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Image credit: ThinkAfrik

Preparing the perfect pitch, part 2: Advice from an investor

Preparing the perfect pitch, part 2: Advice from an investor

Dennis Kofi Borti shares what he looks for in social entrepreneurs seeking investment

Pitching to potential investors and funders is a daunting experience – even for those who have done it many times before. Leading Change asked two Queen’s Young Leaders – one who frequently pitches, and one who is pitched to – for their tips and advice. 

In 2015, Queen’s Young Leader, Dennis Kofi Borti co-founded ThinkAfrik – a Ghanaian company set up to address poverty and underdevelopment across Africa, by investing in startups.

Dennis explains, "We are not only finding immediate short-term solutions, but we are investing in long-term wealth creation and sustainable uplifting solutions as well. This is what we believe real empowerment should be."

A problem to be solved

Dennis says that it's important for him, as a potential investor, to have a strong sense of the problem that an entrepreneur is trying to solve through the startup.

"The entrepreneur must have a very clear value proposition, which comes only by having a deep understanding of the problem being solved, the target market and then design a solution with the market needs in mind."

Breaking that down, he asks, "Is this a real problem? Who is affected? Is your solution tailor-suited for the proposed target market?"

Dennis explains, "It is quite easy to forget who a solution is being designed for amidst all the euphoria and one’s passion to create the latest innovation."

As a social entrepreneur himself, he tends to prioritise social impact when choosing projects to invest in. Because of its ethos, ThinkAfrik is often willing to take on added risk and to invest in less conventional areas of business.

"From my experience, I realise that with a really good value proposition we can always develop a business model that generates financial returns from slightly below market rate, to market rate."

Woman at a market stall selling tomatoes

Woman Trader In Accra's Makola Market, Ghana. Image credit: Transaid

Business potential

"Another big thing for me is the scalability of the idea," says Dennis. "I look out for ideas and ventures that have huge prospective functional markets and not small market segments."

He adds that he is not just weighing up the idea, but the people and the team behind it.

"I understand the relevance of having a good team to make any project or venture successful. I want to be able to gauge the strength of the team – their strengths and deficiencies. The entrepreneur will need to prove the commitment of the team and the value each team member."

Dennis also needs "to sense the burning passion and confidence" that entrepreneurs have in themselves and their idea. 

"It’s hard to hide true passion – you can always sense it even if you don’t understand it. I want to leave the room with a lasting impression of having met a bold, audacious yet flexible person with a brilliant solution to a real problem."

Do your research

"Do your homework – you need to get your facts right!" says Dennis, adding, "You need to know who you’re pitching to and you need to understand your idea or business."

He's eager to clarify this doesn't mean knowing all the answers and having everything figured out, "but at least be sure of what you know".

Homework chalked on a blackboard

Demonstrate a track record

"People are generally more comfortable reaching into their pockets to support once they see some sort of results or track record, no matter how small, " says Dennis.

"It is always a good idea to develop your idea or prototype in whichever small way you can – it makes you more attractive to an investor."

He explains that this isn't just a question of proving that the idea works, although of course that's important.

"If you have been committed to start developing your idea with little or no support then we get some guarantee you will do great with our support. It is too risky to invest in a venture built just on paper."

Tell a story

Dennis says, "Share a relatable story."

To develop your personal story for pitching, work through Module 1 of the Leading Change course, All about me: Taking Stock.

To learn more about putting your story together, see It's your story.

Remember! You've nothing to lose!

"Stay true to your values, be confident and give it your best shot. What’s the worst that could happen? You either leave with the support or funding you require. Or you leave there a better entrepreneur for the next pitch. Either way there is no stopping you!"

Preparing the perfect pitch, part 1: The entrepreneur