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Why An Investment Narrative Is Critical For Your Fundraise

Matthew Bradley

Investor @ Forward Partners

There are 1,000,001 things to focus on when fundraising. If you’re researching benchmarks, nailing your metrics, and articulating your product vision, then you’re just getting started. As part of this research period, you'll need to look into the dynamics of your market.

A key part of your market ‘story’ is why an investor might want to allocate capital to that general area. I’ll call this your ‘investment narrative’. Despite being a key part of getting the deal done, I often find that the investment narrative is either ignored, under-researched or under-addressed.

Before going on to what a great narrative looks like, let’s cover the ‘why’.

Why having an ‘investment narrative' is mission-critical 

Any investor, particularly VCs or institutional investors who are investing money on behalf of other people, wants to ‘build conviction’. Conviction is a relative concept. There will undoubtedly be a number of investors who have no interest in investing in your space or have already invested but don’t want any more concentration. 

For the most part, however, I’d say that for most businesses the majority of investors are there to be convinced. Convincing them, and being convincing in general, is best-started with a good narrative. 

This is particularly important if you intend on raising money from venture capital firms, because of the decision-making process amongst investment teams. It’s likely that if you’re raising from a VC, your first meeting will be with an associate. After that first meeting, the associate will then represent your company amongst the wider investment team. Sending your point of contact into those conversations with a well-researched, convincing narrative will pay dividends. It’s your opportunity to put words in their mouth so I’d think of it as a way to get on the front foot with any given fund’s investment team without even being in the room.

What does a good investment narrative consist of?

Moving on to what constitutes a good investment narrative, it’s easiest to work from a formula and few examples. A formula that you can use looks like this:

Market context + trend(s) + your insight (+ relevant other convergent trend(s))

In some ways, this looks like an elevator pitch, though your investment narrative is likely to be a little less detailed and more geared towards addressing the broad picture of why your business is in an exciting space. That penultimate word is key: exciting. As you run through your investment narrative, it should be exciting...not least as you’ll be positioning yourself within some of the biggest, fastest-growing, and most important aspects of our lives today.

Say you were an entrepreneur in the eSports space, looking to found / raise money for a business that is helping to build out the service layer for that market. Your investment narrative might look as follows:

Market context

Revenue from eSports will be over $1bn this year with estimated (compound) annual growth rates of 16% over the next 5 years.

Trend(s)

As the market has grown it has professionalised. The big tournaments now have prize pools of $34m while teams and agencies are thriving. Twitch alone is the 4th biggest source of internet traffic in the US (after Netflix, Google, Apple).

 

The market has also socialised. Influencers play a big role in this market and in the influencer market more generally, Pewdiepie probably being the best known. Discord has also bought chat and communities to the market, they’re a $2bn+ valued Index and Tencent backed company. 

Your insight

Following the professionalisation and socialisation of the market, there will be X, Y, Z*. It’s the next logical step in the market’s evolution. 

Relevant other convergent trends

Another great demonstration of how seriously you should take this market is Google’s investment in Stadia, their game streaming platform. Sony and Microsoft are working on theirs too. 

Remember, what we’re doing here is building a case. A narrative that speaks to why an investor might want to allocate some of their funds to the area that you’re in. As for what X, Y, or Z might be that’ll be up to you as an entrepreneur. It could be anything from payments and/or crypto to wagering to eCommerce. 

Looking back on the sentences above, contained within the narrative are strong talking points around market size, market growth and key trends to leave with your investor with. Most importantly, there’s a strong logical argument connecting all of the pieces together. 

Let’s look at one more example, a more straightforward one in the insurance space:

Market context

Insurance is clearly a massive market, but the number of extreme weather events causing a loss for insurers has 3x’d over the last 40 years. It’s reasonable to think this will continue to worsen with human life impacting ever more profoundly on our planet.

Trend(s)

We’re in an unprecedented position historically with the ability to gather, understand and use data derived from our environment. Evolutions of computing power (and effectively unlimited data storage) yield the opportunity to predict future events and maybe even prescribe courses of action. 

Your insight

A big and increasing problem + brilliant data tools set the scene for X, Y, Z.

Relevant other convergent trends

IoT is the forgotten man in the venture markets in many ways, but the ubiquity of smart/dumb sensors and the software to link them together provides more fuel for this fire. We’ve even seen Floodflash in the UK using this playbook.

With this example the X, Y and Z could be a new insurance company in a vertical (like floodflash), modelling environments for complex simulations, middleware or algorithm discovery...amongst a host of other things. This is a more simple case than the eSports one and in a more staid market. Nonetheless, there’s no shortage of mind-harpoons and tasty trend data to send your investor away with.  

A strong investment story should be inspirational and draw upon multiple market trends

Hopefully, you’ll have found some percentage gains for your pitch when considering your investment narrative. Summing up in a few bullets:

  • This is all about mind-harpoons. An investment narrative should be exciting, inspirational even, and give the recipient lots of interesting food for thought...which will position you and your company in a great light.

  • There’s a formula that you can use to write yours: Market context + trend(s) + your insight (+ relevant other convergent trend(s)).

  • This is your opportunity to thread logic from high-level trends to what you are doing day-to-day. Do it well and you’ll position yourself as the expert.


Further reading

  • At Forward, we publish Nanotrends regularly. These are some good examples of investment narratives, albeit slightly more in-depth than what is covered above.

Matthew Bradley

Investor @ Forward Partners

Matthew used to work on trading floors at Lloyds and BarCap before seeing the light. Following an MBA at SDA Bocconi and before joining us he became an entrepreneur and investor in his own right. He’s focused on sourcing and executing deals. His other interests and activities include investment strategy, writing and emoji.

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