Web appsThe art of Persuasion for fundraising entrepreneurs (or what you can learn from Aristotle and Steve Jobs)

June 22nd, 2011 by Greg Boutin
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As a budding entrepreneur, you might have the best concept in the world, but if you can’t communicate it effectively and persuade others to believe in you and in your project, you will fail regardless. On the other hand, mastering Persuasion could make you the next Steve Jobs (who hasn’t heard of his “reality distortion” field?)

That is especially true in the context of fundraising. Unless you have a history of building successful startups (and even then), potential investors, clients and collaborators will judge you based in large part on the credibility and rigor of your business case. To succeed, you will need to convince investors, among other things, that:

  • You are addressing a real market problem
  • The solution you suggest will indeed solve that problem for the user / client
  • Someone will pay for that solution
  • Revenues will greatly exceed cost, or some other metric of success will reach some significant milestones (e.g. traffic), and soon
  • You are the right person and team for the job

All of those points need to be backed with facts in order to be persuasive. The more palpable the supporting fact(s), and the more direct the logical relationship between the supporting fact(s) and your assertion, the more chances you generally have to convince the investor. But that’s not all. There are at least 3 key components in Persuasion:

  1. Reason (Logical / Critical Thinking): because it is easier to persuade someone with superior facts and logic, than without.
  2. Emotion: because it is also easier to sway to your point of view someone who feels an emotional connection to your business concept, your approach, your values, your background or some other characteristics only indirectly related to your business concept.
  3. Communication (and credibility): because how you convey your messages (and your reputation) greatly impacts the likelihood of convincing someone.

Borrowing from the Greeks (a strange idea in the current economic context… I know, but we are talking about Aristotle here and his Rhetoric essay), you could call them Logos (logic, facts), Pathos (emotional appeal), and Ethos (speaker’s credibility)… In my experience,  many of the pitches that fail to raise money have gaping holes in one or more of those areas. So, over the coming days, I’ll publish a post on each component.

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