Raising money is hard. I can honestly tell you, it's been the hardest part of my journey as an entrepreneur. Your chances of raising money from any given VC fund are less than 0.5 percent.
So you need to be able to stack the odds in your favor as much as possible. I asked Michael Simpson, author of the new book, The Secret of Raising Money, to explain what he calls the five mentalities you need to raise money, and this is what he shared:
1. Willingness to walk away. Any time you are having a conversation with a potential investor, you must be willing to walk away. The best way to convey this willingness is by actually having a viable alternative, i.e. other investors who are prepared to give you money. If you don't have interest from other investors, then you must find a way to actively convince yourself that you are ok with not receiving money from the investor in question (regardless of how low on cash you actually are). As soon as the investor senses that you need him, the money is going to become almost impossible to close.
The concept that having a viable alternative gives you leverage is true in any negotiation. The course of action you will take if the discussions fall through is called a BATNA -"Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement". You should always have a satisfactory BATNA. And if you don't, you must make it appear that you do.
2. Inevitability. You must be able to look investors square in the eye and state with confidence that the problem you are solving is huge and growing. You must portray messianic belief in your idea and company. This unshakeable confidence and optimism is hugely attractive not only to investors, but also potential hires, customers and partners. It is one of the classic traits that compels others to follow you.
How do you do this? While there are a whole host of techniques you can use to artificially create confidence, the only consistently effective strategy here is to actually be building a company that you believe in.
Paul Graham said it very well: "That's the secret. Convince yourself that your startup is worth investing in, and then when you explain this to investors they'll believe you."
3. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. During the fundraising process, and indeed in many situations you will encounter as an entrepreneur, you will be making requests of a lot of people. Requests for introductions, requests for meetings and, of course, requests for money. Many find it uncomfortable to make these kinds of requests. As an entrepreneur you must become intimately comfortable with this process.
Don't worry that you are 'inconveniencing' others or taking up others' time. When you are fundraising, the only thing that matters is that you close the round. Follow up on your requests until you get a yes or no. All this can initially be difficult and feel unnatural, but it is critical to your success.
4. Dogged persistence. "Never, ever, ever give up"--Winston Churchill
The way fundraising works, unless you are in a very small minority of companies, you will unfortunately get a vast number of no's. In fact, for most entrepreneurs, at least 9/10 investor meetings will not result in funding. A large VC fund sees literally thousands of potential deals every year and only invests in a small handful.
Since the odds of success are so low, it's crucial that you are ready for rejection and are always able to move forward regardless.
5. Focus 100 percent on fundraising. Once you have decided to raise money, you must commit 100 percent. It should be your number one focus and priority at all times. Avoid the temptation to dip in your toe and 'test the market'.
Why is this important? Because the best way to speed up your raise is via competition within your round. And in order to generate competition you need to be having as many conversations as you possibly can, which takes considerable effort over a period of weeks or months. Investors are incentivized to retain optionality for as long as possible, and without competition for your deal, they have no reason to give you an answer immediately. This tactic is called creating 'scarcity'.
What are your secrets? Let me know your ideas and thoughts in the comments section below.