You’re in the process of meeting with investors, honing your pitch, trying to make your startup as attractive to them as possible. You know you have to answer their basic questions about your pre-money valuation, how you’re structuring the terms on your raise, and your valuation cap. Of course no matter what you say to the valuation question, the investor is going to challenge that, right? These folks wouldn’t be millionaires if they weren’t savvy investors. So you’re going to have to justify that number.
Of course, the bulk of your justification is going to be grounded in your existing sales, your margins, your market research, and potential market size. But everyone knows that this number is also going to be aspirational. This is where the negotiations really live. And good negotiation is part your ability to support claims, and also part nerve, not blinking when you deliver your valuation offer. Around this number both parties are always sizing each other up.
When you’re in that moment every small detail matters. How you’ve answered their questions, how well you know your numbers, how you’re dressed, and also how your brand looks. If an investor compliments you on your branding, or if they quickly point out that your branding needs some love, how much of that is going to impact whether they come back with a lower valuation, or whether they see you as competent, professional, and a good investment?
I’m not even going to try to guess at measuring that impact. All I know is that it matters. If you stand in the room feeling sheepish about your branding, and they point it out and then offer a lower valuation than you hoped, would you concede? Or if every point in your presentation is spot on, and they love the branding, would they be more inclined to accept your valuation? I think the answer is obvious. Exactly how much does it influence this negotiation? One percent? Five percent? Who knows. But when you’re raining hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars of funding, even a small percentage matters.
Perception is a very real, though immeasurable, part of negotiation. Don’t go into the pitch apologizing for your branding.