Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Having presence

Machiavelli wrote that it’s better for leaders to be feared than loved.  When I’m pitching to investors, though I’ve taken the opposite tack.  

Maybe that’s why I’m still pitching.

I had a long conversation with a good friend and angel investor over dinner, talking about the difficulty of raising money.  “We’ve secured matching grants, critiqued the plans, recruited good people, scouted the exits, yet it remains an uphill battle," I lamented.

 Bill pitchesBill Gates would simply get the money, he said.

“Bill would have said or done whatever he needed to,”, I suggested, remembering the story of how Gates founded Microsoft by selling an operating system to IBM that he didn’t own.

No, asserted my friend: Gates had a presence that made IBM want to give him money.

We spent the evening talking this through.  No question, there are people who close the deal.  All too often they are arrogant or unpleasant, but they have gravity and project confident authority.  They don’t ask for the money, they ask if they can count on your support.

I want to be liked, and get diffident around authority.  I’m a scientist who knows that there are never easy or final answers, an expat who sees the importance of listening and learning and fitting in.

This, observed my friend, is the problem.  Is it better to have investors like you, or to have them want to be like you? 

I’ve been reading Boothman’s “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less”, which is all about first impressions. He stresses the importance of making a connection, leaning forward with a welcoming open attitude.  I’ve worked at being relaxed and natural on-stage, telling the story, keeping eye contact.  It works, people are comfortable with me.

Title slide But, in this situation, I want people to invest their money with me, rather than someone else or nobody.   And the connection is not to someone we like, it’s with people like ourselves.  confident, responsible, aggressive, successful.

Gates is.

A friend at the McKinsey Consultancy once joked to me that they put the “Women you want to date and the men you want to be” front and center for their presentations to executives. 

Investors want someone who will be as successful as they are.

We’ve honed the pitch; I’m taking it on the road.  “And don’t come back without the money,” my friend admonished.

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