Tug Of War: Convincing Venture Capitalists
Talking to Venture Capitalists may be the hardest thing for some entrepreneurs.
At a certain point in an entrepreneur’s journey, be it during their pre-seed stage, seed-stage, or later on during their fundraising, there are many venture capitalists behaviour patterns that may seem a bit downright unexpected or surprising. And these are rarely meant as a compliment. They will be harsh and there will be push and pulling.
VCs however, play an essential role in a startup’s headway, especially in the next stage of the innovation life cycle, the period in a company’s life when it begins to commercialize innovation. Venture capitalists provide not only financing but also mentorship, strategic guidance, network access, and support by not only providing money but also they are usually the ones with the hard questions.
The hard questions they usually ask are not only to help manage their fears or manage their interest but perspectively, it also is able to help entrepreneurs redefine and refine their goals and approach. Different VCs have positive and negative patterns for sure. We’ve sat in many sessions discussing how entrepreneurs can refine their pitch. Even when the (few) fundamental questions and concerns are answered, in the end it comes down to:
Are they ready for change? Are they convinced to ‘risk it’?
The agriculture industry in Malaysia faces the harshest blow. Not only is it arguably complicated but this sector alone requires a tremendous amount of research and development from the entrepreneurs. Even harder, if it is merged with technology; agri-tech.
Agriculture is now heading towards a direction where it revolves around sustainable farming methods that may not only improve a company’s efficiency but also are worldly, revolutionary. However, when introducing something fairly new and with a larger margin of error, VCs are even more cynical.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re introducing soilless agriculture, hydroponics, nutrient solution instead of soil usage or introducing nature’s potential by merging it with artificial intelligence, venture capitalists want something secure, be it in any industry. They do not want something that sounds only sexy. Ideas need to be backed up with science, mathematics, and also data on how it can be appealing. Is it accessible to the mass public? Is there a market for this fresh, revolutionary, sexy idea?
“Not every investment will be successful”, as they would argue.
What are the options then for entrepreneurs? Well, as one of our Endeavor Entrepreneur and also Mentor counsels, be it in any industry you are in, if the concept is still scarce, slowly evolving and infamous or underfunded, there are remarkable stories that these scenarios are overturned. An Example of this overturn, a success story for agriculture, is our famous favourite local fresh milk company, The Holstein Milk Company.
Endeavor Entrepreneur Loi Tuan Ee (Founder & Managing Director of The Holstein Milk Company, also known as FarmFresh) empathized with entrepreneurs within the network that are entering this stage of their business journey, as it is not easy to introduce change to venture capitalists. In his early days, he struggled to even have VCs to look his way. Not only was it hard for him to introduce and narrate that cows can be sexy, but it was also difficult to convince that how can his idea change and elevate in the next 5 years? Can he develop, compete and scale in the market? Was he able to deliver his predicted revenue figures?
With his business sustainability to focus on rearing dairy cows, a belief that milk should not come with preservatives, he has outsized impact. From only having 60 cows, Loi has over 6,000 cows today. FarmFresh is going into different markets, expanding faster than ever, Loi has even submitted IPO application to Securities Council AND is en route to listing on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.
So what did he do right?
Here was his catch: approach the right venture capitalists and approach the right venture capitalists, right. It is well known that this first phase of understanding the right fit of VCs and business is important, but what comes with VCs focus, is also VCs personality. Similar to the dynamic entrepreneurs would want with their partners, do research and make sure the ethos are aligned.
As brought up earlier, VCs have their own positive and negative patterns. Understanding the right move to these individualities might help kickstart your sexy, yet fairly new business, be it in any industry.
To catch Loi Tuan Ee’s full story on becoming who he is and knowing FarmFresh the way we do today, check out the link here: https://youtu.be/PkxbA_ONJFY