Need Start-up Funding? Find an Investment Rainmaker!
By Jean Berthold

As Entrepreneurs in need of start-up funding, we all know how difficult it is to get investors to look at our unique and exciting new technologies & products in order to get a funding deal. We believe we have the next best gadget, the most exciting new tool, or that we’re on the verge of a bold new frontier in our field of expertise. We hope that someone out there will surely fund our company – if we could just get in front of them! We get some nibbles at various conferences, we get advice on what we should or shouldn’t do next. We even receive some feedback on how to re-vise and re-focus our plans, in order for this investor or that one, to offer us a deal. But we just can’t seem to get in to see the “right investor” that can make our dream a reality.

Entrepreneurs often hear that the key to getting an investor to look at your project is a credible and knowledgeable referral. Right. But let’s make this clear: the credibility you seek for your start-up funding is credibility in the investment community – not in the technology or business market space. To augment this advisory statement, you need something MUCH more powerful than just a referral! Getting an introduction is just not good enough. The key to success in entrepreneur funding is having a credible and knowledgeable ‘Investment Rainmaker’ who is able to make those introductions AND to take the lead in your start-up funding effort FOR you.

Most of us would define a ‘Rainmaker’ as the super salesperson who brings in the big deals for our company. He or she consistently makes it past the gatekeepers. He gets to customers with decision-making authority who issue checks for multi-million dollar orders. But when it comes to start-up funding, every entrepreneur needs a special kind of rainmaker, the Investment Rainmaker. What IS an Investment Rainmaker? How do you recognize one, and how do you work with them to successfully fund your company?

A sales rainmaker has a database of high level clients, and knows their gatekeeper’s favorite kind of flowers, donuts, or the names of their children. The Investment Rainmaker, however, knows where the right investment firms take their teams to lunch on Thursday. The sales rainmaker may belong to the technology organizations where his or her clients share their experiences and present products in their field. The Investment Rainmaker travels the investment conference circuit alongside potential investors. He/she watches global M&A trends. He/she knows where the highest acquisition multiples and best returns are being realized. Your Investment Rainmaker not only gets past gatekeepers, but he or she goes straight to the point of contact of the mission, never wasting time along the way.

How do you find your own Investment Rainmaker? Who will it be?
As you move from venture conferences to investor group meetings to University-sponsored entrepreneurial activities and technology incubator mixers, to find an investor for your start-up funding, watch for these tell-tale signs of your Rainmaker-to-be. Your Investment Rainmaker is likely to be attending one of these events. He/she will almost always become your first institutional investor – your first convert from inside an institutional investment group. This could be an angel investors' organization or venture capital firm, a government grant or entrepreneur funding entity, or even a strategic partner or supplier, who could invest cash or other resources into your company. It may be the first person that has already invested, or who has participated in your company’s seed/start-up funding. Your Investment Rainmaker could be the person who is, right now, willing to hand over a check in exchange for equity in your first institutional round (Series A).

Your true Investment Rainmaker is the one who can easily contact anyone in a database of investors, or connect to other members of his or her network on LinkedIn or Google+, or walk up and speak to anyone face-to-face at a venture conference in your space. Your Rainmaker will be an investor who already has an investment portfolio and contacts within the investment community in your space. Most importantly, this investor is willing to stand up in front of you and anyone they know, and proudly and passionately say – I get it! I’m IN! Join me! This is not the strong silent type who prefers anonymity. It’s the one who gets as excited as you do, when you find a market research study from a reputable organization showing significant growth in your market sectors, and quickly moves to update his contacts (and YOUR potential investors) with this new data! This is the one who not only offers feedback, but who offers his own time to edit, draft, and/or optimize business plans, slide decks, and financial spreadsheets, in exchange for reduced contractual costs, or in exchange for equity in your company. When you have someone like this at your side, you have a true Investment Rainmaker. This is the person whose referrals you seek. This is the ONE who can make your dream of funding your start-up a reality.

Lastly, with start-up funding, it is critical that we all remind ourselves that investors purchase equity based on a number of criteria – just as a customer would buy a product based on its features and performance. However, investors’ criteria are hugely different than those of our customers! It is important to know that Entrepreneurs understand exactly what those buying criteria are – and that we market our start-up to investors using a value proposition that speaks to them. Investors purchase equity in viable, profitable BUSINESSES with solid business models, and deployable strategies with reasonable implementation plans and forecasting. They do not invest solely in technologies. Make sure that when your Rainmaker is ready to make rain with his peers in the investment community, he/she is armed with the right proof statements regarding your business potential. If he/she can’t support his/her own passion about your company’s investment ROI potential, he/she won’t be your Rainmaker for very long.

Having been an entrepreneur myself, and having converted and deployed several Investment Rainmakers over my career, I can say that one is never enough! We always need more cash than we thought we would. As your business grows and matures, subsequent equity raises will likely need new investment groups, often from a different network circle. Each time, a different, but highly effective Investment Rainmaker stood at our side, to make the credible and powerful connections that helped us raise our start-up funding. You may need to do the same. So keep your eyes open all the time, and keep your elevator speech optimized because your next Investment Rainmaker could be sitting next to you on Flight 494 to New York tonight. Best of luck to all!

About the author:

Ms. Berthold currently provides consulting expertise and interim executive management support through the Business Talent Group, the fastest growing national agency for “Super Temps” and executive consultants. As an entrepreneur, Jean raised start-up funds for four sequential rounds of Seed, Series A, B, and C series equity for Senscient, Inc from leading US-based Angel Investors organizations and global Venture Capital firms, between 2006 and 2011. Senscient was named Frost & Sullivan’s Entrepreneurial Company of the Year, 2011, for its ‘Best Practices in Growth Strategies’, led by Ms. Berthold as the company’s CMSO and COO. Prior to her entrepreneurial career, Ms. Berthold’s experience includes more than 25 years of sales, marketing, and operations management for industrial and analytical sensor & instrumentation companies, primarily focused on the Oil & Gas, Utilities, and Environmental markets. See her profile on LinkedIn at

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