March 21, 2019
The ABC show “Shark Tank” has earned popularity with viewers of all ages. All different types of audiences appreciate the show, whether for the stories of opportunity and the American dream or the abysmal failures and embarrassments that take place (or maybe both). While obviously made for TV and both vastly over-dramatized and over-simplified, “Shark Tank” portrays the basics of a real equity finance presentation environment. The moderators ask real questions and expect real answers, and those who are not prepared get rejected.
No one wants to be the confident potential entrepreneur who ends up being laughed out of the room by investors. So, what do you need to do to prepare? What do you need to hunt the shark?
Unlike “Shark Tank,” in the real world, pitch presentations are rarely done in person and certainly not on the first look. And there are certainly no time limits or other people waiting in the hall. Your first foot in the door may be on a phone call or via a Skype conference. Eventually, you may meet with your investors in person, but you can’t count on that. As such, your primary weapon to hunt the shark is your presentation or prospectus.
This is the platform that will deliver your payload to your target. If you are starting a new business, that presentation is your business plan. If you are an existing business, it will be a prospectus or offering letter accompanied by a “deck,” some type of print or digital multimedia arrangement that makes your case. There is myriad literature available online about how to properly construct these types of presentations. (NSSF has a variety of such resources available to its members through the Member Portal and online store.) You must be thorough in your design presentation, ensuring it is designed for your audience, your industry and your objective and arranging the content so that the presentation engages on its own without you personally “selling it,” because that’s how you’re going to get to that in-person meeting.
If your weapon is your presentation, what does it shoot? The short answer is information, the long answer is that it must be very specific and particular information packaged just right. Some of the obvious information you need to deliver is what your business does, a description of how it will earn, market research and expectations, financial projections and, very importantly, valuation.
Those that have seen the television show will have seen many a shark swim quickly back to the depths because of poor (and sometimes laughable) valuations. Valuation, simply, is the monetary value you are placing on your business. If you are looking for $50K for a 10-percent share in your business, that implies your business is worth $500K. There needs to be a basis for that valuation in realistic revenue projections, peer group values, presales, existing revenue streams (if you are already up and running), etc.
Of the ammo your weapon can utilize, this valuation is the most important. Research the techniques necessary to arrive at a reasonable valuation or ask your accountant. From there, you must back up that cold shot with information and research on your market, your strategy and the products or services you’ll be offering. The more detailed the better. It is up to your weapon, or your presentation, to ensure that all that ammunition is delivered efficiently to its target.
The devil is always in the details. In planning any hunt or armed engagement, you must know as much about your quarry and its environment as possible. This type of intelligence enables you to finely hone your approach and optimize your chances for success. Will you go at dawn or dusk? Is it better to go in the rain? Answers to these kinds of questions can spell the difference between success and failure.
It is no different for hunting the equity shark. Learn as much as you can about your potential partner, including what types of businesses and presentations have excited them in the past and what types haven’t. The TV show does a great job of showing how some ideas connect well with certain investors but not with others. Do your best to choose wisely, and just as you would be sure to wear rain gear to hunt in the rain, when the time comes, present yourself with the appropriate level of personal polish. Rehearse answers to questions with your spouse or friends, stay up to date on current events to be knowledgeable in conversation. Study your presentation front to back so you know it in your bones, and look and speak professionally and appropriately to your audience. Every bit of you is being analyzed, so present it all as best you can.
About the Author
Josh Fiorini is the former CEO of PTR Industries, Inc. He spent the first decade of his career in finance, holding positions as an equity analyst and portfolio manager before starting his own hedge fund. This experience, along with a deep background in manufacturing, banking and private equity, has made him a sought-after contributor on numerous boards and discussion groups on political and economic issues for media outlets, corporations and community organizations. Fiorini currently invests his time and resources with non-profit initiatives and acts as a contributor and management consultant to various firms in the firearms industry as the founding and Managing Partner in the firm Narrow Gate Management
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