Are you at a point where you've got a successful business but could really use some bucks to make it skyrocket? Or are you just starting out, bootstrapping your business nights and weekends and you're at the point of needing capital to grow? You should be thinking religiously about the options you have to make this happen.
At the company I founded, VerticalResponse, we bootstrapped for a bit, then took a small amount of money from friends and family 3 times before we were acquired. If I had to do it all again? I'd take bigger funding! Why? Raising money is tough and if you can find a great investment partner who is willing to invest in your growth, you can take off quicker and grow faster and perhaps be acquired before 13 long years.
Now I'm watching my husband go through it with his startup Dasheroo and he's doing both. He's talking to investors that could really move his company's needle but he's also reaching out to friends and family who want to help him grow. And he's asking for way more money than we did at VerticalResponse because he saw that he'd probably need to grow faster.
So if you really know your industry or your local area you probably know or have heard about a few investors who might be interested in helping you grow.
But raising capital isn't just about taking someone's check, you've got to really think about all of the implications before you cash in. Here are 10 that come to mind having gone through this multiple times:
1. Dilution is inevitable.
You'll be diluting what you own, you're gonna have to give a little to get a little. You need to be OK with that, and understand owning a "smaller part of a bigger pie" can make great financial sense.
2. You need to get along with your investor.
If you don't see eye-to-eye from the start, it's never going to work. Make sure you have plenty of conversations about your industry, the business and even on a personal level to make sure you're both on the same page. Never a bad idea to do some of this over a cup of coffee or even a glass of wine, put yourselves in a comfortable, more casual setting at least once.
3. Know your valuation.
Look to your competition, drill down in your numbers and based on growth and your revenue (either what you have or what you predict) what your valuation will be. Be able to back that up because whatever you think you're valuation is now, your potential investor might think it should be lower so they can have more of your business. It's not a bad sign when they do btw, it means they believe in you.
4. Investors should open doors.
You should choose an investor who can open doors for you. For instance if you sell women's lingerie, Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O'Leary) may not be the man to take money from, however his colleague on Shark Tank Lori Greiner just might be!
5. Try to retain a majority of control over your business.
You need to be able to make decisions without having to get everyone's buy-in.
6. Taking friend or family member's money is very difficult.
These people are very close to you. If you can take money from someone who is very used to investing or used to potentially losing some money, it's always better than taking money from someone you love. But putting some of your money where your mouth is isn't a bad idea either, just don't "bet the ranch."
7. Know how you'll spend the cash.
What is really going to help you grow? Is it expanding internationally, is it hiring developers, could you advertise or sponsor something that would drive a lot more business? Make sure whatever you raise is going to help "grow" and not just "survive".
8. Know the competition.
What types of people invested in them? If you've got a local business they may also want to invest in you since there may not be a competitive nature. You could also look at competitor's valuations and how they've spent their dollars to be successful (or not!)
9. Be aware of due diligence.
Know your numbers by month, by quarter. Know what drives your business and how you can help it grow. Know what your customers are saying on social media or on review sites. You need to know each and every KPI and how it affects your business. You'll be asked.
10. Know your risks and be honest about them.
Is your business dependent on one supplier? What happens if they go under. Do you have 90% with one customer? Think about how do you plan on diversifying. You can bet that any investor is going to ask.
A friend once told me "Janine if you can get money, even if you don't need it, take the money." There's never been a truer statement.