1. Dollars are the International Language
One of the mistakes I made early on was talking about the industry in the way industry experts can understand - tons per hectare, food conversion ratios, etc. While such metrics are useful when talking to folks who know the industry well, they mean little and only confuse people who don't. Start by talking about the opportunities purely from a $ perspective. How much revenue a pond generates in a cycle. What kinds of savings your tech can bring, etc. Leave the more nuanced questions for later in the conversation.
2. Address the Biases Around Aquaculture Head On
For both merited and unmerited reasons, fish farming is still seen as yucky by many, especially foodies. As many investors in SV are foodies themselves, the problem we needed to learn how to talk about well was how to address this issue head on, clearly articulate why these biases exist, validate them to some extent, and show where the industry is headed.
3. Have a Carefully Curated "Welcome Packet" to Aquaculture
While most of the world is cash-constrained, investors are time-constrained. While some investors want to do all of their own research, we have found that pointing them in the right direction with a few 3rd party resources that they already know and trust is a big help. We usually followup a first meeting with an email with the following links to help further familiarize an investor with the landscape and opportunity in aquaculture.
- UN Global Seafood report, 2016. Pages 18-31 cover aquaculture.
- AgFunder post on Aquaculture startups. Our favorite quote - "Considering how large this segment is in land-based agriculture, it is surprising how few startups are working to provide fisheries and fish farms with data analytics to improve their operations."
4. Send a Deck Before the First Meeting
Some startups like to hold onto their deck until they meet in person and can present it. Some are fine sending along a short, easily digestible "sendie" deck beforehand to give investors an idea of what the meeting will be about. We've found that because aquaculture and the problems that need to be solved within it are so far outside of what most investors are familiar with, sending that "sendie" deck ahead of time makes the first meeting less of a formal pitch and more of a conversation. That way you can spend the first meeting diving into and addressing concerns that might turn an investor away from the opportunity rather than just presenting the opportunity and then waiting to answer questions if/when a second meeting happens.
5. Find Equivalents of Successful Companies in Other Verticals
For us, these are companies in other agriculture tech verticals that have taken a similar approach to us -- build innovative, low-cost sensors; deploy them at scale to enable the power of big data and analytics; use this information to automate, de-risk, and further optimize farming operations.
Are you a similar startup to OsmoBot and getting ready to raise? Feel free to email me at email@example.com. It's a small community and a tough road to tread. The more we can support each other, the better. A rising tide raises all ships!