Leverage Innovation

A blog by Thomas Hill

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How to present an innovative idea

September 19th, 2008 · 2 Comments

In my experience starting several companies, as CEO, talking with venture capitalists or performing business development in major corporations like HP and Genentech, the presentation to executive management or investors with your innovation idea is crucial toward gaining the resources you need to get your idea off the ground.  Here are few insights on how to approach this

1. Do you know your audience?  Who are the executives you are going to meet with?  What do they they care about?  Can you meet with them prior to your presentation in one on one to gain their support or at least know where they are coming from.  This will allow you to tune your presentation and know in the audience who are sponsors, coaches and those that are opposed.

2.  What is the business need? Describe the need that this idea is filling or problem that your idea solves. Investors will test you on this, because it is at the heart of your idea, they have to be convinced the need is there, or they will not want to invest.

3. What is your idea? (quickly and distinctly) Make this very simple, using a metaphor is good…in his book, Made to Stick, Dan Heath suggests using the method movie makers use…the one line metaphor…for example:
‘Speed on a bus’ for a recent Bruce Willis film. This is hard to do, but a good place to spend a lot of your time.

4. Who cares about your idea? In other words, what is the audience, market for your product, or service? And answer why they would care, plus give evidence of the market: testimonials, market research that is focused on your service. Historical market research can be helpful, but for any innovative idea, there is no real research - because most research is backward looking and your business is forward looking. This is a time to talk about alternatives, competition to your idea, and why your idea is differentiated from others. It would be good to highlight here your ’sustainable competitive advantage’ why will you continue to stay on top.

5. Why should I care about your idea? this is what’s in it for me to back this, how do I benefit as an investor.

6. How much do you care about your idea? this is a test, how much of your skin is in this game, how much will you put in and how much will others.
The investor is looking for a deep level of commitment, not just your money.

7. Who is on your team?  The people are generally what investors are investing in, because they know that the business plan may change, but really good people will adjust fast and make the business happen. Note the specific assets your team bring to the business, and how their backgrounds cover certain risks that you have uncovered in getting your business going.

8. How much money do you need? this is tricker than it sounds, because you ask for too little and you will have to keep coming back, you ask for too much, and you are viewed as unrealistic and likely to just spend money freely. This is another test, to see if you have thought your idea through well enough, and to see if you have a clear understanding of what it takes to get the idea into production.

9. How will you measure success? how do I know you achieved what you said you would achieve with my money? When will I start to see results…sooner the better. How soon can you get a pilot of your service going to see if the idea will work.

10. What does your idea look like?  Create some type of mockup, simulation or demo of your idea, so the investor or stakeholder can get a sense of what it is your are building.

I used to wonder how executives or investors knew whether to invest in a business or idea without knowing alot about it, answers to the above questions will usually indicate to them that your idea has merit, you are committed, and you have assembled an A+ team.  Investors, invest in A+ people generally and a B business plan.

Tags: Leadership

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Spencer // Oct 6, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Tom —

    Great post. Through my experience, I have seen that it’s the management team that draws and keeps investor’s interest. In fact, from what I understand, a company’s core product often times changes (sometimes substantially) within the first six months of operation. So, it’s best to bet on an excellent management team.

    Keep up the good work. I’ll add you to my RSS reader.

  • 2 David Metcalf // Oct 14, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I like the feel of your site so far. We’re consrtantly tracking technical innovations and business innovations specific to learning and knowledge. Your ideas track well with “Diffusion of Innovation” by Everett Rogers. Might be a good follow-up read for some of your readers.

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