Navigating startup funding and investment without a degree

Finding funding for a startup is challenging for anyone. You may worry a lack of degree could hold you back. Fortunately, many have gone before to prove you can confidently handle finances without a master’s in business administration and build a thriving company. Here’s what you need to know and focus on to find success.

1. Showcase Your Skills

A degree shows you have book learning, but actual skills that translate into work ethic may be worth more to some investors. Highlight the projects you’ve worked on that were particularly successful. List the skills learned from each job, even soft skills like time management.

2. Make a Solid Business Plan

A report titled "Private Equity and Startup Financing" through Savonia University of Applied Sciences discussed the complexity of startup funding for research and product development. The researchers say it can be challenging to get investors on board without perfecting negotiation techniques and showcasing unique company characteristics.

One way to attract people wanting to give you seed money is to have a solid business plan that lays out where you’ll go. While you may have to deviate over time, you’ll show investors you have a clear vision.

3. Create a Portfolio

You may not have a degree, but you have tons of experience in your field. Create a portfolio showing similar work you’ve done to show how you stand out from the competition. Real-world experience is sometimes worth more than book learning. Show potential investors and loan officers what you’re capable of doing.

Your portfolio can be physical or digital. An online portfolio allows you to change the structure as you gain additional experience. Offer before and after photos and an in-depth commentary about each skill you learned.

4. Build Your Confidence and Prove Your Worth

A university education isn’t everything – in fact, you can sometimes gain more useful knowledge and skill through varied life experiences versus in a school setting. Plus, many schools struggle to provide the resources and support that you’ve likely already built for yourself, as most state legislatures are putting even less funding into higher education in recent years than during the last economic downturn.

When you’re confident in your own value, you can more effectively prove your worth to investors – even without the degree. Find a value proposition to add into your branding – how did you gain college-level knowledge through your past work and independent study?

Once you prove your worth, people are more likely to invest in your company. You must show them you know as much or more than someone fresh out of a university.

5. Network With Others

Securing funding can result from knowing the right people and getting your idea in front of them. Attend local Chamber of Commerce events and talk to everyone you know about your startup. Ask if they know people who might be interested in investing.

Successful business owners may know where you can secure funding to get up and running, so talk to them about how they came up with the money to get their company going.

6. Find Alternative Funding

Finding alternative funding can depend on market competition and what other investors are doing. When a startup is up against cash-rich rival companies, venture capitalists tend to place fewer conditions on their funding. They may offer larger financing rounds but fewer of them.

If your startup has little competition, you may have more rules around money from investors. You can also look into options such as crowdfunding, where multiple people put in a small amount of money to see an idea come to life with the promise of being one of the first to receive the item.

Another idea is to bootstrap the company by paying as you go. Some people work full time to finance startup costs while building their new brand on the side. A constant and steady influx of cash can help get you over the hump of the early days of a new venture.

Your Pitch Matters

Take time to create a short and enticing pitch you can use with those considering investing in your startup. Know what you plan to do and how you’ll go about it. What makes your company unique out of the others doing something similar? What knowledge do you bring to the table no one else does? With the right attitude, pitch and experience, you’ll secure finding and be on your way to a thriving new business.