Why can’t I raise? I am asked this question numerous times per day. The typical response to it  is that we are in a challenging economic environment where capital has pulled back and what is available has moved up-market. To a degree, that is true, but if I am being brutally honest, it’s not the real reason. The real reason is you. You must do more, you must do it differently, and you must do it better. Yep, I said it; it is on you. 


Not for a minute do I want to diminish the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into securing capital. But when I hear questions like the one above or its close cousin, “I can’t raise money,” that is victim speak, and victims don’t raise money. Again, I will reiterate that you must do more, show up differently, and do it well. Let’s look at each of these tough love statements in more detail. 


You must do more.


How many investor cold calls are you doing every day? How many emails are you sending? How much research into family offices, angel groups, and high-net-worth individuals are you doing? If you have yet to raise money, you are not doing enough. If everyone else is spending an hour a day on these types of activities, you should be spending five. It is that simple; it is just math. If the odds stink, you need to increase the number of attempts. If one in one hundred investors invested two years ago, and today it is one in five hundred, you need 5X the amount of action and effort. There is no easy button and no shortcuts. Do the work, do more than anyone else, and you’ll get the needed meetings. 


You must do it differently. 


Try something unique to differentiate yourself from the others asking the investor for a meeting. Some 30+ years ago, when I was cutting my teeth in sales, there were ten people with whom I desperately wanted meetings. I went out and bought five pairs of baby shoes. I sent each of them a shoe, a business card, and a note that read, “I am just trying to get a foot in the door.” I am not proud, but it worked. 


Don’t show up like everyone else when you finally get those meetings. 

The amount of deal flow investors see makes separating one opportunity from the other even harder. Help them by being different. If everyone else comes with a pitch deck and a convertible note, you show up with questions to spark a conversation. Rather than a convertible note, show up with a unique structure and set of terms. Better yet, don’t come with any; instead, focus on aligning around a shared outcome. Be memorable. 


You must do it better.


Don’t forget the lost art of quality follow-up. The moment you press end on that Zoom call, an email should go out thanking them for their time, recapping the key points of the meeting, and outlining suggested next steps. That same day, a handwritten thank you note should be sent along with the product if it has not been sent already. Within 24 hours, your first of at least seven follow-up emails should be sent, and the balance should be sent in similar increments. Studies show that seven emails in eleven days are key to driving engagement.


Most investors will eventually respond with a “No,” and that’s okay. Don’t take it as a rejection; instead, view it as a learning opportunity. Ask for feedback. “How could I have presented better?” “What would you need to see to invest?” Ask the questions that will help you improve. 


This next step is the one most often missed. Email those who said “No” asking for introductions to other potential investors. Provide them with a short (emphasizing short) email that they can forward. Be specific in your ask. For example, ask them to please cut and paste the paragraph below and send it to five people they think might be interested. Follow up on this email with another sequence of seven reminder emails. 


If you are serious about raising money, you must be better at it than anyone else. That requires massive effort, true differentiation, and quality follow-up. You must do more, you must do it differently, and you must do it better. The money will follow.

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