Perfect your pitch: my top tips on securing startup investment in the UAE

14/08/2023 by Ali Sajwani

According to data analysts Magnitt, the UAE is the leading country for venture capital financing in the MENA region, attracting more than US$105m over 30 deals in the first half of 2023.

But what of smaller deals? And how might you get your startup idea funded? I often discuss startups here, but I thought it might be useful to cover some top tips to help secure funding for your fantastic business idea.

Firstly, any serious investor will require a solid, feasible and realistic business plan.

It should outline your startup vision, mission, target market, potential revenue streams and growth strategy. This will demonstrate your commitment and understanding of your business.

In giving investors a complete overview of your business and its potential, you can increase the likelihood of securing the funding and support needed to turn your vision into a successful reality.

And remember, a well-prepared business plan not only demonstrates your commitment and understanding of your business, its sector and market potential, but also serves as a roadmap for guiding your startup towards its goals and objectives.

Before thinking about your pitch, identify venture capital firms, angel investors and incubators and/or accelerators that align with your industry or startup’s focus.

Research their investment criteria, portfolio companies, and track record to ensure they are a good fit for you. Going into your pitch knowing at least a little about who you are pitching to is not only sensible, but will boost your confidence too.

If you throw in a few points knowing these are areas the investors know or like, you’ll score points.

Such carefully considered investor targeting helps you to approach the right investors, saving time and effort. By focusing efforts on a select group of investors already aligned with your focus, you save time and effort otherwise spent on approaching investors who may not have a genuine interest in, or understanding of, your business.

You will also gain access to industry expertise, validate your business and begin to build meaningful long-term relationships. By targeting the right investors, you increase your chances of securing the funding and support needed to push your startup to success.

Your pitch might be time limited. Imagine you are trying to shout across the road to explain your business idea to someone. This simple exercise helps you condense your opening pitch to make it understandable, and then it’s time to go into detail.

Be prepared for a great deal of detail – and ensure you have printed copies of your pitch with diagrams, graphs and charts to leave with the investors.

We know investors receive lots of pitches — so keep yours short, compelling, clear and interesting. Be sure to communicate your value proposition, market opportunity and the problem(s) your startup solves. Use compelling visuals and storytelling to engage investors and make your pitch memorable.

They will want to see evidence of progress and potential for growth. So highlight your startup’s achievements – revenue, partnerships, user metrics and product milestones all help. Emphasise how your business is scalable and has the potential for significant returns on investment. Be transparent about challenges and demonstrate planned strategies to overcome them.

By attending as many industry conferences, startup events and networking sessions as you can find, you will be able to better gauge the investment ‘temperature’ in the UAE, and understand more about how local businesses operate. The chance to engage with potential investors, entrepreneurs and industry experts will help you build relationships – and increase your visibility within the startup ecosystem.

Don’t forget to take advantage of incubators and accelerators, such as Flat6Labs, Hub71, In5, and TURN8. These provide mentorship, resources, and access to potential investors. Joining such programs can increase your startup’s credibility and attract investment opportunities. You’ll get the opportunity to take part in pitching workshops and competitions.

As well as a host of privately-run incubators and accelerators, the government is here to help with a variety of initiatives to support startups and innovation. Take the time to explore programs like Dubai Future Foundation, Dubai Startup Hub, or Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) that offer funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

Be sure to prepare a concise, compelling pitch deck, highlighting your startup’s unique value proposition, market potential, team and financial projections. Tailor your pitch to align with the preferences and expectations of local investors.

Remember that securing startup investment is a competitive process, and it may take time and persistence. Be prepared for potential rejections and learn from each experience to improve your pitch and approach.

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