The Secrets to Fund Your Startup with Super Connector Judy Robinett

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Judy Robinett has been profiled in Fast Company, Forbes, Vogue, CNN and Bloomberg Businessweek as a sterling example of the new breed of “super connectors” who use their experience and networks to accelerate growth and enhance profitability. Known as “the woman with the titanium Rolodex,” for more than 30 years, she has helped entrepreneurs find needed capital by connecting them with venture capitalists, angel investors, and other sources of funding.
Judy has served as the CEO of both public and private companies and in management positions at Fortune 500 companies, as well as on the advisory boards of Illuminate Ventures, Pereg Ventures, Springboard Enterprises, and Pipeline Angels accelerators. She has given hundreds of speeches worldwide for audiences at NASA, TEDx, MIT, AT&T, and Walmart and is the author of the 2019 bestselling release, Crack the Funding Code: How Investors Think and What They Need to Hear to Fund Your Startup.

Victor Ahipene: Speaking nation, what’s happening? Welcome to another episode of Public Speaking Secrets. I’m your host Victor Ahipene, and you are in for a treat today. I’ve been hunting around for a while to get somebody who would, you know, we’re always looking at the different avenues and the different ways that you can utilize and benefit from public speaking. And I’ve thought Judy Robinett who is like her by her profile is ridiculous in a super good way. She’s been in fast company, Forbes, uh, yet all of the major media outlets. She is a super connector and she has been CEO of public and private companies as well as spoken at some little places you might’ve heard of like NASA, MIT, IT&T, Walmart. And there’s also a fellow Tedx speaker. She’s a best selling author, but more importantly, she is, as I said, a super connector who helps people in the space of venture capital pitching and finding investors, which I know for some of you out there is, and for people that I’ve worked with as a problem, trying to get through the minefield of how to get in front of the people and then making sure that they say, or you say the right things to those people. So with all of that big mouthful being said, Judy, welcome to the show.

Judy Robinett: Thank you. I’m delighted to be here.

Victor Ahipene: I want to fast forward. You’ve obviously had a ton of success and the pass your, your kind of, I use CV and bio speak for herself with winded, the venture capital world, uh, come into play for you or that space come into it for you.

Judy Robinett: You know, I did my first startup when I was about 38. It was a franchise restaurant that almost turned into a disaster. Um, I went to a bankruptcy attorney just terrified and he said, you’re not close. And I said, but I’m broke. And he said, you know, they can break you but they can’t eat you. And I turned that around and sold it. And then I was asked to help this small public company that had been de listed and they were litigation and broke. Uh, and I became the CEO. I thought, what the heck, it sounds like a fun challenge. And it was, um, and so I learned how to raise money and uh, then people came to me and said, Jeez, I need help raising money. Um, and I became an investor for a while and was really saddened how many people I meet around the world that have really great ideas, couldn’t figure out how to find an investor. Um, and so after being an investor and helping lots of entrepreneurs, you know, decided to do the book, but you know, kind of came about it accidentally. But after raising money for a really a distressed company figured out I could help other people.

Victor Ahipene: Cool. I mean, it’s, I think it’s, it’s something that is super powerful. I know one of my students I helped and he was again going down the same sort of the pathway. How do I get in front of these investors? Um, you know, some things happened by a stroke of luck when you’re putting yourself out there, but I’m sure that there’s a strategic way that people can increase their opportunity to, to get their ideas out there. If we were to start there, what are some of the key things that say people that you’ve worked with or you or helps get in front of different investors, what are the key steps that they can do to start at least getting pitching?

Judy Robinett: Well, you know, one of the first things I do is have them Google the local angel investors are in there in their area. In the US we have 300 angel groups and you have many angel groups in Australia. And these people love to coach, loved to work with entrepreneurs. And so, you know, what I usually do is have people attend a local angel group or find a pitch event or an incubator that helps startups or go to your college or university. And find some people and talk to them about what you’re doing. I teach people my two golden questions. You say, what other ideas do you have for me and who else do you know I should talk to? And this usually gets them in front of some initial investors, um, and helps them understand that they need to focus on the investor rather than how, how great their cool ideas. And that’s really how you position yourself to be a great startup is, you know, you’re clear on your exit strategy because darn it, those investors want their money back. And that package is so important. Like you mentioned getting the pitch deck and, and your financial projections

Victor Ahipene: It’s, it’s interesting you say that. Can I speak to, you may or may not get an automated email saying thanks for being on the show tomorrow and one of the questions out there. And then I think this is a good learning lesson because I mean, I love networking. I love making sure that I, oh, I love working towards networking as efficiently as I possibly can for a win win situation. And one of the questions in the email tomorrow is, hey, by any chance, do you know anyone else awesome. Like yourself who would be a great fit for the show? If so, can they have an introduction? If you don’t like know I had a previous show and this isn’t a me, me, me thing, their head, I did over 200 episodes once I was about 50 or 60 and I didn’t have to go out and pitch to people to come onto the show. I just had this continual flow of people coming in and then they’d refer. Yeah. A few people and it would go on from that. So take those two questions regardless of if you’re in the startup world. Uh, but if you are, they are, um, brilliant questions.

Judy Robinett: and victor, I will, I will send you people. And what it allows is, you know, people like me to kind of, you know, tweak my head and go, who can I send to Victor out of the 600 to a thousand people and most of us know, and, and you know, having been shy and bullied, it took me a long time to figure it out. Your problem is somebody else’s solution. So, you know, I do know some good people love to be on the show and those questions work everywhere. They weren’t not a wholly trying to find investors, but in your professional life, um, you know, abs and the number one indicator of you being successful in your career is your ability to be an open networker.

Victor Ahipene: Hmm. And I, I think this, the other thing of it’s a win win situation. You look awesome to your friend for thinking of them and referring them. And Yeah, I end you not awesome to me for referring somebody to me. So I was like, yeah, it’s this and then I get a guest. But, um, on the, on the second note to, to dive into it a little bit more. I mean I love shark tank. We’ve got shark tank Australia over here and my favorite of Vista, he’s actually, he owns an incubator like just around the corner from where I live. Um, and his name’s Steve Baxter, but he is a, he made a lot in the tech space, uh, late nineties, early two thousands maybe even earlier than that. And Yeah, you see people on the show and he’s, there’s a clear cut 12 seconds into us purchase. Yeah, that’s a no for me. I’m out. Like he’s very, very crazy cat. You don’t know your numbers, you don’t know this or hey, this is retail space, this is, but he doesn’t take them along for a ride. And I realized shark tank is a artificial arena yo were with is. Yeah. It’s not necessarily the real pitching world, but yeah, if you were in front of him on any other day, not whether the camera’s on and you had a retail idea that wasn’t in the tech space, you are wasting everybody’s time. Your own end has by not knowing the right investors to be in front of. So I think that’s, yeah, it’s a, it’s a super important side of things with the actual pitching. So putting together a pitch day, cause I, like I say, people see Shark tank. I’ve had friends who have been on it and been successful or not successful. Um, yeah we see at 92nd pitch. Yeah. Once it’s trimmed and edited. And I know I’ve talked to them and it’s a lot longer. If for investors out there where people, sorry, looking for investment, uh, what does a pitch deck kind of look like and entail and uh, you know, what are the key things that you’d say people should be looking for in the time duration they should be kind of looking for?

Judy Robinett: Well, for Angel groups is typically 10 minutes and those are professional kind of angel groups and pitch events often are, are shorter like you said, kind of like speed dating. Uh, but it’s important. The number one thing that they focus on is the team because they’re investing in you, the founder and the team. They want to know that you can execute. The second thing is, you know, we call it product and market fit. Or as investors say, well the dog eat the dog food. And then third is probably what is your go to market strategy? How are you going to scale this into a successful business? There needs to be something about the competition, something about your, your marketing. But I tell people, you know, really set yourself apart by being seen as a high potential startup, being clear on your exit, having comparables, and then mitigating risk as viewed by the investors. And you can do that by having some powerful guys or gals on your advisory board that will lend credibility to you. And you know, the three things I call them, the three Cs, the angels in particular want to know you’re coachable. Uh, are you going to listen to me? This is a, you know, I’m going to fund you. Forget you kind of a deal. The second one is you’ve, you have to have some character. Usually the first time you come across as arrogant or a know it all, you’re dead, you’re toast. Um, or you know, you exaggerate or you know, if I just get one half of 1% of the Chinese market that’s coming, you’ll be a worth $1 billion next year. Well, uh, you know, that shows me you’re thinking isn’t, isn’t good. And the last C is confidence. And you have to have a level of confidence and passion because things will get hard. You’ll have to pivot. 70% of startups will hit the wall need to pivot. And it’s, you know, happened with everything from the drug Viagra, which was never intended. It was, you know, it was a serious pivot, a postit notes. The same thing happened to, and so they want to know that you’re coachable and you can be taught.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. And I think that’s, that’s a, a big, a big change of mindset with a lot of people going in. They think that leading with the idea. Yeah. And I like, yeah, if I was an investor sitting on the other side, in some ways I can see someone so hooked and connected to the idea. Then you go, well, if that idea doesn’t hit the market, can you pivot? Like you, I’ve love, listen to tons of podcasts. I listened to one about twitch, twitch TV, which is the live streaming gaming. Um, a lot of people use it and it’s huge. But it started from like Justin TV where it was a guy wearing cameras around all day on slow internet connections to something else. There’s something else that something else, and then it just happened. It’s too, we’ll started using it for gaming streaming and then they’ll cough. And that was like a 10 year period. And yeah, I think, yeah, if I, again, I’m not an investor, I’d love to be one day, but it’s one of those things that I’m going, okay, do you know your market? Like can you show me that you’ve got, you understand what your market, what problem you’re solving for your market? Do the numbers match up and can you, you know, instead of people going, yeah, it’s going to cost $5 a unit, you know, can you say it’s going to cost, you know, when you said the confidence it’s going to cost $5 a unit in the manufacturers we’ve talked to, as we get economies of scale, it’s going to look at, you know, $2 50 to $2 which will then make us profitable. You Upfront. It’s, we’re going to run neutral for the first nine months. Like to me that like, oh, okay, somebody knows the numbers. Exactly. Yeah. And then you go, yeah. And then we aim to build blah, blah blah. And you know, we’ve looked at, I dunno, sanitarium or whatever and they’ve had a very similar product and then they sold it off to some other place. And Yeah. That’s what our exit strategy is going to look like.

Judy Robinett: Well, and you mentioned twitch. So the, the Co founder of twitch is a Y Combinator, which is arguably the best incubator in the world or one of, and uh, I just watched a little podcast he did and he said, forget about great ideas, carry around a notebook and look at problems to solve. And his was, you know, we need a live reality TV show. And that’s what it started with. And you talked about how important it is to, like you said, make sure you listen to that customer and pivot. You know, it’s like who’s going to open their wallet for you?

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. And it’s, I mean, it’s a, it’s a awesome insight from the team. Let’s say I walk into you, I’ve given you a 10 minute oh evenly. They start a a little bit earlier leading up to it. Let’s say I’ve organized my 10 minute pitch or presentation. I’ve done my research, I’ve got the, you know, the three C’s somewhat covered and what’s going to happen leading up to it? Or is it just, here’s a date, I’m going to turn up walking.

Judy Robinett: Yeah. Well if you’ve applied and they’ve accepted to hear your pitch, yeah. But if I suggest people before they do that, they find a successful entrepreneur and attorney who specializes in startups and get three or four people to listen to you. So you practice. So they can say, hey, here’s a question I have so you don’t get blindsided and you’re standing like a deer in headlights. And most entrepreneurs, most investors actually are happy to sit down. There’s a a guy close to me in Salt Lake City, Utah that did a billion dollar exit. And if you buy him lunch, he’ll spend two hours with you, uh, you know, kind of planning and plotting as, as I call it. And so if you get that ahead of time, then you’re going to be ready for, uh, you, you know, the, the real on stage kind of event, which is helpful. It will reduce your anxiety. And also, it’s nice if you could get warm referrals, origin, VC and in New York, uh, how to blog this month. And they talked about every single deal that they’d invested in came from a referral. So it’s important to start building those relationships first. Get that story out there before you show up to pitch.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. Nice. And then I’ve come to you, I’ve pitched this 10 minute presentation immediately after. What generally happens?

Judy Robinett: Well usually go outside and there’s usually about three other people that pitch. And then at the end of the meeting the angels get together and talk and say, you know, raise of hands, how many people are or interested in Victor’s company, you know, and half the hands go up and then they notify you that they’re interested in moving forward. They will usually have a second meeting where they’ll go through a much more depth on the financials and start due diligence, which is, you know, pretty seriously looking at the bios of your team. Some Angel groups even do background checks on you, uh, but they’re going to talk to industry experts, make sure that you’re, you know, one of the most important things is the size of your market that determines what the return is back to the investors. And so they’ll start the due diligence process and then hopefully that will lead to an offer to you to a term sheet. And if you get one of those, I tell you to go out a shop it and you can use that as the lead investor because most angel groups can only do about 250,000. Um, so that you’re golden if you’ve got your first term sheet.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. Okay. And then you can go, I was A series a and then your series B or so the first one, it’s like friends or family series a taught the friends or family to get yourself off the ground and they can get a lead investor and then a series A in a series B and then make billions have an exit and then pay it forward. It’s pretty, it’s pretty, it’s pretty much the ecosystem, isn’t it? It’s just the units.

Judy Robinett: Somebody asked me the other day, they said, well what if you, you know, you don’t want to do an excellent, you just have a lifestyle company and you said, I got people that say that to me all the time. And I said, you know, that’s great, they can do that, but let them know that the average exit 65 million.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. And I mean that’s the big thing that it’s realistically it’s try and grow it yourself and uh, the enshrine listed on the stock market or get bought out or get angel investors and get bought out or get it listed on the stock market. So if you’ve got an idea and you want to leverage, it’s not necessarily the only way, but it’s a hell of a good way to, I think you don’t have to go to the bank because in stage you’re getting money plus knowledge, expertise, resources, connections.

Judy Robinett: and yeah, and you really want that expertise and you know, you want smart money. And I talk about, you know, there’s bad money. You need to do due diligence on the investors and make sure this isn’t like a litigious guy who’s going to try to steal your company. And that’s not common, but it happens. And so you do need to do your due diligence, you know, on these investors and make sure they’re, uh, you know, they’re good people. But the most important thing about angels does, they’ve usually been there and done it and they want to coach. I mean, they want to help you get to a good exit because it benefits win win for both of you.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. And what are the biggest mistakes you see people pitching to investors make?

Judy Robinett: Yeah, so you know, I often see people that, uh, have not gone out and done their homework and they say silly things like one half of 1% of the Chinese market. You know, you need to build your sales forecast from the bottom up. I’ve had people say, well, we’ve got no competition. Well, if you have no competition, there’s no market. Um, and uh, just not having any understanding roller their numbers, you know, they’ll forecast some big sales number by next year. You know, we’re going to be at 5 million. And I look at their, uh, their financials and, and there’s, there’s no salespeople to be paid. It’s like, how, how are you going to do that when you, you don’t have this and not being able to talk about what it, what is the cost to acquire a customer? How much is it going to really cost you to get there? Um, and you know, just not doing your homework and a lot of that is alleviated by going, you can go to uh, an incubator, a lot of places are happy to help you for free. Make sure you get the pitch deck ride and they’ve, they’ve brought up solid questions and a serious investor is going to ask you.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah, because I mean, I think that a couple of people that I’ve helped with, and I’m no expert in it, but the whole, I look at it as a sales presentation, which is how many objections can you overcome in your five to 10 minutes then not being going to ask you. Because to me, if I’m sitting on the other end and you’ve covered, oh, okay. That’s what the manufacturing costs, that, that’s what the cost of acquisition is. That’s what my team’s going to cover. I’ve got a marketing person. I’ve got a CFO in place, I’ve got a board, a board of advisors who are in place. All of those things are covered so that I’ve got less reason to say no and more reason to say yes at the end of it. I think it does.

Judy Robinett: Absolutely. You know, you want to make it easy for them to say yes. We call it having no hair on the deal. So you know, if you’ve gotten money from friends and family, you better have it documented. Yep. Very important. Where you have your company incorporated, uh, those things make it easy for the investor to say yes. Yeah,

Victor Ahipene: yeah. You give them headaches and I like, look, I, I’m, I’m not, yeah, they’re not grounded, grinding it out for their next, next paycheck anymore. So don’t give them any more headaches.

Judy Robinett: Yeah. You don’t have to have all, all of the answers Vitor. I mean, people can bring up objections and you can say, you know, that’s a great point. And let me get back to you on that. And, and being gold. That shows you’re coachable.

Victor Ahipene: Yeah. It’s a, it’s an awesome point actually because yeah, it’s not a fake it till you make it when you’re in there because 100% of the time, apart from probably knowing the market, hopefully they’re going to know more about the business and the marketing and the, yeah, the logistics and the headaches that you’re going to face in the feature. So you don’t need a lie. The only thing you may have as more knowledge about the technology or the actual whatever that you’ve got so it don’t try and fake it. Um, there is, I think a huge, and I don’t want to kind of saturate everybody, but I hope for everybody out there who’s he ever even thought about pitching to investors for their business or for growing their business, uh, or for a startup or that in the process of it that I hope and I have no doubt that this will help them and give some, give them some insights. You’ve got an awesome, that new book, a bestselling book. I will link in it but I’d love it if you could tell people little bit about it before we hit off.

Judy Robinett: Yeah, so I wrote the book Victor, because I couldn’t stand. I go around the world and meet great people who couldn’t figure out how to get funded and having been an investor, you know it’s, it’s tricky. It’s, it’s almost a mystical and I wanted to demystify the process to make it really, really simple to help people be successful. So it’s written in real world language. It’s got stories from VCs and Angels. Family offices are now seeing more deals than the VCs. And so I go through that funding ecosystem who could be the right investor for you? Lots of resources including due diligence lists and term sheets and, and all of that.

Victor Ahipene: Awesome. We’ll link all of [email protected] it’s called Crack the Funding code, How Investors Think and What They Need to Hear to Fund Your Startup. So Judy, I just want to thank you so much. If people want to find out more about you or get in touch, we can they go, what can they do?

Judy Robinett: Yeah, I’m on Linkedin. Judy Robinett, no e on the end. You can email me, Judy, @judy and I’m on Twitter, Instagram, so reach out. I’m happy to help.

Victor Ahipene: Awesome. Well, I will again link all of that @ publicspeaking where you can get this and all your previous, all the previous episodes. I thank you so much. And if I, uh, if I even jumped into the startup world, I know who I will be talking to.

Judy Robinett: Thank you.