REEEP’s partner CTI PFAN organized a two-day event for entrepreneurs they support in South Asia to improve entrepreneurs’ ability to present their business models to investors. Nine entrepreneurs took part in the event, all of whom are seeking investment into clean energy – renewable energy or energy efficiency technology – as a service provider themselves, or for improving the efficiency of their own production processes.
The event was built around tasks and direct feedback interaction between the entrepreneurs themselves, their coaches and the CTI PFAN event organizers. Entrepreneurs were coached on presentation content, clarity and completeness of information, as well as on style – how enthusiastic and engaged they appear, or what their body language says about their project.
The specific capital needs of the participants varied significantly both in specific expenditures as well as total investment, but several common threads emerged in areas for improvement:
Content: strengths, needs, and opportunity
Entrepreneurs were coached on how to better articulate specific investment needs, and how those investments would impact future growth and scalability. These arguments would be amplified by leveraging innovations or specific strengths unique to their business – particularly versus existing or potential competitors in the market.
A common point for improvement among the participants was having a true understanding of the target market size and segmentation, and thus opportunity. Investors need to be convinced that an entrepreneur understands his market, has plans for identifying and reaching his target clientele, and has enough room to grow without overextending regionally. Entrepreneurs were often too focused on niche areas with low growth opportunities or only short-term horizons.
Product vs. Plan
Participants also dealt with managing the line between focusing on specific products – a common and understandable desire for inventors and entrepreneurs excited about their innovations – and focusing on the business plan.
Presentation: Be visual, be quick, and be concise.
Visuals can be very powerful tools to present a message and prove a point, tools that are too often ignored in favor of text and exposition by technically savvy entrepreneurs. Participants were coached on how and when to integrate visualizations into their presentations for improved impact and brevity.
Another training task for participants was focused on improving their ability to answer specific questions that investors generally ask in a clear, complete and concise manner. The goal was to enable entrepreneurs to explain, in under one minute, key elements of the business plan to an outsider with limited understanding of the technology and market.
The investor perspective
Shyam Menon of the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), which focuses on investing in startup and early stage companies, talked to participants about what his group, as an investor, looks for when finding the right businesses to invest in.
The entrepreneur perspective
Several PFAN alumni were also present, including Vaidyanathan of Cleantech Consultants, who shared experiences from establishing a business, growing it, going through the PFAN cycle and closing investment. Vaidyanathan cautioned participants to remember that investors always have other alternatives, so it is crucial to validate the product idea from a financial perspective, and that this should be factored in as an innovation within the business itself. But he also encouraged participants to not give up during hard times, but instead to expect obstacles and seek help when needed.