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Contributor Columns on Information Technology and Security

Startups Looking to Raise Money Should Avoid These Common Documentation Mistakes

The Technology start-up world is alive and well, with global initiatives from virtually every continent.  As an investment adviser to technology companies, however, what I see all too frequently are very poorly conceived and dismally executed Business Plans/Executive Summaries.  In my judgment, IF THE PRODUCT IS VIABLE...then the real problem is the production of a marketable business plan, a one page' ‘Treatment’ (a summary that EXCITES the reader and is supported by all other the pieces of a puzzle come together to form a whole picture), a supporting business plan with financials, ago-to-market strategy, and an exit strategy.  Rarely, if these conditions are met, are their problems in rasing funding.

There are always two tests that ANY Business Plan must meet. 1. The test of common sense; i.e., is this patently obvious and real; and, 2. The test of due-diligence; i.e., will it stand up to research and validation.

Here's a direct quotation from one of the major VC's:  " Far too many business plans can be summed up as ‘if I sell 10,000 units at $100, Iwill make $1 million.’  The two crunch issues that have to be addressed are (1) how can you PROVE the market exists for your product and (2) why will your management team be able to make it happen? And yes, very short introductions to grab the attention and make sure your plan is not one of the 98% that are trash binned in seconds.

Several investors advise no more than two paragraphs summing up the project, then a 2 page executive summary. And put the detail into appendices!" My function in all stages of securing funding is conditioned, of course, by the client's needs but ALWAYS includes the preparation of all documentation. Everyone, but everyone...below thelevel of Google, Microsoft, et. looking for capitalinfusions. Funding sources are besieged with cries of "pick me...pick me."

Another truism: every firm...irrespective of product, thinks they have the requisite package put together; however, I have not yet seen one that meets the criteria of capturing attention within 10 (sic!) seconds, let alone contains the ability to sustain interest because all components of the full business plan facilitate the desired response: "yes, this makes sense; this should happen given what they say in sections like Deployment Of Funds and, I really like their exit strategy."

Remember, this is an absolute analogue of pitching a story line for a new film to an Executive Producer – the clearer your story and value proposition, the better are your chances to actually attract the interest and attention of investors.

Cody Lawrence is an investment banker specializing in raising capital for IT startups. All views expressed here are his own.

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