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“I’m looking to get a glimpse of the future” – How to approach investors with Josh Elman

Anna O'Hare
Published on March 30, 2016

The Collision Startup Series offers weekly tips for startups. Check back every week in the time leading up to Collision to get a fresh instalment. Last week it was all about creating the perfect startup deck. This week, we’re sharing advice on how to approach investors.

As a partner at Greylock Partners, Josh Elman has been approached by many a founder. He knows how startups can make a great impression on investors, so we’re thrilled that he let us pick his brain for tips.

First thing’s first: take a sigh of relief, investors are on your side. They want you to do well. Of course they do, if you do well then so do they.

They know that there are big things to come from some of the startups on the floor at an event like Collision.

“When I attend Collision, the reason I come is that I’m looking to get a glimpse of the future,” says Josh. “I know that they’re pulling together thousands of smart people, all of whom are inventing the future.”

Josh Elman attends events like Collision to get a glimpse of the future.Josh Elman attends events like Collision to get a glimpse of the future

But with so many bright entrepreneurs in the room – how do you stand out?

Josh stresses the importance of hitting the right “sweet spots” of investors. For Josh, if you have a social media startup or work in the hardware in the connected home space, you already have a lot to talk about. Other investors are passionate about VR, or fashion tech, or ecommerce, or whatever industry you can think of.

Every investor has a niche. Find the investor that happens to be interested in your startup’s industry and you’re onto a winner.

Startups rocking the floor at Collision 2015.Startups rocking the floor at Collision 2015

All it takes is a bit of research. If you’re attending Collision, download the app to browse the attendees and find investors coming along. From here you can research the investors to identify who you should approach.

On the day, the floor is your chance to make an impression. “Within a minute or two of meeting an investor you should be able to explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what it could be if you’re successful,” says Josh.

Lucrative investor/startup relationships can begin from a chance meeting on the floor. In fact, the foundations for his very first investment were put in place at Web Summit, our European event.

Josh met SmartThings, the winner of the Spark of Genius Award in 2012, at the event. A year later Josh invested in the startup. The startup ended up raising $12.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Greylock Partners.

Fast forward another year and SmartThings was acquired by Samsung for a cool $200 million.

Play your cards right, and the connections you make at Collision could pay up big time in the future. Good luck.