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What's your fundraising strategy?

This is a question for startups CEO's at the stage of seed/A.

What is your strategy for raising funds?

Do you use decks?
Do you present a full already build product, or just a demo?
Do you send your decks to be polished by a designer?
Cold emails or network?
You knock on doors, or you make them come to you?

Share some concepts. Let's discuss.


18 Replies

Itay Adam
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Itay Adam Entrepreneur
Owner of Adam Tech Ltd.
Fire away. Let everyone read your insight Martin.
Xenofon I. Kontouris
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Xenofon I. Kontouris Entrepreneur
Founder at Aeroship Inc.
Hi Itay,

I am on the same spot with you. I am a starting my fundraising as we speak and I am looking to talk to Seed stage VC's and Angels.

I have a lean canvas, projections, a Demo website that is being revamped as we speak and two pitch decks, one with extended information. I also have around 10 pages of market research and interviews with potential advisors that know the market better than me.

I have been told that VC tend to prefer worm intros, but networking really does help. I recently read Josh Kopelman's Quora session and he states that on a seed stage you need to sell the vision of the company. You also need to prove to them that you have what it takes to get there, through good planning andteam-buildingskills.

I am trying to reach out to NYC based angels as we speak so if anyone can help me with that I would be supergrateful. Lets see how it goes for me, I would be happy to update you further as I move along theprocess.

Best of luck and Cheers!
Jordan Plosky
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Jordan Plosky Entrepreneur
Co-Founder and CEO at ComicBlitz LLC
Itay,
Although it is much more effective to have a warm lead, or introduction from a mutual friend, while you wait, cold e-mails and linked in messages can certainly turn a head or two. If your company fits into an investors portfolio, or registers intrigue with them at all, they'll start a dialogue. I am in the middle of a raise as well, and as long as you know that you're doing everything possible, whether it yields results or not, you'll feel productive, and accomplished, and keep a positive outlook. It's the hardest part of starting a business that I've found by far. The answer is really just do everything you can, and keep a positive mind set, to keep moving forward. It will most likely take much longer than you think or expect to raise the money, so make sure you have a runway long enough to support that. Good luck!
Martin-Pierre Goletto-Tankel
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CEO at TrainerSync
Hi, I'm the CEO of TrainerSync.com - we build software for personal trainers & gyms to manage their business and clients.

Our first meetings with potential investors was last week, so I can share what we are doing. The meetings were a trial run with a couple of small investors, as I didn't want to go in to see a larger investor and be unprepared. Regardless, we have been promised a small five figure sum and we are only wishing to raise ?200,000, so it's made me feel more confident about how we're going about it.

We have bootstrapped up to this point from earnings from my previous business (we built TrainerSync to scratch my own itch as a trainer & nutrition consultant) and are now going out to look for a small funding round using EIS in the UK. We have a working product, are currently in our final beta testing phase, and have had well over 100 trainers sign up and try out our software during beta. At this stage, I am trying to make sure I interview at least one personal trainer or gym owner every work day, to keep the flow of sharing our product with the right people, to get feedback on the work we've done, and to keep finding out what people want from a product like ours going forward. The reason I mention this is because investors want to see any form of traction they can even at a pre-release stage. So get traction any way you can! In our instance, just having talked to and got survey results back from a couple of hundred trainers and gyms has been invaluable, and we've got some really high quality followers out there now in the fitness and nutrition world.

So, we have a full working product, which has been modified in certain areas following beta feedback. For funding, I am using a pitch deck which has 15 or so slides in it (still fiddling with it a bit following initial meetings) and have a business proposal/plan which is about 45 pages long. We made it all in-house without external help. I've started the investor search by reaching out to friends and acquaintances who may know individuals who would be in a position to invest. I have also curated a list of other potential investors I wish to approach (from a range of resources, including angel.co), which we will be doing throughout February. These will mainly be cold emails I suppose and I'm more than happy to go to the investor, as long as they're within a couple of hours of where I am (London). I don't know how necessary that will all be - I want to get the funding over as quickly as possible, as we are currently only a two man team and there are only so many hours in the day - but needs must and being properly prepared helps! It also seems to help that most of the funding is to ensure we bring our tech team in-house while paying the founders a ramen wage, and so I spent a good amount of time in the last 6 months talking with potential CTOs (we have found someone now) and we would want to make two additional hires on the tech side to ensure we continue to build what people want to use and the rest of our operation can continue with sales and marketing.

I digress slightly but if you have any other questions, please do ask.
John Currie
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John Currie Advisor
ITERATE Ventures - Accelerating Science & Technology Ventures www.iterateventures.com
Itay,

Let's separate the "How do you get in front of Investors" from "What do you say when you get there?"

The "getting in front of" part requires a warm introduction (intensive networking) and I would also suggest a strong 1-sheet. The 1-sheet is a vey compact "story" of your pitch deck - Vision, PainPoint, Your Unique Approach, Why Your Customers Buy (or will be Buying), Traction/Evidence, Financials & Execution (Team). It's a hard exercise, but you have to boil down the essence of your company to fint onto 1-sheet.

When you get there, the std. 10-page deck is all you need. Your objective is to connect and converse. Use the pitch deck as supporting documentation. Investors are buying you and your experiences more than anything. Hope ths helps.
Martin Omansky
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Martin Omansky Entrepreneur
Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional
(1) Preparation on fundamentals most important. No magic formula for proper strategy. (2) after preparation, I suggest you do the following: (a) get initial $ from people who know and trust you; (b) secure affinity investors (people who are familiar with your industry, technology, and/or markets; (c) secure institutional investments by wringing out as much risk as possible out of your project; (d) identify potential institutional investors by determining their specialties (such specialties are often in the public domain); (e) before approaching any investor, write a cogent business plan and then a summary or abstract; write this for your own use, as well as a vehicle to share your vision with others; (f) best to emphasize the large size of the potential market and the small % of the market you need to capture in order to go cash positive.
Mindy Barker
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Mindy Barker Entrepreneur
Passionate executive working with entrepreneurial companies to improve profitability, value and cash flow
Itay - Networking is much better than cold emails. When you do get a chance to forward information to a potential investor, you must have an Executive Summary that describes your product and clearly explains the unique value proposition, specifically states how much money you are raising at what valuation, has a summary of the Founders/Executives background and how much they have invested, macro level analysis of use of funds and specifically state when you expect EBITDA to be positive. If you require the potential investor to dig to get to this information, you risk losing their attention. When you present information to an investor, you should use high level decks for the presentation. You should provide them a business plan with detail prior to the presentation so they have a chance to read and ask questions during the presentation. Best of luck, Mindy Barker Mindy Barker, CPA [removed to protect privacy] mindybarkerassociates.com *2016 Small Business Leader of the Year - JaxChamber Health Council* *2015 Partner in Philanthropy Honoree, Jacksonville Business Journal*
Rumen Iliev
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Rumen Iliev Entrepreneur
Partner at LAUNCHub
Hi Itay,
Here are my tought on you subquestions
Do you use decks?
You never know how the meeting will develop, but you better have a deck. It can be used as structure of your presentation or as reference point for Q&A. So in all cases just have one ready :)
Do you present a full already build product, or just a demo?
It depends:)
Just show a multimillion opportunity and strong indication that the customers need/want a solution and even better - they want exactly your sollution regardless how crapy it is. :) This is better. Now a very simple answer. Assuming the VC can not bet on a team with a track record of building great businesses and products in the past and you are going for a Series A or decent Seed round that some VCs would like to minimize the product risk by seing demo or beta or even a decent product. If you are going for pre-seed round a demo is sufficient.

Do you send your decks to be polished by a designer?
yes and no. Yes if you go for some sort of beauty contest. Competition etc. No, because it will be hard to make changes and your Deck must be work in progresss. It is alive and you need to adop and tailor it to different occations, integrate inside your recent progress, new customer thraction etc. And this is hard when it has been done by smb else.
Cold emails or network?
Approach founders - funded founders who can recommend you. Approach mentors and avisors of the VC firm who can recommend you and make the intro. Cold emails are the last option to explore and they rarely works. Simply if a founder recommend a team to a VC he has done the initial DD so the VC can spend time for a meeting. Otherwise you ask a VC to read a deck and they do not have time for that. For cold email just let them know what you do in 1 page and promis to keep them posted in the next 2-3 months of your progres. Then ask for a call/skype.
You knock on doors, or you make them come to you?
Better make them come to you by being on their radar. - see above.
Charles David Dreher
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Executive Director & Vice-Chairman - Investment Policy Committee
Hello Itay,

We have a completely different approach than entrepreneurs pitching VCs with a pitch deck. Are clients don't use pitch decks, we use securities offering documents, secured website portals for investor multi-media presentations hire VPs of Corp. Finance from the securities industry and go direct to individual investors. We by-pass institutional sources of capital because our clientele' are comprised exclusively of start-up and early stage companies that are all pre-VC or private equity funding stage.


If you would like to know more we invite you to visit our website: https://www.commonwealthcapital.com/Financial_Architect/?atid=4750


All the Best,

Charles

Martin Omansky
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Martin Omansky Entrepreneur
Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional
Good points made, Charles. Problem is that the documents you use are very expensive, and getting accredited investors on the net is iffy and slow. Your approach only works with start-ups that have spare cash. Private placement memorandum costs $25k to $50k in northeast US law market. Additional costs include accounting and expenses related to dog and pony shows, travel, hotels, entertainment, etc. Sent from my iPhone
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