How to Not Get Funded

There are lots of articles which advise entrepreneurs as to what they need to do in order to impress investors, so that they get funded. There are guidelines on how to seek introductions to VCs; how to prepare their pitch; how to polish their business plan; and how to answer objections and not lose hope. There are plenty of blog posts, online courses and books which describe this stuff, a lot of which is extremely valuable. 

However, the list of what they need to stop doing is much longer . Part of the problem is that because the start-up ecosystem in India is still so immature, lots of founders make very basic mistakes which rub investors the wrong way. This is why many end up saying no even before even giving the entrepreneur a chance to be heard. Sadly, most entrepreneurs don't even realize they're making these mistakes until it's too late.

There are lots of red flags which will signal to the investor that you're immature, and when he encounters these, he's quite likely to turn you down. After all, he needs to filter as many deals as quickly as possible, so that he can focus on the ones which are likely to be valuable. Don't forget that the investor's default response is always no, unless he has a convincing reason to want to say yes. If you make it easy for him to say no, then you're the one who's going to lose out.

 A classic example is to ask for an NDA ( a non-disclosure agreement) before talking to an investor. This clearly signals that you have no clue about how the startup game is played, and investors don't want to spend their precious time teaching you the rules. If you really think that your idea is so unique and original that you will not share it with an investor unless he promises to seal his lips, this just shows that you are very naive, and no serious investor will talk to you.

Similarly, when you send an email, please take the time and trouble to send it to a specific person. A Dear Sir / To Whom It May Concern email is very rude, and will not get answered. Have the courtesy to do your homework about the investor before emailing him. Why do you think you are right for him ?

Another pet peeve of mine is that most founders do not bother to follow up each phone call and meeting with a thank you note and a summary of the discussion . This is best done within 24 hours, when the investor still remembers you. 

Finally, if you do want to get funded, remember that Charlie Munger's reversal rule applies - the best way to get funded is to not make the errors which would cause an investor to refuse to fund you !

-By Dr. Aniruddha Malpani

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