1. Maintain a sense of perspective

A good founder is incredibly persistent, says Damon Bonser, co-founder and CEO of The British Design Fund, an investment fund for UK product design and manufacturing start-ups. “They are going to have to deal with so much adversity that they will simply add coronavirus to the list,” he says. We’ve dealt with Brexit, we’ve been through any number of political uncertainties in the past 24 months, and the pandemic need not be the end of the world, Bonser insists. 

“Founders need to pause, think of things from an investor’s point of view, talk about the pandemic in their pitch and say how they plan to mitigate it,” he suggests. If you show your investors how you plan to survive different scenarios, you will give them confidence that you’re commercially minded and have the ability to adapt.

2. Pinpoint exactly where you fit into the new world

Investors right now are as unsure about the future as everyone else, says Mick Tilley, CEO and co-founder of new beauty-tech start-up vivify, which secured an investment of £700,000 mid-pandemic. One way to calm their nerves is to convince them of the role you will play tomorrow. 

“We tailored our pitch to show how the coronavirus situation actually increased the likelihood of success for our business,” Tilley says. “We researched consumer trends from within the lockdown period and demonstrated how we could capitalise on changing behaviours and where the trends were leading.”

Investors will be impressed if you can show that you’re ahead of the game, he says, because they want to get into new markets before anyone else does.

3. Plan for additional due diligence

Bonser’s latest funding cohort is currently going through the final stages of the investment process, and he admits that due diligence this time around has been more rigorous than ever. “Most of the deal was done back in January, and they are now having to go through their business plans again to make sure these are still robust post-coronavirus,” he says. “Investors want to know if sales are still achievable, if supply chains are still functioning and so on.”

If your deck was written before March, you’ll need to revisit it to make sure every aspect still rings true.

We researched consumer trends from within the lockdown period and demonstrated how we could capitalise on changing behaviours and where the trends were leading

Mick Tilley
CEO and co-founder, vivify

4. Be honest about the challenges you face

What founders must not do is gloss over the difficulties that the pandemic has created for them, says Full Story Media co-founder Jon Card, who helps train UK tech companies to pitch for funding. “If you try and hide things, it would come across as dishonest, and will obviously make the business look less appetising than it might have been previously,” he says. 

Be upfront about any issues that you face – such as owning up to part of your business not being able to function right now because you’re based in a university incubator and the site is shut. “Investors will understand your difficulties,” says Card, “because who hasn’t been disrupted in some way over the past few months?

5. Recognise the power of personality

In the midst of the crisis, PR specialist Xander Ross was able to secure funding to set up a new film and TV PR company named Percy & Warren. The way he impressed his investor, he says, was to let her get a flavour of his new team. “To cheer up our contacts in the midst of a global crisis and approach new ones in an innovative way, we created a virtual escape room, which meant we could connect with our network for a bit of fun,” Ross explains. 

“We hosted one with our soon-to-be investor, who saw our personalities outside of the corporate environment, and it also helped us demonstrate the breadth of our network.” 

If your investors like and connect with you as people, he says, they will stick with you through thick and thin.

6. Tool up to remote pitch

With Zoom pitches now commonplace, Card says it is essential that you not only master how to use the videoconferencing app (and, in particular, functions such as screen sharing) but that you ensure your kit is up to scratch, too. He suggests investing in a good-quality external mic and, if your wifi isn’t great, wifi boosters or an ethernet cable. 

Bonser adds that while Zoom is not perfect – mainly because it’s much harder to ‘read’ a virtual room – it does have certain advantages. “It's a lot easier to organise a Zoom meeting than it is to arrange a meeting that requires multiple people travelling to the same place,” he says, adding that those seeking investment now have the opportunity to try and secure funding over several short Zoom sessions with the same investors – a far cry from the traditional one-shot, face-to-face pitching experience. For more on successfully delivering a remote investment pitch, read our how-to guide.

7. Show that you’re as future-proof as you can be

If your business is able to function well in the cloud and with everyone working from home, Card says you’d do well to shout about it. “Investors want to know that you can still operate, and that your business is able to do a lot of things online,” he says.

8. Stay connected

It’s easy to feel that the world has come to a complete standstill, but Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO of the (now online) Cypher coding school for children – who secured £225,000 in funding during lockdown – says that a good way to feel like you’re still part of the investment universe is to make use of online networking events. 

“There are a variety of meet-ups specifically for start-up investment, where potential investors are attending with the desire to find the ‘next big thing’,” she says. “Rather than having to search for hundreds of contacts through LinkedIn, you can find them all in one place, saving you and your business a lot of time.”

If you're a female founder, Tweedale suggests the AllBright collective is a good place to start.

9. Make the most of government funding

The UK government has pledged to issue convertible loans between £125,000 and £5m to innovative companies which are facing financial difficulties during the outbreak. Their Future Fund is available to firms that can show at least equal match funding from private investors.

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