Whether you’re funding a business, lab research, or another independent endeavor, you’ll likely need funding to make your dreams a reality. Getting funding is often an arduous process; you’ll need to find the right investors, persuade them to invest in your idea, and negotiate a deal that works for everyone. And if you’re seeking lab research funding, specifically, you’ll also need to consider strict submission guidelines, rules, and regulations.
If you want to make the funding process easier, there are several important steps to take before you start talking to investors.
What You Should Do Before Seeking Funding
Follow these steps before you begin submitting plans or talking to investors:
- Research and understand your potential funding sources. First, understand that there are likely many funding options available to you, some of which are traditional and others of which are less so. If you’re seeking funding for a lab, you’ll be able to get funding from grant programs, university funds, private research grants, or venture capital firms. For startups, the options are a bit more varied, with choices like angel investors, venture capitalists, grant organizations, and even crowdfunding. There are advantages and disadvantages to each funding source, so you’ll need to weigh them carefully when making your decision.
- Plot your financial model. Your financial plan will be an important consideration no matter what your team is doing or what type of funding you’re trying to attain. Angel investors and venture capitalists who will end up with a stake in your organization will want to know your course for profitability. Other funding sources will want to see a breakdown of your costs, and how you plan to spend the money. This is one of the most important parts of your plan, so don’t neglect it.
- Research the competition. Spend some time researching your competition. What are other people in this space currently doing? If you’re planning a business, this competitive analysis is key to creating a business model that can work; still, it’s a good idea to see what other types of business plans and research proposals are being written. You’ll need to distinguish yourself in some way and prove that you’re worth the investment.
- Create a pitch deck. From there, you’ll put together a pitch deck—a kind of presentation associated with entrepreneurs who want to highlight the key features of their upcoming business. Usually a slideshow, this presentation should cover the basics of the business, list important data points that prove its potential, and anticipate (and address) potential points of objection. It takes time to refine this.
- Master an elevator pitch. While you’re at it, work on your elevator pitch. When meeting new prospective investors, you may not have much time to articulate your idea—you may have as little as 30 seconds to get their attention. Experiment with different variants, and focus on getting someone’s initial interest.
- Practice your presentation. Even with a good elevator pitch and pitch deck to follow, it’s on you to present your data in an effective, persuasive way. Film yourself to judge your delivery and body language, and be careful not to over-rehearse.
- Build a website. Even if you’re still in the early stages of development, putting together a website proves your commitment to this idea. A basic framework, including a Home page, an About page, and a handful of pages about your goals and directives should be plenty.
- Put together a prototype, portfolio, mockup, etc. Your presentation will be much more effective with some kind of demonstration. A prototype, a small portfolio, or even a video or image of your work can help you be much more persuasive.
- Get feedback. Before meeting with actual investors, spend some time explaining your ideas and showing off your work to peers, mentors, and other experts in the industry. What do they think? What points of criticism can they offer? This is your last chance for improvement.
- Expand your network. Finally, spend some time expanding your professional network. This is a great opportunity to meet mentors and experts who can help you polish your pitch—as well as people with connections to the individuals and organizations you’re most interested in persuading.
Preparing for the Next Phase
Once you’ve taken the steps above, you’ll be ready to start actively seeking funding. Depending on your strategy, that could mean putting together submissions for public funding sources or making introductions to venture capitalists or angel investors.
Remain optimistic and persistent in your pursuit, and don’t be afraid to change your plans on the fly if you gain access to new information or find that your original strategy wasn’t working.