Startupper, you have found the Holy Grail: a meeting with your bank manager to discuss investment possibilities. You have tied and retied your tie (or not), revised your power handshake (not like Mr Trump, please). Stress level: high. So are the stakes! Make sure chance is on your side by ensuring that you and your bank manager are talking the same language, thanks to the advice of two of our mentors: Sylvie Guillonneau,of Caisse d’Epargne Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and Alain Clerc, at Crédit Agricole de Champagne-Bourgogne, two of France's leading banks.
n°1: Don't try to be your own accountant
You are looking for funding. The first thing that your bank manager wants is a detailed investment plan, put together by a professional, in order to identify what needs the investment is going to address. "A startup founder must detail their needs in terms of cashflow: what is this money being used for?" explains Alain Clerc. "We are inevitably more comfortable with investing in R&D rather than your car lease," he explains. Yes, that is based on an actual anecdote!
Sylvie Guillonneau is equally frank. "The first thing to present in a meeting is at least three years of detailed financial forecasts, carried out by a professional accountant. This is a real skill, so don't think you don't need an accountant. They know what we are looking for... so a DIY job is not good enough."
n°2: get the right help (and show it)
"Getting expert help give you credibility," explains Sylvie Guillonneau. "Whether it is from an investment bank, an incubator, an acceleration program like ToasterLAB etc.... Get the right people to help you, and make it obvious."
"A startup that has people looking after them shows us two things: first, that it is a serious project, since experts have already judged it to be promising. And secondly, that the startup's team is able to commit and to make the intellectual effort necessary to reach their goals," she continues. "These are two strong arguments in your favour!"
For Alain Clerc, a startup founder with no knowledge of his ecosystem is in the wrong. "You need to get over any fear of getting advice from support organisations. All these organisations offer advice that is complementary to our own and allows you to secure your development. Statistics show clearly that there is a lower failure rate among startups going through professional support channels."
N°3: Forget your jargon
"We are not technicians or experts. What's more important is a clear business model and an adequate market," underlines Alain Clerc. "Food, digital, nuclear, whatever... We can't be experts in everything that goes through our hands," says Sylvie Guillonneau.
In your pitch, time to cut out those technical or scientific terms that you might use with your collaborators. Your goal is to make your project intelligible. Not comprehensive. Practice on your family and friends, your grand-parents, your nieces and nephews (a 10-year old makes an excellent practice subject - seriously!), to get your message clear and easy to grasp without using jargon.
"Target consumers, complete market studies, proof of concept, proof of interest from prospects, patents, benchmarking reports etc.: this is what we are interested in," lists Sylvie Guillonneau. "Our role is not to help you with early stage technical set up but to give a boost to a product or service with potential and financial viability. To evaluate technical aspects, we trust our partners with expertise in other areas."
n°4: show your commitment
"We are very interested in people and their profiles," says Sylvie Guillonneau.
Do you believe in your startup? Are you prepared to make a financial commitment to ensure its success? "The personal side is a relevant element, just as much as being able to offer collatoral," says Alain Clerc. Sylvie Guillonneau adds a nuance: "Even if, of course, we don't have the same expectations of collatoral between a 28 year-old and a 50 year-old."
Having been the recipient of interest-free loans, or a willingness to find investors, can also show your commitment to your startup's story. "The lack of your own funds doesn't have to mean the end of the road: if a person is genuinely motivated and committed to taking equity investors, that can compensate."
n°5 : be transparent
Startupper/banker: it's a relationship based on trust... in both directions! So you need to be completely transparent.
"I prefer to avoid any unpleasant surprises," says Alain Clerc. "It has already happened in the past that we have given loans to people with zero funds. Because we trusted them. On the other hand, if someone is evasive, or coats the truth to suck us in, it's very difficult to get back that trust."
Sylvie Guillonneau adds "You shouldn't hesitate to contact us or ask us questions. When an individual comes looking for funding for their startup, they become a businessman. The relationship changes, but we are looking out for your interests too."
Join toasterlab to find out more!
Sylvie Guillonneau and Alain Clerc are two of our mentors: both are experienced professionnals, but there are many others that can help you in your journey! Here is a list of our mentors. Feel free to contact me to find out more: email@example.com
By Claire VO
ToasterLAB Program Manager, Claire "VO" is in charge of our start-ups' post-acceleration as well as intrapreneurship. After 12 years with Vitagora, Claire's unparalleled knowledge of our network is put to good use while integrating our startups into the food business ecosystem! E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org