Minutes before the first meeting of my startup’s seed round, a wise advisor pulled me aside. “This is going to be wild,” he warned, with a knowing smile. “Brace yourself.”
Several months later, after raising $850,000 for my startup, ReelGenie, the ride has stopped (for now). I hopped off the fundraising roller coaster with memories of unexpected thrills, a few bruises, and many lessons for the future.
Here are eight things that I know now that I wish I’d known then:
- Network like there’s no tomorrow. You never know where you’ll meet a future investor. ReelGenie’s investors include professors of mine from years ago, former co-workers, and individuals who I met at an event and loved spending time with. Put yourself out there. Unless you’re already rich and/or famous — and if you’re reading this article, that’s probably not the case —investors won’t just flock to you.
- Cast a wide net, smartly. Most people you talk to will say no. So play the numbers game. The more potential investors you speak with, the higher your chances of success. But I say that with two caveats. First, do some homework so you’re targeting people who are likely to love your deal, rather than wasting time with those who won’t. Second, stay organized. Keep track of every communication you make. If you can’t convince an investor that you’re equipped to handle fundraising, good luck convincing them you can run a company.
- Seek out points of validation. If I never hear the phrase herd mentality again, I’ll be a very happy man. But the reality is that’s how fundraising works. Investors don’t want to be alone if the ship sinks. Lock down a few smart investors early. Get early adopters and evangelists for your funding, just like you do for your product or service. And find a lead investor. He or she doesn’t have to put in the most money, but a respected investor running the process will give others more confidence in your deal and help speed things up.
- Find investors who can do more than just write a check. Chances are you’re relatively inexperienced and going up against competitors with deeper pockets. So how do you tip the scales in your favor? Use the fundraising process to find helpful advisors. The best investors are those who can give you strategic guidance, make introductions, and write a big check (today and in your future rounds). Not all investors are good for your company. This is especially true in the current environment of the Series A crunch. Plan a few steps ahead. Your fundraising goal should be to find long-term partners, not a short-term cash infusion.
- Valuation is what the market will bear. Just because your friend raised $5 million at a $15 million pre-money valuation doesn’t mean that you should too. Investors are willing to pay what they think the company’s worth, so don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Securing ample funding for your company should be…