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When you sign with investors and they send you their money, that’s when ‘investor relations’ begins.
Of course, you’ve already had plenty of communications with your investors up to this point, through outreach, pitching and negotiations. But after they join your company as shareholders, your relationship shifts gear.
Through well-managed investor relations, you’ll continue to build and maintain positive relationships between the company, investors and other stakeholders in the business.
In this post, we explain investor relations for startups so you can create a strategic plan for your company, and set a positive tone with your investors from the very beginning.
If you’re a first-time founder, you might feel intimidated by investors or worse: view them only as a source of cash. If you approach investor relations with this mindset of inequality, the connection will never feel natural.
When you talk to your investors, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you invested some money into a founder to help build their dream (and hopefully make you money in the process). What kind of relationship would you want with the founder? What would your incentives be? What kind of updates would you expect?
When you have a clear idea of what your investors are thinking, you’ll naturally communicate better, align on common goals and build relationships that work on all sides. And when you pick the right investors and manage the relationship well, your investors can provide 10x the value of their investments in ideas, advice and connections.
VC Investor Relations,
Firstly, congratulations on successfully onboarding investors for your startup! That’s a big achievement you can be proud of. (Bonus points if you used SeedLegals for your investment legals.)
Now you’re ready to implement your investor relations strategy. Here’s our roadmap to help you get your investor relations off to a great start:
Read through this roadmap with your management team and decide who will do what. Some large companies have staff entirely dedicated to investor relations. As a startup, it’s unlikely you’ll have the spare cash to hire an investor relations manager so instead enlist your top team to help. For example, your CFO (or equivalent) can give updates on company finances, the CTO can update on development and releases, and your Head of Marketing can report on metrics and traction.
Send a personalised message to each investor. Share how grateful you are for their support and be enthusiastic about having them on board. Introduce key members of your team who the investors will interact with, give their job title and explain their role in investor relations.
What goes into the pack depends on what information you gave investors while negotiating the deal. Create and share an investor pack that includes essential information about your company. This could include:
When you do a funding round, the Shareholders Agreement will commit your company to doing quarterly (or monthly) investor updates. That’s because investors almost always demand that commitment, and founders are happy to agree to it… only to then completely fail to do it!
But in case you need more money down the line, make sure you send regular updates. Investors consistently tell us the only time they hear from founders is when they want more money. But if only they had heard from the founders every few months with updates, they would have been more engaged with the company, and more willing to invest again…
CEO and Co-Founder,
Share your latest financial statements and projections with your investors. This could be in the pack you send them during onboarding (see above). Explain your revenue model, cost structure and how you plan to use the funds you’ve raised. Invite investors to ask questions and share any concerns they have, and then address them at a group meeting or individually (see below).
Soon after you’ve closed the investment, schedule an onboarding meeting (in person or a video call) with your new investors and your colleagues who’ll liaise with them. Use this opportunity to introduce everyone to each other, and share more details about the company and your growth strategies.
Schedule individual meetings with each investor to better understand their expectations, goals, and any specific areas of interest they might have. Find out how they prefer to communicate and do your best to align with their choices. Add others from your team to the calls if you like, but because you’re at the start of this important relationship-building, we find 1-to-1 or 1-to-2 works best.
When you need approval from investors on a topic which might be a challenge to find consensus, book separate calls with each investor. This is especially relevant when they have a seat on your board.
Sometimes investors won’t understand why you need to spend on search engine optimisation, expensive advertising campaigns and so on – that’s why it’s important to talk to them individually, to explain what you want to do and why, and address their specific questions. That way, everyone will be on the same page when you meet as a group, and you’re much more likely to get your proposals approved.
Be clear with investors about how you’ll keep in touch with them about updates, meeting invites and so on. This could be via regular emails, quarterly video calls or an investor portal (see below). Inform your investors about how often they can expect updates from you, and what information you’ll share.
Some companies set up a secure online portal/dashboard where investors can access important documents, reports and updates for your startup. You could grant access to a shared Google Drive folder or set up a Data Room on a platform such as SeedLegals. An online dashboard usually means less admin for your company: your investors can log in anytime to view the correct, up-to-date versions of files.
During onboarding, encourage your new investors to give feedback and ask questions. This demonstrates your commitment to open communication and shows that you value their insights.
In my experience as an early-stage investor, there’s a direct correlation between the success of the startup and how well the founders establish and maintain a fruitful dialogue with their angel investors.
The most successful founders send a quarterly update to all shareholders, not just to those who invested at the last round. The ideal format for the report is a well-written two-pager with key financials and other KPIs. Founders should also share their reflections on end of year performance and targets for the new year, including a strategic overview of competition and market.
I encourage founders to take the time to sit down and chat one-to-one, once or twice a year, with their more experienced, pro-active early angels. These investors typically have a caring attitude towards their portfolio startups and will gladly share their experience, network and time with the founders.
Angel investor and COO,
Send your investors the dates of key events such as investor meetings, product launches, press announcements, company milestones and upcoming activities they should be involved in. Share calendar updates to keep investors engaged with your company’s plans and timeline.
Offer opportunities for your investors to get involved beyond just financial support. For example: attending company events, taking on an Advisor role, or introducing potential partners, customers or team members.
When an investor puts in capital into your business, usually it’s because they believe you’ll do well and they want you to succeed. So go ahead to ask them for an intro to a friend/contact of theirs who could become a client or otherwise beneficial in your journey.
If your investors are keen to help, ask them anything that could help grow the business. Within reason of course – don’t hit them with requests every week.
Head of Business Development,
If your startup faces big challenges or unexpected hurdles, your investors will appreciate your honest, open communication to help them understand the full picture.
Investor relations must be two-way. Ask your investors for feedback regularly, not just on what’s happening in the business but also on how you can improve your communication and how you’re involving investors in company life. Use what you learn to refine your investor relations strategy.
Investor updates take time to write but founders often tell us that time isn’t the problem, it’s that they think there’s nothing worth reporting. ‘We haven’t launched the product yet’, ‘Last quarter we made 17 small but important database and API enhancements’, ‘We still don’t know exactly what features our customers most want’… Is that too dull to share?
Investors want to hear from you so do send them frequent updates, even if it’s just a short email of key accomplishments, current challenges and things you’d love their help with, for example: partner intros, talent recommendations, to spread the word on your business, and more.
CEO and Co-Founder,
Strong investor relations are built on trust, transparency, and effective communication. Your work on investor relations is going well if you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these:
As we’ve seen, investor relations isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s an important function for startups with investor shareholders. Effective investor relations can attract new investment, retain existing investors, and ultimately support your startup’s growth and success.
Want to know more about how we can support you to manage your investors and your board? Book a free call with one of our experts for a demo.