During one of our previous Make A Wave incubation programmes for women in social enterprises, we welcomed Ms Sarah Ryan, an advisor for ASTIA.
Astia is a global not-for-profit organization built on a community of men and women dedicated to the success of women-led, high-growth ventures and to the eradication of the need for the organization within the decade. The Astia method is designed for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs who understand the value of extraordinary relationships and believe in giving back. Designed for high-growth companies at all stages, the Astia offering is implemented by over 1000 volunteer members of the Astia Advisor Network that includes more than former and current CEOs and investors. Astia is an extremely committed community of advisors, investors, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs.
Sarah understands social enterprise. Besides being an advisor for Astia
Europe, she has been a Mentor for the Prince’s Trust, Women Like Us and has
contributed to Pioneers of Prosperity Awards, conducting on-site financial due diligence.
The questions she is always asking social ventures leaders:
- There’s one bottom line: how good is your company for your community, your employees, your customers, your shareholders, and importantly, is it viable?
From Astia’s point of view, Social Enterprises will be looked at like any other enterprises (if they also are a company limited by shares). Venture Capitalists want to see at least a prototype.
They love when you speak a language they grasp (and if they can grasp your language). They want to understand your big story, your plan for scaling, and how you will make it sustainable. You can (and you should) articulate how you are going to “give back’ or “pay it forward” by creating value - if you create employment, if you create other businesses- and that you need to reinvest money in the business to be able to do so.
Whatever the story is, you need to be self-sustaining.
VC’s are looking at investing large sums (+/- £200 000) to help you going to scale. Angels will be considering smaller amounts.
Anyhow, they won’t be interested in writing you a cheque for £25,000 for an office space and a member of staff for 2 years.
So the 5 elements that you will need to polish before starting to approach VC’s will be:
1) A prototype of a product and a clear explanation of what that product is!
2) A real team (knowing what gaps your team has is as important as
having a fully formed board). If the venture sounds interesting, VC’s
are likely to ask to speak to your management team.
3) The assessment and the proof that there is a market for this product.
4) Relevant stakeholders to bring this venture to fruition…
5) Interest in learning, the ability to take feedback, to be ready to be open and make changes.
But more importantly, they want to hear about the BIG VISION!
FACTS to bring perspective to your journey:
- VC’s will look at dozens and dozens of proposals a week.
- They will all do a different amount of Due Diligence.
- They will want to talk to your customers
- They will want to meet your management team
- They will want to see results of the market research.
- They will find a way to know more about your industry!
- They will send you away with more and more homework and collect more evidence (that is if you have secured a first meeting with them and they haven’t yet said NO…)
If you have some government funding, they might be worried about the type of strings attached.
If you are involved with VC’s, remember, they’d love to discover the next Google, they would love your business to be highly scaleable.
You might be running a social enterprise and considering yourself innovative, but by saying this during your pitch, you’ve lost a precious opportunity (5 or 10 seconds?) to tell them directly WHAT YOU DO AND HOW YOU BRING VALUE.
nb: most of them are skilled enough to judge if something is innovative or not.
So remember… it can be a long process but you will learn a lot. They really want to see your business succeed, especially if they are to be involved!
So, who are you going to call now?