Going to a Conference? 3 Tips for Traveling While Fundraising

29 Oct

By Shaoyu Chang, MD, MPH,  Senior Research Analyst, LSN

Shaoyu 10*10

Travel is an essential business expense for early stage companies. One conference plus a 1-2 week road trip per quarter can cost anywhere from $22,000 to $35,000 per year. It’s important to get the most out of your time on the road.

Experienced scientists are used to attending academic conferences. They do their research, prepare a poster or talk, speak and answer questions from the audience, take a good rest in the hotel, and head home. Some fundraising scientist-entrepreneurs fly out with the same mentality; as a result, they are missing out on big opportunities to grow their business.

Just this month, an LSN client attended an event in the Midwest where, based solely on online research, it appeared that the investors in attendance were generally looking for later stage opportunities. However, after reaching out and shaking hands in person, he found they are currently open to opportunities at an earlier stage than was historically the case, and were impressed with his company’s investment pitch.  The entrepreneur now has ongoing conversations with several of these investors. This is just one example of how meeting in person can create more opportunities than simply sending an email or making a call.

This article provides a few tips on planning business trips and making them productive:

  1. Research the best conferences

There are a plethora of investor conferences all over the globe, focused on healthcare, hi-tech, philanthropy and more. Entrepreneurs should identify the best conferences for their technology type and stage of development, where they are likely to meet the most relevant partners.

Be wary of conferences that make large promises regarding investor attendance but do not release the names of the firms that will be in attendance. Oftentimes these groups will lump investment banks and even service providers under the investor category to inflate their numbers.  Do your research on current and past attendees to really get a grasp on who will be going. Contact companies that have attended in previous years to hear their experience; an unbiased option can be very telling of an event’s value.

  1. Use outreach tactics to schedule strong strategic meetings

Even when there are no conferences taking place, if you are actively fundraising you will be in dialogue with potential investors from all over the world. If you’re visiting an investor far from home, look at other potential investors in the area and hit them up with a cold call or email.  In addition to progressing the conversation with the investor you’re visiting, you can uncover and meet with investors who would not have been available to meet had you stayed at home.

A quick outreach often works wonders: “Hello, I wanted to ask if it would be possible to set up a meeting in two weeks as my team and I are going to be in town. We are very flexible and can meet any time, including breakfast and dinner.” The sentence “we just happen to be in town and close by” fills in any scheduling holes. LSN has found that with a sense of urgency, investors are more likely to get back to you.  Use this to your advantage.

  1. Line up additional meetings

Flying to a city to attend only a single event is a waste of time and potential opportunities, and in the world of fundraising where one meeting can make or break a campaign, no opportunity should go to waste.  Think of a region like a big mall. Always identify the prize accounts in the area, such as major industry players, medical centers, and investors that are a good fit. Often there are secondary accounts nearby. When attending a conference, don’t limit yourself to only the groups attending the event but also reach out to major corporations or medical centers.

Don’t be afraid to cast an even wider net than usual in determining who is a likely fit for your opportunity. Be resourceful. Ask someone who understands your product, “now that I am flying to X city, who else should I go after in this region?” It’s amazing how much intelligence you can gather this way. A successful entrepreneur can work from one high-profile meeting to a week of meetings.

An outbound campaign is essential to keep your business alive and growing. This article highlighted the importance of traveling and hopefully helps you plan for your next business trip.  Feel free to check out our blog for tips on other aspects of outbound fundraising that will help you land those meetings: how to build a successful pitch deck, and how to write a compelling partnering message.

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