edge stage, and not understand your numbers, or the size of your opportunity would be crazy, because that's obviously this is about, for Edge.

 

You can speak to the gatekeepers to funds, as well and finding out the areas that, technically, they ask questions about the things that really matter, to them, on top of just these easy, looking at those five buckets of questions, and making sure you're prepared for those. Doing your homework, as well, can be really helpful.

 

Vicky: You'll find that in an angel fund, for example, even the early stage VC, you'll see from the deals they do, what their interest is, but most of them in, Angel Academe, Astia, both of whom I had money from, they spell this out on their website. "This is what we're looking for, this is the kind of deal that we'd like to do, these are the kind of sectors we tend to look at, this is the type of opportunity that is relevant for us." You need to go in, and a, check off those boxes, and then, excite them about why this, of the ten that they're seeing this evening, is one that they really need to write a check for, now.

 

You can't, nor should you, berate the audience, for not having the skills to be able to deliver your business, because that's not what they're there for. They're there to provide you with fuel, to get you to the next stop, on your journey, and you have got to build a really credible case. This is in the Q&A, this is not in the pitch, because you just can't get this detailed in the pitch. You've got to build a really credible case, of what you need the fuel for, where you're going why you are sure enough of your numbers that this fuel is going to get you there, and what that next step actually looks like.

 

Because they're sitting there going, "Nobody's wanting you to fail, I don't think. Nobody's going to waste their time and energy, to sit there and want you to fail," but they do want to de-risk it for them. Anything at all, that makes them nervous, about what you're saying, or what undermines your credibility.

 

Evelyn: Yes, because we're always hearing that the judges turn up for the Edge final, we're presenting them with 22 business cases that we've whittled down from over 200. Usually what we hear in the room, in the morning is, "This is really exciting, any of these could be the ones that we put money into." They're excited to be there, they don't tend to go onto the stage, with preconceptions. They're open to all of those businesses. Yes, the ones that give them confidence at the end of the day, and that, I think, is what comes out of the Q&A.

 

Vicky: I think, one of the other interesting things about the Q&A, versus the pitch part of it, is the Q&A is where you get to be authentically you. They get to be actually authentically them, and ask questions, and although it's hard for you, as the entrepreneur, this is where you're really doing your dating, [laughs] isn't it? This is a little bit like, "Do I like them, and do they like me?"

 

Evelyn: I completely agree with that, because I've heard this thing, that obviously -- five years ago in Scotland, hardly anybody knew how to stand up and do a pitch. Now, I think, there's a recognition of how important that is. There's a lot of people doing pitch training, you can watch great videos. There's lots of people to give advice, so most people can stand up and deliver a pitch, and sometimes that comes over in a very, almost like they're recording a scene in a movie. It's not necessarily them, and so what is nice to see in the Q&A, that they relax a little bit, because that sort of practised scene is over.Then, you get to know them. You get an insight into them, and how they think, and how they respond. That's what people buy into.

 

Vicky: Yes, and I can count on one hand, in open Q&A, where I was ever asked anything that truly was an inappropriate, or alarm-bell ringing question. I've had a few. [laughs] Somebody did genuinely ask me if I was trying to have a baby anytime soon, which knocked me off my course, a, because your brain goes, "That's an illegal question," or "I just can't believe you asked that question." It actually flustered me.

 

Evelyn: Well it would be perfectly unexpected.

 

Vicky: Yes. I was in another context, where somebody asked a question about the fact that my husband was in the business, because they don't invest in couples, ever. Again, "No, I'm sure those things come up behind closed doors, for certain types of investors, all the time, but those things you asked me, in an open environment," because I was hearing them for the first time. Probably the other 200 questions I asked, were really and truly, perfectly reasonable questions, that it is perfectly reasonable that I should know the answer to, or be able to go, "Perhaps I wasn't clear on," explaining that this is "X," and it works this way, and to give them clarification.

 

It's an interesting opportunity to you to aslo ask yourself, "Actually are these people I want to take money from?" So often the best conversation always happens, offline before the record button is pressed. Earlier we were talking about referencing investors, we were talking about understanding that you have a choice, too, and that you shouldn't be so desperate to accept anything, or to show your desperation on that stage, or in that environment.

 

Evelyn: Yes, absolutely. I like to think that one of the reasons we've got a good engagement in Edge, actually, is because we've demonstrated that we're good investors, that we care about the businesses that we invest in. That, it's not just about the cash though that is of course important, it's about the connections, it's about the community, it's about the maintenance, about the training. I like to say that, we're quite a small team, so we rely on working with lots of other organizations in Scotland, but we like to think of ourselves as sitting in the heart of that. We can honestly say, "Talk to that person, don't talk to that person. These ones will help, that one maybe avoid." Almost like, I guess, a trusted advisor.

 

I think that, if we're playing that role, I think you also need to look at, if you are getting into bed with investors, if you are pitching for funding. Do you actually want to work with that organization? Do you want to work with individuals they may appoint to your business? You absolutely need to consider that, in the same way that you would with taking on members of your team, or your employees, you need to consider that, when you are taking on money. I think, exactly, as we were talking about earlier, people get desperate for cash, and they don't think about themselves and then, that's when the problems start, in my many years of experience.

 

Vicky: And if you get a warning at the pitching stage, that somebody is a not pleasant person, or a nasty bully, you can sure as hell know that, two years down the line when your back is against the wall, you've got to make some really tough decisions, this isn't going to play well for you.

 

Evelyn: That's the clear thing about what you're doing, Vicky, I think, which is, that encouraging people to talk about the realities of business. About some unpleasant experiences perhaps, not on air, but in private, talking about some unpleasant individuals. I think sometimes, entrepreneurs internalize too much. They don't want to talk about what's going wrong. They maybe have one advisor that they'll speak to, but they're not generally talking to a community of people. I think encouraging entrepreneurs to do that, I think is really important. Because, as you say, you always find someone who's gone through that issue, who's made that mistake.

 

The great thing, I think, in Scotland is that, we are a bit of a caring, sharing community, and you will always find somebody who is happy to talk you through how they did it, or give you some advice on even dealing with someone, and help you forward.

 

Vicky: I think if before people get jealous that they're not in Scotland. Scotland as a country has made a significant investment, in becoming a start-up friendly, entrepreneurial country. We see the same things happening, in certain regions of the US, where a lot of money has gone in. Wendy Lea is doing it in, I think it's Cincinnati, Detroit, Israel, there's lots of areas, and there's lots of regions, and countries, where they're, all in their own way, in Singapore, it's a classic one, investing in start-ups, and investing in entrepreneurship, and so the people in those environments have got the benefit of being able to take advantage of each other, and have better information flow.

 

But, don't sit there alone and isolated in this. Although, I will tell you off. If you ask me more than three times, about what's going wrong with your Q&A, and then you don't listen to the answer, I will get quite angry. I'll be quite angry if you don't listen twice. I saw an amazing example of good listening, this year, at Edge, in that, one company came in, and it was really difficult for me as a judge to understand if their project existed or not. They did their pitch, telling us, "It will do, it will do, it will do," that it was really hard to make an investment decision based on, "Will it? How do you know?"And they came back, and they really took that feedback on board, didn't they. They showed their prototype, and delivered the big picture of it. They talked about how it was now in their garage, and it was working. Suddenly, they've made the leap from this being intangible to tangible, all based on feedback, and they nailed it and they got their money. That was really rewarding.

 

Evelyn: But you were also able to help someone else we saw that day, who was pitching something, but focusing on one part of it, rather than the bigger picture. Obviously, you revisited that with that individual,who then came back and pitched again, coming at it from a completely different-- actually, much more, a massive opportunity, actually. Presenting it as a much bigger opportunity, and then secured funding, the next day. Again, that was a brilliant piece of taking advice, putting it into action, and then completely nailing it.

 

Vicky: Absolutely, that's the difference between an entrepreneur who's going to succeed, and one that's just making excuses for everything that's going wrong. I wondered if there's any last piece of advice, for the entrepreneurs listening. Not just necessarily those that are thinking they might apply for Edge, but those that have got a year ahead of them, where they're going to be out pitching, fund-raising, tackling these Q&As, is there one thing that they should just try to remember?

 

Evelyn: I think the key thing is, actually, to make sure you've got your answers prepared, in advance. Practice those answers, and make sure, going back to what you were saying, that you get them out, very concisely. Also, I think, have some key points that you want to go over, that sit well within those answers, as well. If there's two or three things you really want to say, can you weave them into answers, to make sure that you definitely get those points over, so when those questions come up, you get a chance to make the key points that you know will get over that, the size of that opportunity, and your ability to deliver it.

 

Vicky: Thanks Evelyn. You've been listening to Vicky Brock and Evelyn McDonald, your Entrepreneur Agony Aunts - as ever you can submit your question for discussion on an episode here.  You can subscribe to the podcast at Spotify, iTunes and many more.

 

 

 

 

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