Raising Capital – aka “Meet the Parents”

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Probably you can recall a time in your life when you tried  hard to make a great first impression, but the more you tried the worse things went.

Perhaps you’ve seen “Meet the Parents,” starring Robert DeNiro as Jack Burns, the skeptical upper-crust, WASP, ex-CIA agent and father of the bride along with Ben Stiller as Greg Focker, the bumbling Jewish male nurse and would-be son-in-law. It’s a match made in hell, portrayed through a comedy of errors as Greg tries, again and again to fit in and be accepted into Jack’s “Circle of Trust,” only to fail over and over. Jack simply doesn’t like Greg — it’s a “gut feeling” he can’t define and Greg can’t decipher. The more he tries, the worse things get.

We laugh, but we’ve all been there before at some point in life.  Is that how it feels raising capital today?

“Meet the Parents” provides a terrific analogy to the world of raising capital, because the barrier Greg has to overcome, getting into Jack’s “Circle of Trust,” is the same barrier you face with investors. We’ve given ample space in this blog to looking at ways to establish and deepen trust with investors. The stakes are high when it comes to trust, because without trust investors simply won’t say “yes.” In “Meet the Parents,” Jack Burns explains the stakes to Greg Focker, saying “If I can’t trust you, Greg, then I have no choice but to put you back outside the circle; and once you’re out, you’re out, there’s no coming back.” The intimation is that if Greg can’t be trusted, he’s not qualified to marry Jack’s daughter.

To extend the analogy, Jack’s daughter, whom he loves and wants to protect, maps to an investor’s reputation, money and time — all of which they highly prize and guard. So, the odds are stacked against you, because at first you’re not in the investor’s “Circle of Trust.” Getting in can be difficult and, even if you do get in, getting booted back out is an ever-present possibility. But, as I discussed in my last post, there is a way through the peril. It begins by recognizing that investors trust people who they recognize unconsciously as those who’ve made money for them in the past.

Again, “Meet the Parents” provides a useful (and hilarious) analogy in the character of Kevin Rawley, brilliantly portrayed by Owen Wilson. Kevin is the perfect man in the eyes of Jack Burns. He’s wealthy, successful, worldly, charismatic, multi-talented – exactly the kind of guy Jack envisions as the perfect fit for his precious daughter. Everything about Kevin triggers Jack’s unconscious pattern recognition about what the guy who marries his daughter should be. To complicate matters, Kevin is also the ex-boyfriend of Jack’s daughter – in Jack’s eyes, he’s the one that got away. Poor Greg Focker simply can’t measure up against Kevin in a single category that Jack thinks is important.

There is good news.  In the movie, Greg Focker eventually wins the day, but only after an extremely arduous set of comic mishaps and disasters unfolds. Here is what’s critical about this for you, the leader of an innovative company seeking funding: Greg had a powerful advocate in the form of Jack’s daughter Pamela (played by Teri Polo). She helped win Jack Burns over to Greg’s side by proving Greg did, indeed, embody many of the traits Jack was unconsciously seeking. She re-wrote Jack’s unconscious scripts, by reinterpreting Greg’s ridiculous comedy of errors as a heroic attempt to meet Jack’s expectations against nearly impossible odds. Pamela succeeded in mapping Greg to those standards and ideals, because she knew them so well. She knew how to make Greg appear as worthy in her father’s eyes in a way that Greg simply couldn’t on his own.

The moral of the story is that when dealing with investors, you need a trusted advisor who has studied investor mind maps, figured out what makes them tick, so they can help you look, speak and act like someone who has made money for that investor before. That’s what we do at Intelliversity and it’s what we do in the Entrepreneur’$ Bootcamp. We do it out of a passion to even the odds for innovative entrepreneurs, so that your chances of funding are much higher than the current abysmal rate of 3%. That’s important to me personally, because your success correlates to a better world, a more promising future for humanity, by virtue of vastly more money being channeled into worthy ventures.

If only Greg Focker had an expert advisor when dealing with Jack Burns. A lot of wasted time and effort, as well as catastrophes large and small, could have been avoided. But to my knowledge, there is no established profession to assist would-be son-in-laws to successfully navigate the perils of meeting the parents of the bride.

However, we do see this kind of advisory in the world. People hire jury consultants to help select a favorable jury. Companies hire marketing consultants to better match messaging to the core customer base. Professional sports teams hire coaches to mold a group of talented individuals into a winning team. One thing common to all of these transactions is that there is no guarantee of success. Jury consultants cannot  guarantee a particular verdict. Marketing consultants cannot and do not guarantee a particular market share of sales. Professional sports coaches cannot and do not guarantee championships.

And nobody expects them to make such guarantees in order to earn their pay.  They earn their pay by leveling the playing field.

I find it interesting that in the serious business of raising capital there exists a bias towards guarantees of success, a guarantee that cannot be honestly given.  So, I find it disturbing that people sometimes make such guarantees, because, statistically such guarantees are frivolous. They cheapen the impression people have about the financial advisory profession and create unrealistic expectations among seekers of capital.  Let’s get real.

We do charge a very-reasonable engagement fee for our professional consulting and for participation in the Entrepreneur’$ Bootcamp. Yet, we cannot guarantee that your company will be funded. We even the odds meaningfully.  We accomplish this by applying years of research and thousands of investor interviews through a proprietary process that makes the Greg Fockers of the world look like the Kevin Rawleys  in the unconscious minds of investors where, as I discussed recently, most funding decisions are made.

I suggested in my last post that this process unfolds through an intentional approach that takes skill and practice.

In “Meet the Parents,” much of the hilarity ensues when Greg Focker tries to mirror the traits of Kevin Rawley in order to gain the admiration of Jack Burns, the father of his intended bride. Greg proceeds to break someone’s nose, destroy a priceless wedding gift, cause a sewage backup, then bring an “imposter” cat into the house that chews up the house and causes general mayhem. So, I caution you that the process of mapping to the mind of an investor and mirroring positive unconscious traits back to them is not child’s play. It is a serious skill best developed with practice under the tutelage of a skilled mentor.

Especially, with the help of a skilled mentor who goes into battle with you and for you.  Think of Jedi Masters that fight the good fight with their “trainees.”

Nobody can guarantee funding success. But we can even the odds substantially. Given the stakes involved, isn’t it worth it to have every advantage you can get?

Key Takeaways:

  1. First impressions do matter when it comes to meeting investors because the odds are stacked against you, so you need every advantage.
  2. Initial investor mistrust is the barrier that must be overcome to have any chance for funding success — but if you do overcome it your chances increase substantially.
  3. Investor mistrust is often grounded in unconscious mind maps that neither you nor the investor is conscious about — they experience it as a “gut feeling” that you can’t be trusted.
  4. You can learn to identify positive unconscious investor mind maps, then mirror your way of being to the investor to change their “gut feeling” about you into a positive one.
  5. Doing so can increase your chances for funding to a level which is ten times the average rate of funding.
  6. Since the stakes are high, this process is best learned and practiced under the tutelage of a skilled mentor — at Intelliversity and in the Entrepreneur’$ Bootcamp.

Robert Steven Kramarz

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