The golden geese with cold hearts, stoically waiting for you to pitch your idea — and whirl yourself into the dark depths of their skepticism.
How can I catch them with my butterfly net? Sing ’em the proper ritualistic financial siren songs?
Just to be clear, I’m not an expert — far from it. Since September 2016 I’ve been creating a sweet sweet cardgame and looking for a good way to make it happen. My first thought was the heroic Kickstarter! Oh God of Unshelved projects, Muse of Audience Grabbing, bestow me your blessings!
But… no. This is not how it works (anymore). For reasons that are worth their own full article, the nature of Kickstarter has changed. If you want to make U$5.000, fine, you can do it! But anything above that will require a considerable marketing budget.
Well how do I get the marketing budget then?
The Investor Myth
Ignore everything the Silicon Valley wants you to believe: investors are human beings. I know, I know, the idea is groundbreaking, but I swear it’s the truth. They are complex, moody, partially rational partially irrational like everybody else.
But as every living-breathing-feeling human being, there are ways to their hearts — and I know this could easily be turned into a joke comparing their hearts and their wallets, but I’m actually talking about their hearts. Believe me, their true partnership is far more valuable.
Investors want to invest. That’s their deal. But… why? For the money? No, that’s too simplistic. Remember, they are people, their reasons are many.
Why People Play Games
I’m not an economist, I’m a game designer. I don’t know how to code and my digital art is poor. My true craft is emotional response — I’m the guy who designs interactions between the player and the game. I’m an engagement provider, I know how to provoke joy, fear, calmness, challenge. So, of course, I come to this battlefield with a whole different perspective on things.
You see, my job is to keep a player engaged. To create a fertile soil for dreams and emotions to sprout. You see where this is going, right? Investors are like players, they want to be engaged, they want to care.
So without further ado, let me borrow some knowledge from the great game designer Mark Rosewater (and if you’re a nerd like me, specifically this article) and treat those Hercules-like investors as humans. Three main types of humans.
The Timmy Investor
Timmies wants to experience something. Timmies are in for the journey. The sole act of investing is already fulfilling for them. They want to talk about it, they love to brag, they admire visionary people like Chris Sacca — one of the first people (perhaps the first?) to really believe in Twitter’s business potential.
This type of investor is less likely to pay attention to the safe-and-boring targeted businesses. So if your startup provides an easy solution for backend delivery system integration with YAWN — yeah, this is not your person.
Timmies are in for the stories. They want the remarkable, the memorable, the weird, the breakthrough, the good-looking. Remember: your project is what fills his imagination and most of his conversations, so give him something he can dream about.
Not all, but many Timmies are really into the whole Silicon Valley mythos. They require a “honed” pitch — by which he understands that “honing” is answering all those basic silicon-smelling questions like “what’s your unfair advantage” and “what’s your exit strategy”. They want to feel you did your homework as thoroughly as they did theirs. The narrative is empowering: the questions, the jargon makes them feel they are the Great Khan and you’re a young warrior looking for glory and blood in his great horde.
You may wrongly think that this type of investor is naive or too emotional. Well, then Timmies understood something that you didn’t: stories have power — especially in the future sight game they play for a living. If you’re a legend, people will believe in you. They just will, no proofs required, no diplomas needed. If they (even partially) achieve their dreams, they get this sweet hard to grasp resource: trust.
Let me just finish off with a quick Jay-Z quote: “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man”.
The Johnny Investor
Johnny wants to express something. Investing is not just a thing Johnnys do, it is a part of them, an extension of their personalities. They want to be perceived in a certain way and everything they do will flow that way.
Of course, this may manifest in different ways, so let me give you some examples.
One type of Johnny is the Specialist Johnny. He wants to be the first one you think about when your mind wanders to his/her niche. The “sportswear guy” or the “digital wallet woman”; they’ve mastered a field and they take pride in it. They want you to ask for advice because they feel they are the top minds in the field — and they probably are. But beware! They’ve seen it all, they talk about it everyday, make sure you don’t sound like a rookie.
The Counterculture Johnny is very different. Their delight is to be five steps ahead of everyone. They are the ones who saw the business potential of fidget spinners and pet rocks while everybody else made ironic comments and sipped their dry martinis. Shame on you all.
The Bonvivant Johnny uses his or her own delight as a parameter for investment. It’s quite simple: joy brings energy. If your investments are connected to things you really like, you’ll have far more internal traction to help them work. You’ll have more patience, you’ll remember it when it needs to be remembered. So why not harness this internet liking and use it as a business tool?
As you probably noticed by now, Johnnys are as varied as the meaning of their keyword “expression”. But the thing to understand is: they want to put a piece of themselves out in the world. Help them out, be the instrument of their expression and you’ll have a lifelong ally.
The Spike Investor
Spike wants to prove something. He’s playing a game against himself and he wants to win. He’s focused on the final goal rather than the process.
Do you wanna make money?
Do you wanna be famous?
Do you wanna be happy?
Choose your goal. Present it in the most definitive, clear way possible. Do anything you can to reach it.
Spikes tend to be very hard on themselves and if you’re on a journey with them, this judgemental nature will most likely affect you. This is not necessarily a bad thing, they can be the Kung Fu Master figure, beating you everytime you make a mistake they made themselves in the past.
Just remember they are the ones setting the goals. If they wanted 3 million and you made 2, you both have failed — and if you don’t acknowledge this as a failure, they’ll think you’re somewhat blind. Perhaps in your world 2 million is a lot, but they are the investors and they set the goal. You agreed to the goal, now play the damn game right. Be unhappy with the 2 millions, go to sleep thinking about each penny you didn’t make. Exactly 100.000.000. Spike counted them for you.
Do you wanna be good? Do you wanna be the best? Focus on the fight.
But don’t get Spikes wrong. They are not money-driven stressful machines. A Spike may have any intention after all. When a powerful Spike decides to dedicate all his resources to — let’s say — empower and educate young women in Pakistan, their involvement in the cause may change the whole picture.
It’s not about what is your goal, it’s how you relate to your goals.
Timmy: there’s something out there and I want to be part of it.
Johnny: there’s something within me and I want to put it out.
Spike: I’ve set this goal and I’ll get there.
You’ve probably noticed there are some overlaps, right? It’s actually impossible to find a pure Timmy, Johnny or Spike, of course. Remember what I said at the beginning? Investors are human. Humans are complex and should be imagined complexly.
Still, this framework kinda gives a tip on how to prepare a presentation. Which words to choose. In what order present your information.
Still, one piece is lacking. The most important piece.
Fomo stands for “fear of missing out”. This is the main driving energy of investments (and shall I add whole economies?). Probably none of those investors really need more money. They’re fine. But Fomo destroys the feeling of fine.
You could be a hero, you could be a billionaire, you could be the next Times magazine cover. You have the resources, you’re already listening to the pitch. The power is within your arm’s reach. Would you dare not take it?
Could you sleep at night if you were the guy who passed the first Beatles’ record deal?
This is what your pitch is all about, this is the sensation you’re trying to provoke. Of course, investors are vastly different and factors like “I did not sleep well last night” may interfere. But at least now you’ve got an emotional direction. The different types of investors we just saw will require different stimuli to reach Fomo, of course.
“Oh, I’ve got a pitch tomorrow and I don’t know if the investors are Timmies, Johnnys or Spikes”
It’s ok, most of the times you won’t know. This is not a treasure map, it’s just a set of archetypes. Try to learn as much as you can, even if you fail. Pay attention to the questions they’re asking you. Record the thing if you can. Be adaptable, fluid.
Could you sleep at night if you knew you could make 1.000.000€ tomorrow?
Again, I am not an expert. I’m just starting my first startup and I’m trying to share my research with an extra personal touch.
Perhaps in one year I’ll write something completely different. Perhaps I’ll get 3 times the investment I’m aiming for, perhaps I’m going to pivot to another project, perhaps I’m going to starve to death. At least I’m trying to do some homework — and this text is just extra curricular.
I don’t know about you folks, but I have a good feeling about this.
If you are a more experienced entrepreneur and have a couple of ideas of what I could/should/MUST do, please drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org). I feel I’m just starting a long journey and the thing that excites me the most is all the amazing people I’m going to find on my way.
Or, as we say in my hometown: “Please, help, I’m dying”.