Many founders of small and young companies can surely recognize this dilemma: on the one hand, their company is already a success, with paying customers, and therefore no longer a startup. But, on the other hand, their company’s future is already at risk because it doesn’t have the cash to grow fast enough. Early adopters are asking for new features. Competitors are moving in. New markets are costing more and taking longer to grow than expected. Key employees are getting impatient, etc., etc.
Put simply, one of the key challenges for these companies is to get one and, over time, several cash injections. Nine-out-of-ten such companies do not make that happen. You want to be the one in ten that does make it happen.
To help you out, start by thinking about your fundraising process in three distinct steps:
- Get ready. Get your house in order, document it, and present it. Sounds easy, but it’s far from it. This step makes you investable and has the biggest overall impact on your likelihood of success. There is a lot of work to be done here. Don’t underestimate it.
- Reach out. Who wants and can afford to live in your house? There is an ideal investor out there based on your company profile and stage of growth. Your challenge is to match them. This cannot be achieved by talking to one or even ten opportunistic introductions. Nor can it be achieved through a spray-and-pray approach to a long list of VCs. This step can consume much of your time and may not even lead to success. That’s especially true if the first step is not 100% in order.
- Close. Sign the sales contract and get your money. Bravo. You reached your goal. That’s, however, only a brief respite. Because, unlike selling your house, you are now required to execute flawlessly to reach the next scale-up growth challenge. And then return to the first step. Unfortunately, too many prospective fundraising initiatives start with this step (like, “I need x million tomorrow.”). Therefore pushing through the two prior steps too quickly and lightly.
Like the food pyramid, when you fundraise, eat from all levels but weighted from the bottom up. Your company’s health is at risk if you focus on the wrong steps. As a founder, you are in control. Use that responsibility wisely and make each step a success.