Yes, I hyphenate my last name - I want to prove to my ex-husband that I am, indeed, a woman of the '90s. But I don't want to think of that right now. I'm here to tell you that I'm looking for funding.
No, it's not because the gap-toothed worrywart won't pay alimony. And no, it's not for my dot-com business, either. It is for my dot-companion adventure.
You see, I have this great big wall-to-wall National Geographic map of the United States in my living room with about 30 dots plotted on it. I am planning on going from dot to dot to dot one of these days when my dot-com stocks pay off.
I'm gonna buy me that 1981 Airstream down at Red's Used RVs and travel about the countryside with my yappy-mouthed, curly-headed, white-haired poodle named Dixie, and of course, that lovable sweet-pea husband of mine can come, too. So I guess you could say I am looking for a couple of million dollars for my dot-com.
It is just too bad all the resources available to small business owners can't help me, too. There is a company in Austin called Seedstage.com that helps get start-up businesses together with venture capital investors. They mentor you, give you advice on what investors are looking for, and allow you to do a dry run of your presentation, providing feedback and constructive criticism.
I sit in on some of these presentations. We have seen some real humdinger ideas, and some that you wouldn't want to touch even dressed in one of those "X-Files" alien-searching outfits. Now, listen up, here's my advice to you:
I've been told that shopping your business plan around is the most humbling experience anyone can go through, so be prepared to be thrown to the lions. Serious investors will find your weaknesses, but don't be discouraged. It takes a lot of no's to get to that yes. And along the way, you will probably learn enough to polish up your schtick. (I can't tell you how many marriage proposals I turned down before I gave my former husband a yes. What a fool I was.)
I was talking with a client who has secured several million in a couple of rounds of funding, and who has been through the funding process numerous times. He said the whole process is mostly based on luck: the right time, the right place. So if you regularly rely on the proper alignment of the stars to see how your day will go, make sure you do it the day you meet with investors.
But it's a lot more than luck; you have to have basics, too. A thorough business plan, validated revenue models, analysis of competitors, an understanding of how you will differentiate yourself in the market, some partners - and a crystal ball helps, too.
Well, I'm always available if you need a shoulder to cry on. If you've been up all night preparing for your investor presentation and want to drop me a line, I'll keep the email door open for you.
In the meantime, I have resorted to looking under seat cushions and checking the coin drop of every pay phone and beverage machine I can to fund my dot-com adventure. As they say down here in Texas, "Buena suerte, amigos."
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Michelle Ellis is Director of Account Planning at M2K, a top-100 interactive agency. She started her career over a decade ago focusing on the retail and business-to-business industries. M2K specializes in interactive marketing solutions for clients, including strategic positioning, media planning and buying, offline and online creative, web site design, intranets, and extranets.
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