Category Archives: Get Early Stage Funding

Empowering European entrepreneurs by accelerating sales, marketing, funding and business development for startups.

7 Fatal Voice Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make when Pitching

3dBook_Cover_Voiceable_03_600x824Why some of the things you can’t even hear yourself saying may be killing your pitch and ruining your first Impressions

In my head I sound like George Clooney – deep and sexy. But when I hear a recording of myself, I’m reminded more of Stevie Urkel. The voice inside my head is a lie. Inside your head too.

It´s a universal human phenomenon. If you are like most human beings, then you dislike the sound of your recorded voice. You avoid it. You certainly don’t want to work on it.

Think about this for a moment… Your voice is your most important communication tool, and yet you cannot really hear yourself like others hear you. If you cannot hear yourself properly, then how can you be certain that your voice is not sabotaging your messages and sending conflicting signals?

Have you ever heard someone say one thing, and yet you suspect they mean something entirely different? Like a slippery used car salesman who promises one thing while your suspicions start to scream that it might be a completely different can of worms? Like an American presidential candidate whose words say one thing, but the voice gives you a completely different message?

Maybe you are telling the truth or maybe not, but the voice inside your head is a lie. We are all deaf to our own voices. We don’t like them. We don’t want to hear ourselves. We think we are better than we truly are.

Maybe that is why we never even think of the fact that we can actually choose many different voices to go along with and strengthen specific messages in our speeches and our presentations.

«If you cannot hear yourself properly, then how can you be certain that your voice is not sabotaging your messages and sending conflicting signals?»

But it gets worse. It’s not only that you can´t hear yourself, but whenever you take the stage to present or stand up to lead a meeting, your listeners are going to instantly judge you. According to numerous research studies, first impressions are made within the blink of an eye. Within as short a time as 30 seconds or less, audiences will already have judged your personality. If they find you to be dynamic, then they will tune you in. If they find you to be boring, then their minds will escape other places and you will fight an uphill battle the remainder of your pitch or presentation trying to win them back.

And the newest research and neuroscience shows that your voice is absolutely a key element. During the first 30 seconds, it isn’t as much your words as your voice.

Your facial expressions and body language are very important, and most of us know this. But how much have you considered the impact your voice has? Your voice is how audiences will judge complicated things like personality. Your voice will quickly establish whether you sound competent or clueless on your topic. Your voice is how audiences will judge whether you sound credible and trustworthy or not trustworthy. Your voice is how audiences will judge whether you sound authentic or if you are just faking It. This is the harsh reality. You will be instantly judged and your voice is a key element.

«This is the harsh reality. You will be instantly judged and your voice is a key element.»

If the first problem is that you cannot hear yourself, and the second is that you will be judged, then the third problem is that most people don’t believe that they can change their voices. They just assume that they have the voice that they were born with and that’s it. Nothing can be done about it. This is very, very wrong. And it is a lot easier to take control of your voice than you probably realize.

Next time you leave a voice message for example, stop for a moment to think about what messages (aside from the content) you are transmitting with your voice. What was the tone? Was there a friendliness in your voice? Was there urgency? Did you signal that you were stressed? Angry? Depressed? Bored? … or just nothing. Was your message completely devoid of any emotion? Is that truly what you intended? Are you the kind of speaker that others will want to listen to?

«Are you the kind of speaker that others will want to listen to?»

You are used to listening to other people’s voices, but how often do you take time out to listen to your own? Most voice mail is ill-prepared, dull and can be difficult to understand. Because one’s own voice sounds acceptable in one’s head, many people don’t bother to project their voice or to add any emotion to it. Rather, they let it dribble down their chins leaving the listener with an impression of sloppiness, or at worst complete incomprehension.

Your voice is your most powerful communication tool. You must own your own voice! Take charge of the airwaves. Learn how to harness the full power of your authentic speaking voice.

Click here to sign-up for a free 15 page report entitled: You Can’t HEAR Yourself, 7 Fatal Voice Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make When Pitching.

VCs are from Mars, Entrepreneurs are from Venus

John Gray’s book Men are from Mars has the subtitle ”The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex”.  To some entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists might as well be the opposite sex. Many entrepreneurs don’t really understand them very well. In a good blog post by ex-VC and VentureBeat writer Tom Tzach, he offers 4 good tips to entrepreneurs. Here are my comments to his tips:

1. It’s a numbers game. Expect casualties.
Tzach reminds us that VCs get a huge number of requests for their time and money. If you are an entrepreneur seeking capital (especially if this is your first time), then you will have to play the numbers. You might need to pitch to 50 in order to find 3 who are truly interested. You might need 9 who are truly interested before you find one who will give you the funds.  Just like sales, it is a pure numbers game and the odds are not great, especially in today’s market where many investors are (un-admitably) scared.

I was at a venture meeting in Lisbon a few weeks ago and talked to one of the really classy European VCs (Diana Saraceni from 360 Capital Partners in Milan). She said that even though they have only 4 partners at her firm, they received 1202 business plans last year. They held 354 meetings with entrepreneurs and closed 6 new deals. If you are one of the 1202 then be prepared for a rejection. It is not personal. It only means that there are other (better?) deals out there ahead of you in the queue.

Tzach writes that in the US less than 2% of entrepreneurs pitching get funding, and that the average time for the process takes from 9 to 12 months. Don’t be discouraged, just plan to work hard.

2. Develop a VC pitching strategy
You will certainly need a strategy or else you will just end up shooting at any animal in the jungle that moves. Tzach recommends that you develop key parameters (like history, relevance of their portfolio, location, etc.) and then divide the prospective VCs into ranked groups. Start with those that are least likely to invest so that you get some practice before you tackle the big boys. Plus, if you screw it up in the first meetings, it won’t kill you. I think you will experience that pitching is a huge (and fun) learning experience.

3. You need to play your cards right
I have always been a lousy card player because I tend to play out my cards without a longer-term game plan (OK, I have other redeeming skills). Tzach reminds entrepreneurs that the VC community is small and that VCs like to talk together a lot. Expect this, but be selective in how you handle and manage your communication. Negotiating with 2 different VCs at the same time is not an ideal situation. Try to work out your deal with one and then shop the same deal to others if you need to fill the offering. Remember that while term sheets are confidential, they will be around long after you are gone. Treat them with extreme professionalism and care. I have a consultant (who I pay with options or shares) who always helps me with term sheets. He has saved me huge amounts of money and some rather embarrassing mistakes.

4. Don’t seek funding under pressure
The best time to visit a banker is when you are not in need of a loan. The best time to start your fundraising work is long before you actually need the capital. Fundraising will take a long time. It is like selecting a wife – you should use a lot of time to get to know each other before you tie the knot. VCs are smart and they will sense it if you are under pressure, plus when you show them your cash-flow budgets and financial statements, they will quickly figure out your predicament. Plan ahead.

Just as 50% of all marriages end on the rocks, only about 10% of all VC investments actually pay respectable returns. Realize that this is the reality and plan your strategy accordingly. Good VCs can be fantastic partners who can help you (not only with capital, but also with lots of assistance) to grow your business much faster than on your own… But you have to play by their rules in order to get them on your team.

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time?
Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com. Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

 

How Can Entrepreneurs Keep Faith?

Something that all entrepreneurs will face sooner or later are setbacks, delays and rejection.  It goes with the territory, yet one of the hardest things is keeping faith and energy in your project, regardless what comes your way.

How do others do it? How do they keep their belief in spite of resistance?

faith |fāth|  noun
1.  a complete trust or confidence in someone or something : based on belief rather than proof

I have been working on raising capital for a new business for the past few months. We have written a solid business plan. We have a strong team. We have developed a product with potential. We have customers who are willing to use their time and efforts to help us get to market. We have bootstrapped the company as far as we can without external financing, and yet raising the startup capital is taking longer and proving to be harder than expected.

What should we do in order to keep the faith? How can I keep my team focused and moving ahead at a brisk pace when the funding process is slowing us down and stealing lots of our energy?

I asked a friend who is an experienced entrepreneur. He said “Trust your gut feeling and act… Just keep taking massive action.” I think this is good advice that I intend to follow, but it still did not address the core issue of how to stay motivated.

So I called another friend who is a coach. Of course, he replied with some questions. He asked me the following:

  • Why did you begin with this startup business in the first place?”
  • “What do you want to get out of it in the long-term?”
  • Why is this business so important to you?”
“He who has a why can endure any how.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher
“Give me a big enough WHY and I will always be able to figure out the HOW”
–from the book Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins

It was then that I realized the answer to my question.

In order to keep myself and the team highly motivated, we must keep our focus on our PURPOSE. We intend to build a strong business. We have created a product that solves a real and relevant problem in the marketplace. When we get it to market, hundreds of millions of children and senior citizens will benefit. This is our purpose and the reason that we created this business. Connecting to this purpose is what gives us energy and the belief that is necessary in order to overcome setbacks, delays and resistance.

My job as an entrepreneur and my job as a leader is to keep this Purpose visible and clear in our daily discussions and in our meetings.


Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

The Most Common Mistakes that Startup Companies Make

63learnThere is an old saying that goes:

  • Success is the result of Good Judgment
  • Good Judgment is the result of Experience
  • Experience is the result of Bad Judgment

Have I learned anything after almost 20 years of doing startup companies? I try not to make the same mistakes more than at least 1 time. Today I sat down and decided to make a list of the most common mistakes that I (and other entrepreneurs) typically make.

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“How much to buy your baby?”

mr-bean-has-had-a-baby-man-its-ugly

All mothers think that their babies are beautiful. OK, if not really beautiful, then certainly much more special than all the others… There is something primal in humans that makes us seek to find endearing qualities in our offspring. How much would you be willing to sell your baby for?

I have had 3 different calls this week from entrepreneurs asking about how to value their startup companies with early investors. How do you put a “fair” value on your startup company?

Continue reading “How much to buy your baby?”

Worshiping Genius

RS_Photo94“Italy worships Genius, but has not yet figured out how to create a culture of entrepreneurship”. This was an interesting statement made by the Executive Director of the Italian Angels for Growth, Lorenzo Fanchini at last week’s semi-final of the European Venture Contest (EEVC) held in Turin. Italy is a country filled with brilliant scientists and engineers. There is a huge supply of new technology, brilliant engineering and mechanical precision but unfortunately a shortage of businessmen – those boring guys in business suits that focus on cash flow instead of electron flow. Don’t get me wrong. There are good businessmen in Italy, but as an outsider, I am struck by the inequality in the number of engineers.

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Pitch Your Baby

I have a friend who just had his first child. He’s over the moon about this baby and OK, all his friends are happy for him too, but he sends out constant emails with photos, short video clips, frequent little stories about first baby steps. There are facebook pages and even twitter messages from time to time. This is a great example of pitch and even the most experienced entrepreneur in the world could learn a thing or two from a new parent.

This is how you should pitch your startup company… just like it was your newborn baby child. Pitch your business with enthusiasm, pride, a strong sense of purpose and a belief that this baby will someday grow into something big and fantastic!

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The inner game of a successful entrepreneur

inner_game_of_tennis_coverBeing a successful entrepreneur is an inner game. It’s all about how you manage your mind and your internal beliefs. In Timothy Gallwey’s famous book The Inner Game of Tennis, he pointed out that tennis players are often totally obsessed with external things (the new tennis racket, the tennis shoes, the competition, the weather, etc.). They tend to lose site of the most important factor to being a great tennis player – the inner game – the mental attitudes and internal focus that are necessary to succeed.

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Let the old trees die

worldhighestWhile the global finance crisis might be showing some signs of improvement, the outlook for the entrepreneur is still bleak. Without easy access to capital, entrepreneurs cannot grow. A forest without new growth will age quickly just like an economy without new growth will fall. While governments around the world are busy propping up old businesses in order to save jobs, they might just be missing an important point. Old forests are supposed to die in order to make way for the new.

Continue reading Let the old trees die