The entrepreneur and investor spectrum is always abuzz with activity. On the web sphere, a lot is happening. There are websites, portals, and domains that bring these two ends together and make them work out on business plans that can be launched to bring about a change and a successful venture.
Creating a business plan is what entrepreneurs are mostly concerned with when they have to approach investors for funding. Though there are many workshops, events and mentoring sessions that tell entrepreneurs how to do it, it still take a lot of effort and time to develop an effective business plan for startups.
InvestEngine is one of such portal that helps bringing entrepreneurs and investors together. A business plan software, it helps entrepreneurs to avail right kind of tools and the way to reach to angel investors.
Q1. This seems to be a very unique concept. Tell us something about Invest Engine and how you got the idea to launch this search engine.
Thank you for this question, Vivek! Well, Invest Engine is not exactly a search engine: this is a web platform that helps entrepreneurs and investors to meet each other. Basically there are two main types of profiles at Invest Engine: entrepreneurs and investors. Entrepreneurs can describe their business ideas using the free built-in business plan software and then post their plans at Invest Engine. While investors specify the projects they are most interested in and as well get free listing online.
I first came up with the idea two years ago when I was thinking about a new start up and was myself in need for additional funding. I searched the Internet and was very disappointed with what I found: most of the sites that connect entrepreneurs and investors asked for a membership fee but where not transparent enough (I could not see any information about investors except their total number!) and still they didn’t guarantee a thing.
So I started developing the idea of a transparent web service that brings as much value to investors and entrepreneurs as only possible. I have a broad business education and experience, and I know a lot about business planning and execution, so offering free business plan software was a natural extension of initial idea. I feel that everyone will benefit from it. Entrepreneurs get access to a good piece of software for free. They can choose whether to publish their plan at Invest Engine, or download it in an accurate and professional looking PDF file and then distribute among their trusted contacts, or do both. Investors increase their productivity as they can review multiple business plans really quickly: all the business plans share the same template so it takes seconds to find necessary information. And we as site owners give away freeware in hope that people will share it and we’ll get really good explosion.
Q2. Do you feel you have the first-mover’s advantage? I mean isn’t it totally unique to have business plans ready for investors?
Of course it is not a completely new concept. Business plans have been around for decades and are recognized as the primary formal document that most investors expect from entrepreneurs. Even if investors never ask for a printed copy, they still ask the questions that any decent business plan has to answer.
There are many individual consultants and consulting companies that help entrepreneurs writing their business plans. There are as well multiple business plan software solutions (some of which will cost you up to 200 USD a copy). There are many websites that promise to connect you with investors but would ask for a membership or upfront fee first. There are also websites that allow entrepreneurs to post their quires for capital but these usually would look like classifieds (containing little information about business strategy and things like that) and that is why can hardly attract professional investors. So as you see the playground is pretty much crowded.
But so far there is nothing like Invest Engine: nobody will give away business plan software of such quality for free. Nowhere at the web can entrepreneurs present their ideas in full quality and for free. And none of the competitive web services is that transparent: you see who is listed and decide whether you want to join yourself.
Q3. Who are your targeted customers or audience? Is it limited geographically or available globally?
Invest Engine is done in English. So it primarily targets English-speaking countries (like US, Canada and UK). But there are no geographical barriers and we do welcome entrepreneurs and investors from all over the world to join Invest Engine community.
Q4. What is the business strategy that you have adopted in this venture?
Our top goal is creating a product that people will love, use and recommend to one another. I do believe that world will become a much better place with Invest Engine working to its full capacity. We made all the basic services free. And do not plan charging for anything like membership, posting your business plan or investor profile, contacting other site members.
As time comes we will introduce additional services (like featured listings for a business plan in chosen categories) at a reasonable price. These features will increase the efficiency of using Invest Engine but the core features will remain free to all users.
Q5. In the present scenario, almost everybody boasts of creating business plans and helping entrepreneurs. How do you distinguish yourself among many?
This is a great question really! As I already mentioned business plans are standard documents that have been used by several generations of entrepreneurs. There are piles of books describing how to write a business plan. All business students learn to do write them. So creating a business plan is not a unique knowledge possessed by a limited group of people.
What we did was putting a standard business plan template into a web form. So that anyone (whether he/she has an MBA degree or not) can create a professional business plan easily. Entrepreneurs do not have to puzzle over what include in every section: writing a business plan is now as simple as filling in the questionnaire!
Of course all the business plan financials are automated. Our software is really intelligent. It calculates totals in sales plan, balance sheet and profit and loss statement, delivers all basic financial ratios, break-even point etc. And it is even capable of generating cash flow statement automatically.
All the efforts result into two nicely crafted PDF documents: Executive Summary and full version of a business plan. So an entrepreneur can send them out to angel investors, present to bank loan advisors, discuss with possible business partners.
Q6. Do you feel there is a space for competition in it?
As I said, this business field is highly competitive. But things can be done better. And Invest Engine will dare setting up new standards of quality and efficiency here.
Q7. What you feel is the value of innovation in your business? As you grow, do you wish to add new features or perhaps increase the domain?
The whole Internet thing is about innovation. And we have tons of ideas of what to offer to Invest Engine users in future: the features that will enhance the user experience and make the service even juicier.
On the side of technology we’ll soon start developing an API package so that independent developers could create their own things on the base of Invest Engine.
Q8. Tell us about something that stands out: I mean an entrepreneur’s word where he/she says that Invest Engine was of real help, or an investor saying so.
Well, it has barely been a week since we reopened Invest Engine to the public use. So I’ll be happy to share success stories with your readers in the nearest future.
Q9. On personal note, how you liked the journey till now as an entrepreneur, being able to start an online concept that appears unique?
I can say that this is not a one person journey. Behind Invest Engine there is a team of really talented developers that have been working on the project and I do value their contribution.
This is indeed exciting to see how your dreams and ideas are being but into a digital interface. Amazing feeling!
Q10. Any advice for future entrepreneurs from your personal and professional experience?
Being a self-starter is not always easy. So you will need people to support you as you go for your dream. Your family, friends, co-founders and business partners are the most important components of your success as an entrepreneur.
Many would say that once you started you should launch as soon as possible. But from my experience with such a complex project as Invest Engine, I can say that it is launched when ready, not launch asap. So be bold, take your time and create a business you’ll be proud of. All the best luck!