Blog

The Prototype as an Investment Tool

Denver mobile prototype

In the world of pitching tech investors, the truth of the matter is, we now live in a ‘show-me / don’t tell me’ world.  Investors are pitched a lot of ideas, so their attention spans are far too short anymore to read through an entire pitch deck, or business plan, especially in the early stages of correspondence with an entrepreneur.

An idea’s founder will spend months, or even years, building a team, writing a pitch deck, attending pitch fests, calling and, hopefully, meeting with angels and VCs in the hopes of raising money.  With that much time trying to get in front of interested money, founders must ensure that the investors they sit down with have a very clear understanding of the opportunity.

We’ve had the privilege of working with many bright and motivated entrepreneurs since starting Epic.  In that time, we heard a lot of pitches and explanations about the digital platforms they want to create: “It’s a cross between the popular app called X and the hot new app called Y”.  “It’s just like the Uber for this other industry, and it’s NEVER been done.” “It’s a digital platform for doing X, and it will have umpteen features and functions”.   Throw in myriad bullet points around the idea, add a hockey stick pro forma projection, and you have the typical PowerPoint pitch deck that most entrepreneurs spend time explaining to prospective angel investors during a meeting.

Now imagine those same entrepreneurs showing up to an initial investor meeting with a graphical prototype of their idea on a smartphone and/or laptop.  In this scenario, the investor can ascertain several things that are key to deciding whether to take the conversation to the next level, and potentially invest some money.

There are many levels of prototype, from crude storyboard mock-ups inserted into a mobile web app, to working prototypes with clickable, designed screens pulling data from a semi-functional database.  For purposes of attracting investors, we’ve found the most relevant, cost-effective prototype is one that just centers around the graphical user experience.  This entails approximately 10-20 clickable screens, each designed with close to what the initial user experience and user interface (UX/UI) is going to look like.  It’s important that it show a first attempt at your branding look/feel … color scheme, logo and even tagline.  These branding elements will, of course, evolve and change over time, but the investor wants to see that you understand the basic importance of designing a modern-looking, focused digital brand.

Creating a graphical representation of what a user will experience using your platform may sound easy enough.  Hire a good graphic designer and have them whip up what you want your app to look like.  In reality though, getting the main screens designed for your web or mobile platform first requires an in-depth understanding of the architecture of the platform, as well as how your targeted user will best engage with the app.  Going through that UX/UI exercise, and executing it through the initial graphical prototype, is exactly what most investors need to see you can accomplish, before they ever lend money for the development and/or marketing stages.

The great thing about a graphical prototype is that it’s relatively affordable to create, as compared to the later coding and development stages.  At Epic, we can help you through the entire ideation and architecture stage, and then design and prepare the prototype which will help you raise the money for development.

There are plenty of founders who have brilliant ideas, amazing resumes, and years of experience, often in the industry for which they want to create their digital platform.  But investors know that executing their idea into a scalable, highly engaging digital form is where ‘the rubber meets the road’.  Demonstrate (graphically!) that you understand this, and you will have a much better chance they invest more of their time and money with you.