Venture capital firms have always cared about numbers.
The metrics they use are shifting, however. The classics--market size, revenue, and financial projections--remain important. But with analytics software, they are able to measure more things.
A few examples:
Correlation Ventures, a venture capital firm that only works with American companies, created its own database of venture capital financing and created a FICO-like score to identify undervalued startups.
WR Hambrecht, a full-service investment bank headquartered in San Francisco, uses algorithms to determine the long-term viability of a startup.
Mercury Fund, an early stage venture capital firm, gets a bird's-eye view of a portfolio company's operations using the data that is flowing across the functional parts of the organization. It primarily invests in online software companies, which can build and deliver products faster than their traditional counterparts--meaning they can reach $1 million run rates faster than traditional software companies.
A double-digit growth rate per month used to be impressive. Now, according to Mercury Fund, online software companies are capable of growing by multiple factors in a year.
Getting there is not as hard as you think. Let's dive into three ways you can join the club.
1. Understand Your Business
If you look at a venture capital firm's website, you'll likely see the names of very familiar companies. If you continue to research firms, you'll discover more familiar company names and you may wonder why those companies were wildly successful while companies with equally good ideas and equally brilliant founders failed.
Sure. Money is part of it. It's easier to make money if you have money to invest in the people and resources you need.
However, money alone does not guarantee success.
Even with adequate capital for particular stage of development, many of startups fail because they burn too much capital too fast. One way to do that is hire talent before you need it and invest too heavily in technology before you need it.
Mercury Fund developed a playbook for its portfolio companies that keeps them from getting ahead of themselves: Start with product engineering, then add sales, marketing and customer success in that order.
Each of those functional areas has its own analytics. Departmental analytics don't inherently provide the entire picture of the business or its customers, however.
By connecting the dots, you can see what a customer journey looks like from beginning to end.
"You implement these things at the right time, and the right time is when you get to the right scale at each of the steps," says Aziz Gilani, a Mercury Fund partner.
With the analytics software that's available today, there's no excuse for a startup not to have a better understanding of its business than it would have without the software.
2. Beware of Your Claims
Entrepreneurs love to compare themselves with wildly successful examples like Uber. However, most of them don't realize how many times venture capitalists and angel investors have heard similar claims.
Okay, so how about backing up a claim with numbers? Let's say you've developed an app, and it's ranked at the top of a marketplace for several weeks.
Most app developers can't say that.
Still, you might still be at risk of losing your funding. Venture capital firm Greycroft recently cut ties with an unspecified app at the top of the charts, because it was deemed to lack blockbuster potential. The usage statistics (and other metrics) didn't compare with those of Snapchat when Snapchat was at the same stage of development.
"Investors want companies that can be huge," one of Greycroft's co-founders wrote in a blog post.
What impresses you might not necessarily impress an investor, especially at face value. Do your own due diligence before investors do theirs.
3. Do Your Homework
Make a point of getting smart about a firm before you approach it. The website will show you the firm's portfolio. Pay attention to that.
You can learn a lot by studying the histories and growth trajectories of such companies, particularly the ones that are the most relevant to your industry and business model.
On another page of a firm's website, if not the home page, you'll probably see an explicit statement about the types of companies the partners find compelling. Pay attention to that, too.
Read the blogs the partners have posted. They contain valuable information about current trends and events that impact investors and companies seeking capital. The firm's partners may share best practice advice in blogs that could improve your odds of success.
Every firm is different, so get smart about the ones you want to pitch.
Finally, realize that getting funding doesn't always start with seed funding. Crowdfunding and angel investing are always options.
However you do it, you'll be dealing with a lot of numbers. Hopefully, yours will be unusually compelling.