Silicon Valley from above
Flickr User Patrick Nouhailler
While he's taking off for the Labor Day holiday, Colin Brown from Slated Editorial Director has shared with Indiewire an old -- but valuable -- post from the Slated Filmonomics blog: it's a list of seven tips for filmmakers to keep in mind as they try to look for funding from investors, ripped from Silicon Valley's own tips for investors.
In The Wall Street Journal, Slated was described as “Soho House for film financing, due to the requirement that you must be invited to be a member.” Another point of reference could just as easily have been AngelList. For those unfamiliar with this game-changing website, AngelList is a powerful funding vehicle that connects startups with a who’s who of early stage venture capitalists, high-net-worth individuals and angel investors. Simply put: AngelList is to Silicon Valley what Slated is to the film industry.
The parallels are close enough that AngelList serves as an instructional laboratory for anyone wanting to know how best to take advantage of their presence on crowdfunding platforms. It helps answer the first question asked by many newly enlisted industry executives still getting their heads around social leverage as a film financing tool, namely: ‘what do we do now?’
AngelList is a transformation-in-the-making that points the way forward for other long cloistered industries including entertainment. While the basic principles for investing in startups remains pretty much the same, the tactics have been evolving fast. You could say the same about film investing. Every few months, in fact, AngelList inspires a revised set of behavioral tips and conduct codes for successful fundraising, smarter investing and more effective profile-building in that particular sandbox. Here are links to five such lists:
9 Tips for Raising Startup Funds on AngelList
Startups: How to Hustle with AngelList in 10 Steps
Raising Money On AngelList: 21 Tips From Two Active Angels
AngelList’s Big Four Benefits for Investors
Hacking AngelList: 7 Tips for Raising Startup Capital
All these articles are worth reading for their own sake, if only to get a keener sense of how Silicon Valley thinks about the business of backing disruptive ideas. As you read, keep in mind too that today’s technology angels are likely to be tomorrow’s film investors – and that these are the investment rules and social metrics that they’ll choose to play by.
But for those in film who like to cut to the chase, I have synthesized these fifty-some observations and distilled them into seven core pointers that are of more immediate relevance to equity crowdfunding platforms such as Slated. In so many ways these tips are simply adaptations of what already works in the elaborate real world of film networking – only they have the potential to work much faster:
BUILD YOUR DREAM TEAM: whether it’s a startup or a film project, seed investors will look for same basic elements – a strong team, meaningful milestones and a differentiated product in a clearly identified market. Success hinges on “social proof.” Surround yourself with a proven filmmaking team and, where possible, attracting an influential champion as anchor investor or company affiliation. Make sure that all your big-name supporters take the trouble to fill out their online profiles and then endorse you to their own followers. It sends out a strong credibility signal.
BE ROCK SOLID FROM THE START: because first impressions count, it pays to spend time and energy getting it right. Putting in a half-baked effort has been described as a cardinal sin; film investors might say similarly about potential projects. Arrive as fully packaged as possible with verified talent, detailed financials and company affiliations, and with as much collateral material as you can muster. A website with a good URL, a killer video, a twitter presence, social media mentions and any metrics demonstrating film comparables, global book sales, YouTube hits, fan-base followings etc. can only help in conveying early traction and a pre-disposed audience. Doing this work upfront will make your profile pop.
RESEARCH AND RIFLE TARGET:
Advanced filters on Slated make it easy to find both accredited investors
and all the films that have reached their financial targets.
Before listing on the site, begin to reach out to those on Slated you already know so that your project is instantly embraced. Once on Slated, resist the scattergun approach. Spend time to target your ideal short-list of suitable investors and pinpoint strategic partners based on required elements besides just money. Knowing what you need is seen as a positive; but approaching investors who clearly wouldn’t invest in your kind of project is a telltale sign of a rookie.
KEEP YOUR PROFILE ACTIVE AND GET PERSONAL: Slated is a momentum-driven platform where hot projects get hotter. You need to generate buzz through a constant communal hum. Personalized Introductions help enormously. Because syndicating funding rounds is a big part of what investors do, investor intros get opened far more than a generic profile. In addition, get your most influential supporters to promote you using the Track and Share buttons. Feed them sound bites if necessary – anything to keep your profile from growing stale through inactivity. "Game" the system by making constant updates to your profile, as such changes will show up in the weekly news feeds that get disseminated to members. While it certainly pays to keep Slated abreast of your entire production history at frequent and regular intervals, it is not in your long-term interest to overplay this card. In ensuring visibility for your project, make sure you are adding value to the group, not detracting from it.
BE RESPONSIVE AND READY TO PITCH: fast responses have been shown to increase your chances of closing a deal. Fortunately, you have all the tools you need these days to pounce quickly. You can communicate with them visually via Skype, Gmail video chat, Go2meeting and so on, for which you should have your pitch documents always ready to hand. And services like Tout will allow you create what seems like a personalized email the moment an investor asks for that intro. The key is to follow up within hours. Some Silicon Valley investors believe there is a strong correlation between those that respond to late night emails and their entrepreneurial commitment.
SPUR INVESTORS INTO ACTION: getting an investor to actually commit on the dotted line is a challenge facing all those in search of financing. While many other factors come into play, nothing quite beats fear and greed as investment catalysts. Investors afraid of missing out on an opportunity that is simply too good to pass up will tend to be the most motivated. Setting an artificial funding deadline only works if the prospective investor knows that the deal has a real chance of being taken off the table beyond that date. A more affective deadline might be a looming production date, an irreplaceable actor’s tight schedule, or a pre-emptive deal offer ahead of an industry event such as a film market. Best of all is the prospect of a bidding war that will lead to a skyrocketing valuation unless the investor jumps in now.
TRACTION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME: while it is easy to obsess entirely on fundraising, it is worth keeping in mind that Slated offers other commercial pay-offs beyond just the quick hustle. Getting a great sales agent attached is worth its weight in distribution gold. So too is the sustained industry awareness that can be built around your project if you take the time to make measurable, meaningful progress with your Slated film. If nothing else, you will have a giant head start over other films of comparable quality when your project starts being shopped around at film markets. The perceived value of your project will rise commensurately. Given the sterling pedigree of Slated’s network of investors and industry players, there is surely no more cost-effective way of standing out from the noisy, global crowd.
And, finally, be aware that you are at the forefront of transformational change. As such, the rules of engagement will be in an inevitable state of flux, particularly in these early learning days.