100 employees. 100 lessons. Part 4: 🤑 Fundraising: Why, when and how much? 🎯 The process 🧮 Cap table & negotiations
This is part of a series. You can find a link to all the parts here.
🤑 Fundraising: Why, when and how much?
See also my article on: Early Stage Fundraising for European Startups: Amount and Valuation.
71. Understand what it means to take VC funding
And decide if you really want it. When you take VC funding you are implicitly committing to trying to become a unicorn (opposed to lifestyle business). This means you are expected to spend money unsustainably for the first ~5 years which means you will become dependent on finding the next investment round to survive.
72. There is nothing wrong with aiming to create a lifestyle business opposed to a unicorn
73. The VC route is tough
If you’ve decided that you do want to go down the VC route, take a deep breath. This is not to be underestimated.
74. A funding round should get you to the next funding round.
You should take money that helps you create the success that will get you to the next stage so you can raise the next round. Think about what milestones you need to reach to go from Seed to Series A etc. You should raise for at least 12–18 months (18–24 months for seed and pre-seed) to give you enough time to focus on the business.
75. You will need more money than you think
76. Don’t think too much about valuation.
It’s typically derived from factors like how much you’re going to raise. More info here.
🎯 Fundraising: The process
77. Fundraising distracts management
Understand that the management will be (very) distracted during the fundraising process. Make a plan to compensate for that distraction e.g. 2 co-founders focus on the raise, one focuses internally
78. It will take longer than you think to close your round
Be optimistic in mindset, but plan contingency strategies on how to increase runway e.g. reduce costs or a bridge round.
79. Fundraising should be ongoing
Fundraising should be ongoing e.g. building long-term relationships with investors. The most basic form is sending quarterly investor updates, but a better way is to create meaningful relationships with investors where you ask their advice and exchange information on what is happening in your space.
80. Be resilient
Some investor calls go well. Some go badly. Get over it.
81. The perfect pitch structure
Pitching should follow this structure 1) Intro by investor — personal & fund including typical investment and stage 2) Personal intros by founders 3) Walk through deck / conversation about company 4) Call to action e.g. You: “I’ll be in touch for our round in Q4” or Investor: “I’ll get back to you after our IC (Investment committee). Also, ask the question: what would you hope to see when we talk again in X months? This is super revealing.
82. Be bullish, but casual during pitches
Remember, you’re hot shit. They would be lucky to be able to invest in you!
83. Your goal is the first term sheet
When fundraising, your objective is to get the first term sheet. Afterwards, everything will fall into place.
84. Milk investors for feedback
Try to milk investors for detailed, honest feedback. Often a follow up email or call after a rejection will turn “not the right stage for us” (default, bullshit excuse) to something insightful.
85. You can’t please everyone
Different investors will want different things. Group and categorise the feedback and figure out what to prioritise.
🧮 Fundraising: Cap table & negotiations
86. Finding a co- investor is easier than finding a lead
It’s much easier to get investor to “co-” (join a round) than to “lead” (set the terms of the round) and take on the Due Diligence process.
87. Investors are better at negotiating than you
They do it full time. You do it once a year. The only real way to create leverage is to create FOMO.
88. Don’t be too stingy with equity
On giving away equity: It’s better to take more money and go faster than to try and hold on to as much equity as possible. Your personal time is the most valuable thing. If this is going to fail, better it happens faster. The same goes for ESOP and hiring great people.
89. Avoid milestones where possible
Try to avoid milestones (e.g. receive second part of funding when you reach X users). They are dumb as you might have to pivot and distracting because you have to think about ticking boxes rather than what is best for the business
90. Get a personal / founder lawyer
This is in addition to the company lawyer. Make sure that the company covers the cost.
91. Everyone should contribute to the ESOP
Make sure the weight of ESOP is born equally by all shareholders. If this is not the case, there will be misalignment about how to incentivise good people.
92. Keep the cap table working
As much of the cap table as possible should be “working” e.g. active management and investors who will re-invest
93. Investors want to see the founders & management incentivised
Investors want to see founders properly incentivised. Typically, the founders should still have >50% of the company after Series A.
94. Consolidate your angels and small investors
Organise your angels and small investors into a shareholder pool to simplify the cap table once you get to Series A.
🎓 Investor relations
95. You are the boss!
Remember, you are the boss, not them! This can be hard as most people always had a boss. Good investors should empower and support founders to realise their vision. Typically, investors will become more pushy / micromanager when the company is going worse.
96. Talk early about internal rounds early
Discuss backup plan to fundraising (internal round) so there are no surprises later on.
👋 Hi, I’m Ben. I support Seed to Series B companies to grow and scale. Connect with me here.