Participants at the National Social Security Fund Hi-Innovator programme during the pitching session. A handful  of ideas usually make it beyond the initial pitch. PHOTO/file


How to successfully pitch for equity investment

What you need to know:

A pitch tells a story about your business and a lot more about what you will do to change your business, what you are doing, the problem you are solving and the vision. 

Crafting an idea might be easier than selling it to strangers. Oftentimes, company decision-makers reject innovative ideas of budding entrepreneurs, marketing teams and sales executives despite their best efforts to demonstrate the viability and high margins of their new business plans or creative concepts.

 It turns out that this is influenced by the seller’s qualities and the idea’s inherent worth. The person accepting the offer usually assesses both the proposal and pitcher’s creativity. Moreover, judgments about the pitcher’s ability to come up with workable ideas may quickly and irrevocably override thoughts about the idea’s worth.

 Everyone wants to believe that they are evaluating start ups based only on their qualities. However, they might want to fit them into tidy little groups.

 One of the first things to understand before stepping into a pitch to complete strangers is that you will be categorised by your audience. In a number of organisations, businesses tend to lose out on funding depending on how they pitch their businesses. However, not everyone wins and not everyone is ready to re-try. 

 In October this year, 80 businesses were able to each get a cash injection of Shs75 million from the NSSF Hi-innovator programme. Those that qualify pitch to a group of judges who later determine who gets the cash.

 The 80 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) received an equity fund injection from NSSF via the Hi-innovator programme for the third round with some of those who pitched getting fortunate at their second attempt.

 For instance, Phiona Mwesigwa, an entrepreneur and founder of Darkon614 Ltd, that deals in sustainable and safe detergents and home care products.
 Founded around the Covid time in 2020, it has been in operation for almost three years.

 For Mwesiga, she has had a chance to pitch her businesses. The first time participating in a pitch was in 2019 and the second was in 2023 in March.
 She attests to what it takes to win a pitch.

“My experience with pitching is that because of my first attempt during the second cohort of the NSSF Hi-Innovator programme, I was not able to get seed funding for my business, “ Mwesigwa recounts.  

Despite her pitch not making it through for funding, the committee that reviewed my pitch deck gave Mwesigwa some feedback.

“That feedback was very critical in helping me identify those gaps that I had in my business and the things that I needed to work on, and how to better articulate my value proposition. It is because of that that her business Darkon614 Ltd was one of the eighty Small and Medium Enterprises that received an equity fund injection during the third cohort of the NSSF Hi-Innovator programme held this year,” Mwesigwa says.

She worked on the areas that are crucial during pitching as advised by judges before returning for the third cohort of the  hi- innovator programme.
“When I went back, I worked on those things. And then I came back for the third cohort where I successfully pitched to receive funding.

All it takes to win during a pitch is having a proper mindset.
 “Having the proper mindset is very key for an entrepreneur. If you want to be successful, you have to be strong and not take rejection as an end. If I turn that ‘no’ into a yes, that’s what counts. I looked at what was missing in my company, identified the gaps and we worked on them. Then I came back prepared, and I was able to go through,” she recounts.

 She notes that her experience at the Hi-Innovator has been awesome.
“I am a returner. I participated in the women’s accelerator window one and I initially got a rejection. In this other cohort, I have been successful and the platform of opportunities are going to open and are very big for us. With a seed funding of $20,000 [Shs75 million], I am going to scale up production and our products will be UNBS-certified allowing us to penetrate deeper markets,” Mwesigwa happily speaks.  

 Mwesigwa elucidates: “With the seed funding from NSSF, we shall be able to scale up our production, and buy new machinery that will help us produce and scale at a bigger and higher level.”

She urges other SMEs to be resilient.  For NSSF, the money they invest in these 60 entrepreneurs to the tune of Shs75 million each, is designed to create an industry model for equity investors in local SMEs.
Factors to consider: Confidence
 Alex Rumanyika, head of strategy NSSF, says confidence is key for a person pitching for business.

 “As an entrepreneur, you will have confidence in the funders and that same confidence is required of you to get the equity or funds that you might need to expand your business whether it is in the form of startup capital or for expansion. 

 This confidence shows that you can raise the funds and grow the finances because the funders are usually long-term investors.

 “This is a form of  aspiration for financiers to ignite an equity investor eco-system especially to support local companies and will come to fruition, time will tell,” he says.

 In addition, pitching for equity ensures that businesses do due diligence processes; a step that enables them to receive the funds to ensure efficiency and that they fully comply with the program requirements.

Richard Zulu, the lead at Outbox, says a pitch is largely telling a story of your business. He defines a pitch as a way of selling your business.

 “When pitching you must know your business. Pitching requires the entrepreneur to tell the story of their business. When telling a story about your business and a lot more about what you will do to change your business, what you are doing, the problem you are solving and the vision. The business must have a vision. This means you must do what you want to get to where you want,” Zulu says.
Identify the client
“It is important to identify the people you are pitching to if you want to win a pitch and the type of client you are serving, then you can win a pitch,” Zulu says.
 He explains that when the business is pitching, first, it must know its audience.

“When pitching to an investor, be mindful of the audience. This means you ought to identify the problem and an opportunity of fixing the problem and the solution,” he notes, adding that you must know who you are pitching to. Is it a friend, financier, investor or an audience?” Zulu notes.
He says you should share your competitive advantage which is a basis for your market.  This can be done through identifying your innovation which can be looked at as a product, experience, customer relation and how you distribute the product (market).  This means you must know who is doing what you’re doing and why you have an opportunity, by indicating your competitive advantage.

“Innovation can be in many products; it could be the experience. It could be how you handle customer relationships. How do you relate with customers? It could be the channels you use, how you distribute the product. It could be one or a combination of all those things,” Zulu says.

 He further elucidates that you need to clearly state the vision of the company when asking for funding or pitching to investors.  This includes how you want to use those funds to achieve a contribution to your audience. 
Lastly, that your team can be trustworthy for an investor within your audiences to invest in you.