For most startup founders, the idea of moving to the next growth phase may be daunting. And when you’re faced with a capital crisis, it turns into a gargantuan task.
One in three businesses start with less than $5,000, with 1 in 4 not being able to receive ample funding to take their business off the ground. But while it can be an uphill battle to raise much-needed capital, all it takes is the right mindset, an attainable vision, and a network of suitable investors.
For our Spotlight on Startups event held this November, we brought together Juan Scarlett, managing director at OneValley; Edith Yeung, general partner at Race Capital; Vishal Sunak, co-founder and CEO at LinkSquares; and Nick Larson, general partner at Driven Capital for a panel discussion on fundraising strategies and finding the right investors for growth.
Structuring Your Fundraising
If you’re an early-stage startup, a seed round may have 1 to 3 angel investors, with a third of the round being taken over by a lead investor.
The lead investor oversees the shareholder rights and valuation, and makes sure that deal terms are being met. They also provide support in other functions such as executive recruitment, your board, and in subsequent rounds of funding.
But even before structuring your fundraising, Juan strongly advises founders to first and foremost figure out how much capital they need to raise. “You have to know what you expect to accomplish with it for both short- and long-term, and whether or not it could take you to the next step in your maturation process.”
Accessing the Best-Fit VCs/Angel Investors
When raising funding for the first time, Edith says it’s vital for founders to not only know how their product works, but also the thought process in terms of understanding customer needs, the market size, and the specific benefits their product can offer. “Race Capital is always looking for founders with that grit and passion to develop a life-changing product for customers,” she notes.
Founders are also encouraged to do their research on investors to determine their motivations for investing and how they close deals. Venture capital firms receive over 1,000 proposals every year, and gravitate towards businesses who require at least $250,000 of capital.
Here are a few strategies in partnering with the right-fit investors, particularly angels:
- Be prepared for their expectations. Angel investors put in a lot of resources for their investments, so they expect high, long-term ROI. Their target return is often at least 10x of their investment, so prepare yourself for discussions on cost vs. revenue, or product viability.
- Make realistic valuations. Angels may get ticked off if your valuations don’t match your company’s current revenue streams. A typical angel investment has a $2.5M valuation, which means a $500,000 investment will require you to give up at least 20% of your business.
- Have a well-documented plan and financial projections. You have to be able to actually back your numbers up with recorded data. Edith emphasized the importance of knowing the crucial parts of your finances by heart, but that sometimes, it’s okay to be honest about not knowing all of the answers.
- Groups > individuals. Angels calculate their risks well, and it’s common knowledge that a group of angels syndicating multiples is less risky than throwing in individual investments. It’s also worth noting that VCs rarely consider investing in businesses that require less than $2M, so for amounts less than that, other funding options such as crowdfunding can be considered.
The four experts agree that your choice of investors have a major impact on your growth trajectory. “You need to find someone who’s supportive of your vision, and who’s willing to help you achieve it,” says Juan. Moreover, investor relationships must be bonded by authenticity and honesty from both parties, plus the willingness to share not only capital, but also valuable skills and experiences.
Hear more from the group’s panel discussion by watching the full session recording.