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How AFL’s Sam Murray secured investment via one LinkedIn DM

It was actually two LinkedIn DMs, not one, but more on that later. By the time I actually pitched my business via a LinkedIn DM to five-time young rich-lister and Celebrity Apprentice advisor, Nick Bell, I’d been following his entrepreneurship journey for years.

Fortunately, my time as an elite athlete taught me that you can’t just wait for opportunities to land at your feet in life. You have to go after them.

So with nothing to lose and everything to gain, in early 2023 I decided to try my luck with a cold outreach and sent Nick a message on LinkedIn pitching my business for investment. Crickets.

Undeterred, a week later I steeled myself to message him again and this time it worked! Nick really liked what we did as a business, despite having firm opinions about what we were lacking in order to scale, and made me an offer.”

So, while my first insight into how to secure investment or attract a mentor for your startup is definitely Don’t be afraid to send that second message! There are many others.

1. Sell a product or service that actually works

While it’s vital that you know the numbers and are transparent with them (whether they’re pretty or not), in my view, finances aren’t everything. A lot of people come up with ideas that they take to investors before actually having any market traction. So your business model and how you plan to go to market is the most important thing in my eyes.

2. Perfect your elevator pitch

Having a marketable product or service is one thing, but are you believable? Can you sell the dream, bring people (customers, investors, even lay people) along on your journey with you quickly and easily? I’ve been really clear on my vision for Your Social since Day 1 which has helped us a lot.

3. Nurture (and leverage) your network

Nurture authentic connections. Who do you know? And if you don’t have anyone in your network who can directly help, who do they know who might be a useful person to connect with, if not now then down the track? Make friends with LinkedIn – it’s a great platform for keeping track of professional connections and making introductions.

4. Find a great mentor, and lean on them

There are a hundred ways to find somebody online these days. But remember, if it’s easy enough for you to find the email of a particular person you’re keen to know, you want how you go about it, how you approach someone, to separate you from the other 15, 50, 250 other people who are doing the same thing.

Mentors in footy are everything. I was lucky that when I stopped playing, I was surrounded by some really good people who were a great support from the moment I left, and still are.
5. Be patient

Meeting your investor may not be your first connection. It may not be your second, third, fourth, or even fifth. Meeting the right investor/s for your business will probably take time. Educating them about your product or business will take time. Getting to know them (and they you) will take time. So there’s a level of patience and determination required to continue to believe in what you’re doing.

6. Know your strengths, and build on them

Understand what you’re good at, and work overtime to maximise those skills and abilities to help grow your business. Study as much as you can. I recognised early on that I am a great talker – I am comfortable with the ‘sell’ and bringing people on the journey into my business – so I committed to learning everything I could about the sales process. In the AFL, we’re already skilled at what we do, but we continue to train and learn and practice drills etc, to refine and improve our skills.

7. Be humble, be prepared to be vulnerable

Transitioning from professional sport – where I was at the top of my game – to business was pretty humbling! So be willing to open up, and take advice so that people understand you’re in it for the right reasons. Ask always, what can I do to get better? Need help with something? Just ask. Outsource. Accept that you will face fresh challenges often, and sometimes won’t be the one with the solution.

My ban from the AFL and mental health challenges throughout that period have been well documented. In saying that, there will always be someone out there putting you down. Your challenge is to rise above the critics and stay true to yourself and your goals and values.

Surround yourself with people, family, friends who support you and keep you grounded. The sooner you realistically accept that people are going to have opinions about you that you have no control over, and that your self worth and personal values system is more important, the better. Your past is your past, and you are the master of your future.

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Sam Murray

Sam Murray

Founded The LAB Group at 21 years old after a 4-year career in the AFL for multiple clubs and continues to be the managing director at The LAB Group working alongside global brands and more importantly small businesses throughout Australia.

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