The Top Ten Fundraising Fails

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Fundraising isn’t easy, even if done well, its fraught with all sorts of ambiguity and frustrations. To that very point, I recently wrote a blog post about the fundraising mindset in order to help you set a tone on approaching the process.

That said, there are things you can do to make it go better than others and things you can do to make it go worse… and in the spirit of the ‘Tonight Show’s’ top ten list, below are my top ten things that will likely cause a fundraising fail situation.

Avoid them and learn from your mistakes and you will increase your likelihood of success.

– 10 – Presenting with a style that doesn’t capture the right attention. Yes, being over the top and dropping ‘f bombs’ might get you attention, but is it the right attention? Is it focusing the attention on what your message or just you? Also, what about a boring slide deck? Or a a deck that is missing product shots? Do these represent you well? What if you say your product is simple, but then your deck is really over complicated.. does that sound right?

– 9 – Not having a proper fundraising plan. Fundraising requires research. Find out if your potential investors are even interested in your sector.. have they invested in your competitor? What amount do they typically invest in? Going to someone that is a late stage investor when you are raising a little bit of money is like putting in a minimum order of 10 pizzas when you can only eat one.

– 8 – Not understanding your customer and how to reach them. When presenting or speaking about your customer, do you show a mastery about their issues? Do you understand what makes them tick and why your solution is the one that will likely best serve their needs? Do you also understand how to reach them? Where do they shop? What media do they consume?

– 7 – Unable to demonstrate a real pain for your customer (and how your solution fixes it). It is always tempting to create something that is useful to you, but is the solution you’ve created really a necessity or just a nice-to-have? Demonstrating a real pain, usually through some form of customer validation, is crucial in making a convincing argument for your startup.

– 6 – Assuming that a general market size study applies to your startup. One of the things you can do to quickly show that you don’t have a full grasp of your market is by showing a much larger segment than the one you operate in.  For example, I’ve seen pitches where an iOS app that is for sports tracking, mentions all mobile users worldwide as their market size… when actually, its more like mobile-sports-tracking-enthusiasts, which is a sub-segment of that bigger pie.

– 5 – Not truly understanding who your competitors are. This one is easy. If you think you don’t have competitors, then you probably haven’t researched hard enough. Rarely are there ideas that no one has thought about, but secondly and perhaps more importantly, sometimes there are substitutes which are ‘good enough’ which you need to be aware of and show how your solution overcomes the momentum that those existing solutions already have.

– 4 – Not knowing your cash needs & cash burn. If you’re going fundraising and you don’t know how much money you need, how long it will take you, to achieve what, and how you will spend it… well, then don’t fault investors if they aren’t impressed with your request for investment.

– 3 – Not explaining why your team is the team that will make this happen. Your team is 99% the reason why your company succeeds, and the idea is probably like 1% (I’m guessing on the numbers, but this guess feels right). If you skim through the ‘why’ of why your team is the right one for this investment, then you’ll likely miss an opportunity to impress an investor. I recently wrote a blog post about how to best think through your team slide here. Also, if you want to learn about how an investor evaluates your team, read this one.

– 2 – Having your existing investor shareholders own more equity than the founders. Toxic rounds that precede the round you are raising for can really negatively affect your fundraising plan. Read about why here. In general, try and make sure that you take investments that don’t jeopardize your future ability to raise follow-on funds.

– 1 – Not reaching out to an investor through an introduction. Lastly, the best thing you can do for yourself is get an introduction to investors that you want to meet. Introductions are great ways to have immediate validation. Here are some other ideas on how to reach out to other investors.

– Bonus – Not learning from your mistakes. Learn from your mistakes. You will make many, and that’s OK, so long as you don’t beat yourself up, understand what went wrong, and then iterate on it. In the words of Einstein – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Below is the video of this presentation.

Below is the slide deck that I used to present at Google Campus’s Fundraising Day.

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The Perfect Team Slide And Why It Matters

Tim-prezentacija

Originally posted on Netocratic.com on July 2, 2014

When an investors considers your company for investment at the earliest stages, who you are is so much more important than your idea. Your team is such a crucial part of your company’s success, and yet many teams omit their team slide or bludgeon it because they don’t feel they have anything interesting to add other than team photos and a job-title.

What’s worse is when pitching, founders usually just point to the team slide, and say something like – here is our team, we have lots of rockstars or something generic like that. And that’s it…

Wow.. way to undersell who you are!

Let’s look at what the major selling points of a team slide should be:

1. To show a team’s capability to deliver

Basically, does your team know anything about what you are doing. If you are a healthcare company, do you have a healthcare background? If you are making something for the financial industry, have any of your team members worked there? What companies have your team worked in that can validate you? If you’ve worked at Google before, for example, it would be worthwhile to put that company logo up on your team slide because the image of the brand would speak faster to your audience, than any number of words you could say in the same time frame.

2. To show a team’s capacity to deliver

Are you effectively complete or incomplete as a team? Is your team mostly business people but lacking the technical capabilities to deliver or is your team well rounded and able to execute? If your company industry requires an amazing specialist, do you have that specialist?  By the way, do not assume that it is a bad thing to admit you are looking to hire for specific functions you don’t currently have in an early stage startup, it shows maturity and your team’s self-awareness, although you don’t have to state it as part of your pitch (just saying, in case it is asked as a question).

3. To show a team’s culture & communication style

What is your company like? Is it a fun place to work in or is the tone more serious? What ‘titles’ do people have? How many of your team are outward facing and how many inward facing? These details are all items that an investor can pick up on based on your team slide.

In terms of where your team slide should be… there is not hard and fast rule, but I’ve found that if you are building something born out of a personal experience at your prior job or of interest.. it makes for a decent early slide to explain the background to your story/pitch. If you are building something that isn’t part of your background story, then where the slide sits is more about flow. Focus on telling a good story that is complemented by your team slide rather than the other way around.

So next time you are doing a presentation in front of investors… ask yourself, are you doing your team slide justice?

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On Becoming British

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I’m happy to announce that I’ve just become a British Citizen.

It means a lot to me to be part of this great nation that opened its doors to me and welcomed me over five years ago. In my experience, I feel the UK has a diverse community of smart people, vibrant startup ecosystem, and British people (and as an extension the larger European community) have an amazing energy to tackle problems and getting things done whenever they need evolution (for example, read about the recent Europe-wide http://startupmanifesto.eu/ initiative to help tackle many current business & economic issues).

In my journey so far, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many people that are passionate about evolving this nation and helping it continue to grow, and I’m proud to be part of that movement.

…and for the record, yes, I now know how to make a mean cup of tea.

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New Books to my ‘Recommended’ list.

I haven’t had as much time to read as I would have liked this year, but three books stood out so I’ve added them to my bookroll:

I can wholeheartedly recommend them all.

The Positioning book stood out in recent reads beyond this year mostly because it goes counter to what many consider convention.
Likewise, Drive shares many of the similar attributes due Positioning in that it rocks your world with some changes to general conventions around motivation.

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The UK Startup Visa – Driving future economic growth

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I’m extremely excited with the good work the UK government is achieving in approving the new Startup Visa program.

In summary, three types of visa applicants will benefit from this new program:

Investors who invest £5 million will be allowed to settle here after 3 years, and those investing £10 million or more will be allowed to settle after 2 years. This compares with the current minimum 5-year requirement.”

and,

Entrepreneurs who create “10 jobs or turn over £5 million in a 3-year period.” Additionally, “the standard investment threshold for an entrepreneur to qualify for a Tier 1 visa will remain at £200,000, but the government will allow high-potential businesses to come to the UK with £50,000 in funding from a reputable organisation. And entrepreneurs will be allowed to enter the UK with their business partners as long as they have access to joint funds. Additionally, a new type of visitor visa will be created for prospective entrepreneurs. They will be allowed to enter the UK so that they can secure funding and make arrangements for starting their business before they transfer to a full Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa while they are here.”

and lastly,

An Exceptional Talent visa (limited to 1000). “This innovative new route for exceptionally talented migrants will be limited to 1,000 visas per year. It is for those who have already been recognised or have the potential to be recognised as leaders in the fields of science, arts and humanities.” The limit to 1,000 of these is the only downer in the new reforms… hopefully this will change with time as the process to evaluate credible candidates is streamlined (currently this is set for review after 12 months).

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