Advice on raising money is everywhere. Lots of people are willing to tell you how much you should raise, and where you should spend it. Getting those people to actually write you checks is a different story. The advice also seems to change depending on market conditions, and for good reasons. When the market is frothy, people are much more understanding of your high burn rate and risky expenditures. But when things are bad, you hear most say to save every penny and be conservative as possible.
With all this advice, it's tough to decide what you should actually do. That being said, there are some tips that I've kept in mind that never change. These hints helped me not only raise money, but also made sure I've kept control of my company and my company's spending as well. Keep these four tips in your head when you go out for your next round, and you'll be much happier with the results.
1. Seed money is easy, venture capital is not
The amount of money being put into early stage companies has greatly increased in the past couple of years. Tools like Angellist are making it easier for people to fund startups all over the world. With the increase in angel funding, many entrepreneurs forget how much harder it is to get to the next stage of venture capital.
When you're prelaunch it can be much easier to raise money. Your company is a guess, so no one has data that you're wrong. When you fail, no new angels are going to want to fund you. You have to hope your existing investors believe in you enough to keep funding you after you mess up. Keep this in mind next time you plan out your expenses. Counting on the next big round to come in is a dangerous strategy.
2. Avoid venture capital as long as possible
Of all the people I've talked to who have raised venture capital, every single one has told me to avoid it as long as possible. Holding out gives you more bargaining power, which ensures you'll keep more control. Give up power and you no longer are an entrepreneur, you're an employee.
I've heard tons of horror stories of venture capitalists firing founders post funding. Not to mention, raising venture capital takes a huge chunk of your time that could have gone to building the business. You're better off running lean and sticking to angel funding unless you have to take the next round.
3. Have your board of advisers be investors
One of the parts of running a business that I had no idea about was the board of advisers. Take in mind that your advisers and your board of advisers are different groups of people. People who sit on your board have the power to make big time decisions, and these people are key to your company's success.
If you have people who ask to be on your board, you need to make sure they have put in capital. If an investor sees someone on your board that hasn't put in their own money, the next questions they'll ask is why that's the case. Not having a board member invested gives the impression that they aren't completely sold on the business. If they were, they would've written you a check.
4. Raise more than you need but not too much
Companies that raise huge rounds too early end up being a disaster. If you look at history, most companies who raise millions of dollars in the founding stages end up being train wrecks. When you raise too much too early, you start losing your sense of urgency. Your runway feels like it is never ending, so you're more patient with getting to your next milestone. And you start spending money on dumb things you don't need, which makes you spend way more than you need to. Raise more money than you need to but now enough that you feel comfortable. When you're too complacent, that's when your competition takes you over.