How to Raise Capital for a Startup? Aquiring Funding.
Raising capital is no small task; in fact, it can be likened to the process of climbing a ladder. At each rung, you achieve new goals for your company and the height of your ascent represents the value of the business. Initial financing are often the first or second rungs.
What happens when the stakes go up and you require additional capital? That is the time to contact a Venture Capitalist. You’ve been rehearsing your pitch; startup story, PowerPoint presentation; you’re tired, but ready for anything. Then, the venture capitalist walks into the room. What then? Relax! The hard part is over; you have already arranged the meeting. In other words, someone they know and trust referred you (often the best approach) or your idea has captured their attention on its own merit from an early communication. Now, you’ve got to fight to get to the top of their investment prospect lists. Deliver a great startup story. What happens once the story is over? It is imperative that the lines of communication stay open so that you can get to the top of that list. Keep the following points in mind.
Understand your business fully. This is obviously first and foremost. Not only should you be completely comfortable with your idea, you must know it inside and out, in terms of business. What is your value proposition to the customer? What is your target market and its expected growth? Be comfortable with your financial model–show that you’ve done your homework, because VCs will probe deeply. And, under no circumstances will you try to fake out an investor if he or she asks a tough question. If you become stumped, openly acknowledge that you need to look into it further. Whether or not they can sniff fakers out, they still probably prefer those who honestly recognize any gaps in their knowledge, and who will seek to rectify it, to those who act like they know it all, already.
Really try to distinguish yourself. How have your experiences, business-related or not, put you on track for success? Show your passion for it. Show them your commitment to the idea, your investments, financial and personal, as well as the abandonment of any alternatives to the starting of the business. Make yourself an example as to why this is such a compelling opportunity and why its pursuit is impossible to pass by.
Make a connection with the Venture Capitalists. If there are any links to the prospective investor, don’t be shy about discussing them. The easiest thing to do is to look at their past investments. Explore their relevance to your idea. Demonstrate any correlations with their portfolio companies’ fundamentals.
Remain prudently open with them. If your speech is unnecessarily circumspect, a negative atmosphere will permeate an otherwise fine meeting. That does not mean that you should forego verification of your trust, however. Don’t be afraid to ask for a commitment to confidentiality (again, verbal is sufficient). It won’t hurt to save any sensitive details until you and the investor have developed a comfortable rapport based on mutual interest. Remember: reveal enough to get a second meeting!
Always try to work on banishing skepticism. Openly and honestly discuss the risks involved in the business. Discuss the upside potential as well as the risks involved. Clearly identify the proverbial land mines and the competition. Nothing says “credibility” like a comprehensive assessment of the competition.
Speaking of competition, a little competition between investors couldn’t hurt. Granted, orchestrating all this is like an artistic balancing act. One good practice is to approach a few potential investors at once. You never know–comparisons between firms can prove quite illuminating. In addition, seeing as how valuation is typically very subjective, some competition should help the process along.
As with the initial round of Angels, you want to seek a true partnership. In essence, you are really buying more than selling. Will this VC make a good partner? How does he/she listen? Does he/she have keen instincts? Is he/she respectful, helpful, and positive? The realization of your idea is a daunting challenge, so you want to surround yourself with strong supports. Follow your instincts on this one. You two will need good chemistry for the long haul.
Finally, don’t think that it is uncouth to check investor’s credentials after meeting with them. There’s nothing like getting it straight from the horse’s mouth–go to entrepreneurs who have worked with this investor and ask tough questions. Was the investor very constructive and easy to get a hold of during tough times? How did their involvement directly affect the success or failure of the company? Remember that a good venture partner will make a difference, and startup equity is very dear, so make sure you’ll be getting your money’s worth.