Next Time You’re Raising Money, Do This
In 2019, the fintech company Brex raised $100 million in their Series C-2 funding round. A few months before Brex’s achievement, Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon, one of the most successful Kickstarter projects of all time, secured $4.9 million in only 23 days.
What is it that makes such astonishing success stories possible? Is it just the validity of their ideas? Or are there hidden, even controllable factors at work?
Science might be able to get us one step closer to understanding why some entrepreneurs can hit it out of the park when it comes to convincing investors, while others struggle to land a base hit.
According to a study published in the Academy of Management Journal only a few weeks ago (December 2019), the emotions you display during your pitch play a “critical role” in your likelihood of securing investor’s money.
A team of researchers from the University of South Florida and the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted an experiment where they used the latest “facial expression analysis technology”, one which has a documented success rate of 96–100%, to measure the peak and duration of an entrepreneur’s joy during their pitch.
They measured the peak, or intensity, of the emotion because people tend to rate their entire experiences positively or negatively based on their peak feelings during an event. For duration, or length of time, the researchers focused on how long the peak emotion lasted when it appeared.
Finally, the team decided to measure joy for three reasons. First, it’s considered one of the foundational positive emotions a person can experience. Second, joy produces one of the most noticeable facial expressions. Third, facial expression analysis technology has a near-perfect success rate of identifying the emotion.
WHAT THEY FOUND
After analyzing 1,460 pitch videos from a vast array of crowdfunding projects, the researchers found that there was a clear link between an entrepreneur’s displayed joy and the amount of money they raised.
The entrepreneurs who were able to pitch with the highest levels of joy at the beginning and then again at the very end of their pitches experienced the most funding success. The article states this is likely due to the fact that peak emotions, whether positive or negative, are the “most memorable,” “attention-grabbing,” and contagious. All attributes an entrepreneur wants on their side when pitching investors.
But don’t let yourself get carried away. The article also noted a clear relationship which showed that exhibiting peak joy for more than just a few seconds at the beginning or end of your presentation reverses its effect. If your joy sticks around too long it begins to seem fake, “over-confident,” and “unprofessional.”
So then, how can you use this information the next time your preparing to raise money for your project?
Investors, whether they realize it or not, put more weight on the first and last parts of your pitch. Therefore, you must get these two areas as polished as possible and learn how to infuse a few seconds of peak joy during the proper moments in each section.
Deciding to invest is equal parts analysis and emotion for most investors. Your pitch should speak to both of these areas. If your presentation is all graphs and numbers, you’ll miss the opportunity to pull them in with a strong story. But if its all-flash and no data, the investors will be entertained but unlikely to open to their wallets.
Forcing yourself to be happy during your entire pitch will likely have the opposite impact you want it to. Be honest, let your emotions fluctuate as you explain the realities of what you are trying to build. If you’re confident about one area, let it show. And if you’re uncertain about another, don’t hide that either.
I expect one of the reasons peak emotions are so influential is because they are normally surrounded by such a variety of other feelings. So that when they do show up, they get noticed. In the same way, if you can strategically communicate your joy about a project or business, while also allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable about its challenges, you’ll deliver a pitch that will soon be worth its weight in gold.
David Ramos is a writer based in Wilmington, Ohio. You can find more of his work at ramosauthor.com.