Top 5 things we get asked by startups

We meet a lot of founders and in the process of finding and funding the next great startup, we’re often asked the same questions about the investment process. So, we decided to answer them – in an easy guide to making sure you have the best possible chance to get funding. Oliver Crowther, our Business Development Analyst, has the answers for you here:


1. What is the services element to the two funding routes offered by the TrueStart Collection Programme?

It is essentially the value that TrueStart provides your business. In summary, this can be split into 4 groups:

  • Business Support: In addition to the monthly meetings with the TrueStart and True Capital teams, you’ll have weekly access to our Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Richard Anson (Founder of Reevoo). These meetings will be incredibly valuable to refine your growth, pricing and business development strategy. Our two Technologists-in-Residence (including the former CTO of Shazam) provide support to your tech teams and if required, can help recruit additional talent.
  • Industry Connections: We have a regular flow of global retailers / corporates coming through our offices to whom we showcase the most relevant startups in our network, giving you the opportunity to pitch to – and exchange business cards with – senior level executives. Along with our Strategic Partners and Associate Members (including John Lewis, Morrisons, Land Securities and EY), recent visitors have included Diageo, IKEA, Heathrow, Selfridges, Dixons Carphone, The Jockey Club and Manchester United.
  • Fundraising: We have a strong network of investors spanning hedge funds, private equity houses, venture capital firms, family offices and high net worth individuals. At the end of every four-month programme, we host our Investor Evening at The Shard, inviting 300+ individuals from our investor network to watch you pitch your business, giving you a great platform to kickstart your fundraising campaign.
  • The Other Bits: As part of our Collection programme, we offer space in our Hub in Victoria, London, along with accountancy and legal support from Donald Reid Group and Olswang, respectively. Two weeks of masterclasses at the beginning of our programme provides you with access to our mentors who provide support and advice. These masterclasses cover topics from customer acquisition to recruiting. Last but not least, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs who will be facing similar challenges to you – the Hub is a great place to collaborate, learn and get to know each other!

2. What should I include in my pitch deck?

We receive, on average, 10-15 investment decks each week. We have witnessed the good, the bad and the irrelevant when it comes to the content included. Given the high number, it’s key to get your business proposition across in the clearest and most concise way possible. No one wants to go through a 50+ page pitch deck, and more to the point, if an investor can’t understand it in 50+ pages, this shows us that the founder has failed to communicate the proposition.

We believe there are 5 key elements which make a good pitch deck:

  • Concept: We want to understand the problem in the market and the solution you’re offering.
  • Market: It’s key that the founder has a good grasp of the market they are entering and how much of that market they are attempting to penetrate. For example, we know that a fashion business could be entering a $1.7trn global apparel and footwear market – what we want to know is the exact segment of that market you’re targeting.
  • Competitors: Our due diligence process includes extensive competitor analysis. However, it’s always useful to provide part of this in a deck to give us an understanding of the market, and we advise you to create a competitive analysis table / chart as a visual representation of where your business sits.
  • People: You will hear this a lot but it’s true: team and their experience is key in our decision making. Highlight your team’s education, experience and any other factors which shows us that you’re the right people to run it!
  • Valuation: How much money are you looking to raise and what is your pre-money valuation? From an investors’ perspective, we need all relevant information to make sure the investment process runs efficiently.

3. When startup businesses apply, do you prefer to see that they have a team in place, or are a single founder?

Completely depends. Given the product or service you are offering, we like to see that the team or founder has the right skills to grow and establish the business. If it’s an AI focused startup, for example, has the founder had previous experience in this area, be that through a large corporate or studied the subject at University?

We’re a little cautious of sole founders as it’s very difficult to manage all parts of the business single-handedly e.g. fundraising alone can be a challenging and time-consuming task, so trying to efficiently manage your business in parallel can be tricky. Having said that, we come across so many entrepreneurs and can introduce you to talented individuals who have the experience and background to add value to your business.

4. Retail and consumer is fairly broad, can you be more specific about the types of startups you like to invest in?

We invest in any business that has a retail or consumer focus. 70% of our portfolio currently consists of tech startups and 30% product / service. As an example of the breadth of our portfolio, we have invested in everything from Loogun, which is revolutionising the toilet brush, to Presence Orb, a Wi-Fi-analytics business which tracks people and their movements around a store.

Whether you’re a B2C or B2B business, a consumer product or an analytics business, through our Strategic Partnership programme and broader retail network, we’ll get you in front of the people who can get you that listing or pilot.

5. When you are determining if you are going to invest, what boxes must be checked off?

Entrepreneurs come in all forms: as a firm, we believe that they must have an excellent product, prototype or idea for the product – and be people who can network, lead, are well liked and can make the best of every situation. We certainly place a lot of emphasise on team and we love to see that the entrepreneur is passionate and excited about what they are building.

The team in general must be able to roll with the punches – and have open minds when it comes to pivoting. If founders are persistent on taking the business in one direction, in our minds they may not be open to change. Lastly, we believe that the traits an entrepreneur should possess to be successful must include being “nice” – it goes a long way as you need to become a great leader, set a great example and be able to talk to people.

Applications to our Summer Collection programme are still open. For more information, read this or apply here.