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Advice

This section is for entrepreneurs to post general advice on the fundraising process for other entrepreneurs to use. Topics include terms, tactics, and strategies that have proven either effective or ineffective. Help other CEOs succeed with some sage advice from your own experiences.

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Hiring a Presenter

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2010-03-01

PUBLIC:

After several months of rebuilding our business, we have finally peeked the interest of a few investors. However, one of our shortcomings is that neither my business partner nor me are good presenters. We are thinking about hiring someone to present during the interviewing process. Is this common? Do you think this is a good idea if we can get our presenter up to speed on the company's mission, goals and objectives? Any help would be appreciated.

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Investors are Human

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by RichieBlueEyes on 2007-12-14

Tags: Venture Business Personalities

PUBLIC:

Reminder Investors are Human too. They have emotions and generally like people. They don't like being pitched. Make friends with them, develop real relationships. Don't just go up to them after a panel event and say "Hi, I'm Joe, Can I have your wallet, I build social poop"

Build relationships, investors are people like you and me.

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Angel Networks

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-07-29

Tags: Pitching Angels

PUBLIC:

If you are looking at venture funding for your first round, I would suggest that you consider an Angel round first. Why" A friend of mine just got early terms to raise $1 MM for 40% of the company in their first round of funding, and it was a preferred round with all of the standard VC protections. This seems fairly aggressive for a new company with bright prospects.

There are great angel networks throughout the world that will offer MUCH more reasonable terms, and, depending on the investors that you attract, you should be able to secure the necessary advice and counsel on business decisions. You can always save the venture round for later, if needed. Members, read on for some concrete advice...

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Avoid the Associate!

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-03-31

Tags: Pitching Associate

PUBLIC:

Do not deal with associates in the early part of your pitching process. Identify at least one key partner to be your conduit into a funding source. Associates are important to have engaged later in a deal cycle. If a partner is not present on the early calls, assume that the fund is doing competitive research in a sector. This is a waste of your time.

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Example VC Pitch Deck with Explanations, Samples

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by KipMcC on 2009-08-26

Tags: Pitching Resources

PUBLIC:

Recently, I shared this outline & pitch deck example with the Capital Factory companies in Austin, Texas; you may find example slides, download the PPT template file, and read descriptions / discussion for each here:

http://kipmcc.wordpress.com/2009/08/0...

1. Title Slide

* The get everyone in the room and sitting down slide; Don’t roll forward from here until you have everyone in the room and paying attention if you can help it.

2. Agenda + Company Overview

* Make sure you’re covering what they want to cover; ask if you’re missing anything before launching into the pitch
* This is also the slide to give a quick summary of your company. This summary is important because it will give any other partners at the firm you talking to a “snap shot” of you’re company after you’re gone; it’s helpful for other partners in the firm to have at-a-glace info on what you do, in what market, company details, and so on.

3. Market + Market Context

* Why is your market interesting? Are there any compelling dynamics currently at play?
* How do you fit in? This can help set up your unique competitive advantage / “secret sauce” slide.

4. One-slide company overview: THE SLIDE

* In many cases, your entire pitch will be an interactive conversation while sitting on a single slide; this should be that slide.
* Done right, this allows you to describe what you do, who you do it for, why that’s important and your vision for the future.

5. Business Model; How we make money

* How, exactly, does your company make money? Do you have any examples of this working so far?
* Does any part of your business act as a “loss leader” for another, more valuable part?
* Do you have two models running simultaneously? is that good or bad & why? Make sure you clearly describe and delineate between them…and hopefully describe how they benefit and support each.

6. Progress, Mile stones, look into the future

* What you’ve accomplished so far?
* What you plan to do in the near future? In what timeframe?

7. Competition & your company’s “Secret Sauce”

* You relative to others in your space.
* The question that you must answer well: if your company is successful, how will you defend its business from competitors who see your success and want some or all of it for themselves? What can you do differently? What can you do uniquely and realistically for how long? What CAN’T (or is really really hard to) be duplicated? What is your special tech, model, process, team advantage or unique solution?

8. Current Partners, Customers & Pipeline

* Who are you working with today? Who will be your customer tomorrow?
* How, exactly, do you acquire customers? How much does it cost to acquire them? What is your average deal size? How could your business increase the average deal size? What is the average deal size of other companies in this same market? Does this information align with the Market Size / Market Context data from Slide #3 ? (hint: it should) Once you have a customer, can you sell them MORE stuff more easily? Why / why not / how much / when will you have it to sell? What is the expected life-time value of a customer (be careful to think about this relative to the cost to acquire a customer)?

9. Financial Details (revenue, expense, HC, projections)

* What is your current and future headcount (this equates to your burn rate as headcount is almost always the biggest expense)?
* what is your current monthly/quarterly burn rate and how does that ramp over time?
* what is your current revenue and how does that ramp over time?
* How quickly are you approaching a cash-flow breakeven point?
* What’s your revenue run-rate 12 months from now? What’s the net loss / gain over the same period?

10. Funding “ask” + use of proceeds (timing, other firms)
11. Team Overview
12. Thank you, questions, contact info (no example slide)

High-level guidelines:

* Create your own deck! Create a deck that allows you to tell your story according to your style; name the slides what you want; tell your story with text or pictures (within reason)

* Don’t leave out critical information! This outline is my suggestion of a “critical information” list; no rational investor will fund your company without knowing the information suggested by this outline.

* Proactively answer big-ticket questions! If there are obvious, elephant-in-the-room sort of questions regarding your business: address them before they get asked. This is always a better way to go.

* Be passionate and informed! Investors invest in the team – show them your passion and be sure to know data from adjacent or competitive markets, companies, and models.

* Finally, it’s really important to have enough white space in your presentation format. I like a white background because it prints and projects cleanly. I like titles that are single-line and as few words as possible; and I try to keep the text/image area “middle part” of the slide as open as possible. In general, right angles are easier to make look clean than circles but your mileage may vary. Less is more when it comes to the presentation template.

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Just Get Through 2009

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2008-12-04

Tags: Operations Crisis Burn Rate

PUBLIC:

I'm fundraising right now and it is absolutely brutal. I want to to tell all entrepreneurs, "Fight through this. You can raise capital." But that isn't true. You may not be able to raise capital until 2010 no matter how good your product or company is. It is not a reflection of you, just the external factors that are largely out of your control.

Survive until 2010 and position your company to take off as the next economic cycle does. These things always come back. While it is bad now, it will eventually get better. The Wall Street guys will get tired of losing money and companies will start hiring again.

I hope I am wrong. (Boy, do I hope I'm wrong.) Maybe Obama will follow through on his plan to eliminate capital gains tax on investments to startups. That would help us immensely. But I have heard nothing about that since it was mentioned during the campaign.

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Is Open Deals / Angel Soft Bad for Angel Investing? I Think So...

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by J on 2008-09-13

Tags: Venture Business Angels AngelsSoft

PUBLIC:

I have been trying to pitch organized angel groups, more and more of whom are using Angelsoft. When I contact someone from the group, I normally get a response to put my deal into the Angelsoft system, which also apparently powers www.open-deals.com.

The problem is that nobody responds:

http://www.thefunded.com/funds/item/4157
http://www.thefunded.com/funds/item/3833

I have been an angel investor in the past, and it has always been more about coaching and personal relationships. It's not about scrutinizing a young financial model that arrives through email to evaluate hypothetical returns. It is about helping an entrepreneur to realize those hypothetical returns by sharing experiences and providing some capital.

With Angelsoft, all of the personal aspects of angel investing seem to be removed from the equation. My materials are submitted through Angelsoft forms, and then disappear into some system that encourages a group of busy angels evaluate the opportunity in a black box. Do they like it" Do they hate it" Do they even read it" I have no idea, since I have never heard anything!

My advice is for angel groups try to find a way to interact with the entrepreneurs that pitch, and entrepreneurs should try to get in front of angels if they really want to close a deal...

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5 Reasons Convertible Debt Sucks

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by fnazeeri on 2008-06-20

Tags: Preparation Convertible Debt

PUBLIC:

I just posted this over on my blog [http://tinyurl.com/3n4wsz] but figured some folks might be interested here as well.

There are two scenarios where convertible debt is typically used: bridge financing and angel financing. I've raised convertible debt a few times and I have to say that in most angel funding scenarios it sucks as a way to finance a startup (I think it's okay for bridge funding, but I'd avoid that too if possible). Why"

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When You Don't Get a Response...

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by zip on 2008-02-01

Tags: Pitching Responses

PUBLIC:

The thing I read over and over on this site is, "He never wrote me back!" or "He didn't call me back!" Let's face it, if you're going to to deal with VCs, you have to play by their rules. Many VCs are not great about getting back to folks when the decision is "pass" or "maybe." So, when some VC doesn't get back to you right away, chalk it up as a "pass" or a "maybe" and move on. If they get back to you belatedly with a "yes," be surprised and enjoy the moment.

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Stack Your Board with People Your Investor Can't Argue With

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by RichieBlueEyes on 2008-03-05

Tags: Operations Board

PUBLIC:

You should always be in control of your own board. There is a simple way to do this, stack your board with people that are beyond reproach that are in your corner. Yes, you need to be well connected to pull this off but if do, you could end up with at least an even say on the board. Most entrepreneurs get board members from referrals, I say, get your friends! Don't get 100 board members, just a few that no one can tell you to get rid of...After-all you just gave them free stock...so they'll probably back you at least for the first year. However, don't get rubber stamp people that won't do anything. Make sure to get people that actually will be active.

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Have a Lawyer That's a Friend

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by RichieBlueEyes on 2007-12-14

Tags: Preparation Lawyers Friends

PUBLIC:

Lawyers are great - when they are on your side. They are horrible when you are just a toad in their collection of clients. Find an honest lawyer and become friends. You need someone on your side. At the end of the day, the term sheet will come down to negotiation, I would rather have a shark of a lawyer who has my interest at heart negotiating the terms then me. Why" He can get away with being an ass and I can't. Pretty simple, eh"

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The Game of Innocence

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by MrJames on 2007-12-10

Tags: Preparation Strategy Venture Business

PUBLIC:

Aspiring entrepreneurs be warned. Venture capitalists will provide money for your idea, but they often walk away with most of the value, especially if you are not careful. Like an amateur sitting at a table of professionals, the cards are stacked against your success, so be prepared. Know the game.

Here are some anecdotal facts. There are five times as many people working in venture capital as there are CEO's that are funded each year (~16,500 vs ~3,000). The average venture funded CEO is fortunate to make 1/10th to 1/20th the return on exit as the venture capitalists. Just the legal fees on a later stage deal will run $50,000 or more per party involved, and the venture capitalists always flip the bill, directly or indirectly. Who do the lawyers work for again"

No matter how nice, no matter how fair, and no matter how genuine a venture capitalist appears, you are being out-smarted, out-lawyered, and out-maneuvered the second you sit down and ask for money. The first step in winning is to understand their motivations: (1) control, (2) risk, and (3) opportunity, in that order. Let's take a look at all three.

The entirety of a venture investment centers around control, and control takes many forms: control of the board, control of the voting, control of the investment capital, and, most importantly, control of the management. Venture capitalists are "control freaks," and the psychology of control is embedded in nearly every aspect of the deal legal structure. Assume that most financing terms, from Board meeting frequency to protective provisions have some origin in control, and analyze them as such. Ask yourself: in good times and in bad, how do these terms affect my behavior as a CEO" For example, did Google really need to have 14 Board meetings in one year... ever"

Venture capitalists are excellent at managing risk. It is assumed that at most venture investments fail, but approximately one in ten succeed. Following this simplistic logic, a venture capitalist would need to make at least $10 from every $1 invested in a success to recover from the 9 losses. Now, not every deal is a total loss, but a lot are. Complex protections are inevitably put in place. Let's look at a common scenario: a company receives $10 MM for 50% of the stock in a participating preferred with a 2x liquidation preference. The company sells for $25 MM right after the investment. How much does the founding team make" Nothing. The "50%" is legalese.

Venture capitalists are not very good at spotting opportunities, or they might have better odds than 1 in 10. However, they are very good at "managing" opportunities as a result. Here are some examples. Venture capitalists do not say "no" (for risk of losing an opportunity). They postpone meetings until you are achieving success, and they flock around markets with success stories. Ever wonder why a venture capitalist calls you out of the blue asking about your company" It's probably because a competitor is succeeding. Every wonder what "demonstrate traction" actually means" It means a nine figure IPO or liquidity event in your sector. Your dream is just potential, and you will be held on the sidelines until "the time is right" for the venture capitalists to make money.

The irony is that the venture capital behavior is largely a response to other abuses by CEO's. At this point, however, the venture capitalists have gone too far. The opportunities in building a venture funded start-up are gone for the great entrepreneurs. It simply makes more sense to go it alone.

You can quote me without attribution.

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Focus on the Business Model, Not the Technology

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-05-09

Tags: Pitching Presentation Model

PUBLIC:

Too many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of being so enamored with their technology or widget, that they spend 55 minutes on how great their technology platform is, and only the last 5 minutes on how they are going to monetize it. Of course, there are always exceptions, but given time and resources (cash) your technology CAN be duplicated, and if it's a good idea, count on it. You stand a better chance if you split up your pitch into two sections, 1. technology and 2. business model. Take the time to be as much of an enthusiastic expert in your market segment as you are on your technology platform. Bottom line, VC's want to know how you are going to make them rich, period. Miss this vital point, and you immediately lose their interest.

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Watch Out for Old "Option Plan Reload"

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-04-03

Tags: Negotiation Options

PUBLIC:

When negotiating your term sheet, pay particular attention to issues around the stock option plan. For a series A deal, you will want to have about 15% of the total (fully diluted) shares available for your management team. This is a clever way that VCs will try to add more shares and dilute existing investors. E.g. by making you reload the pool to, say, 22% they are lowering the price per share as they will fund after the reload. They then avoid dilution later when you want/ need to reload the pool.

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Pick the First Investors Really Wisely

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-04-02

Tags: Preparation Targets

PUBLIC:

Your first investors in the angel round or Series A will set the tone for your business and all of your fundraising going forward in a big way. These investors will be your long-term partners in any future funding event, helping your company secure future rounds, or, in the worst case, sabotaging future rounds through indecision or desire for control. Members, read on...

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Know the Trends

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-04-02

Tags: Preparation Strategy Trends

PUBLIC:

Venture capitalists tend to invest around trends in the various investment sectors that they cover, which makes sense from a capital concentration standpoint in a given sector. You may be pitching a business that is not related to the current trends, since the trends change every few months, but it is important to understand them. The partners and associates will be actively researching the trends, so a lot of the questions in a pitch meeting will be influenced by the current trends. Questions that may appear irrelevant to you as an entrepreneur may be influenced by the current sector trends. Be prepared.

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Software Outsourcing Eye Opening Lessons Learned

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Richard on 2011-10-22

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Don't Let a Venture Capitalist De Flower Your Startup Without Making a Commitment

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by ammosov on 2010-06-06

Tags: Negotiation Terms Board

PUBLIC:

Basically, never let a VC to skip taking a board seat because this means they might be an evidence they want an option to dump the startup or do a Round A on miserable terms.

http://www.greggretsch.com/2010/05/do...

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NYC Venture Funding or Lack Thereof...

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by RichieBlueEyes on 2009-03-12

Tags: Venture Business Economy East Coast Bootstrapping

PUBLIC:

So the NYC investment climate is going through serious issues. The angel market has drastically changed as most angels are from the world of finance and no longer have disposable investable cash and the few angel deals that are getting done are at far lower valuations. On the venture side, 'risk' is not being funded. Unless you have revenue (and don't need money) or extreme traction it's probably not worth the time raising money. Sure people who have made money for that exact investor in the past can still raise some money but beyond that, unless you're 'perfect' you'll have a hard time. Even then expect 2-3X liquidity preference, restrictive employment agreements and flat to down rounds even for high growth companies. I saw a company that is trending towards $20MM in revenue in a high growth category doing a flat round at a 3X liquidity preference. Times are tough. Time to call on the old friends and family and Bootstrap. It will not be fun. Still talk to investors and get coverage so they know you so if you happen to hit a stroke of luck or genius and take off, you can create some competition and maybe get decent terms but don't expect to easily raise money. Sure, you can get meetings and maybe even some feedback, don't expect an easy check from angels or VC's in NYC. Seed Capital has been crushed, Angel money is crushed and Series A money is trending towards Series B money or to pump into existing companies or entrepreneurs proven to that investor.

With all that said, always keep pitching but Bootstrap your ass off.

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Lessons From the Last Crash

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by fnazeeri on 2008-10-27

Tags: Operations Crisis

PUBLIC:

It's pretty rare that during a crash and recession there are employees and managers with recent experience on how to handle the situation. Well, the "good news" with the Great Depression 2.0 is that a whole bunch of us have relatively fresh experience. Last time the financial grenade went off in our lap. This time, we're collateral damage, which means it should be less painful assuming similar size crashes (which is looking less and less like a valid assumption).

In any event, here are some lessons I learned from the last time through this mess:

MORE

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Stereotypes

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by fnazeeri on 2008-06-24

Tags: Venture Business Humor

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Show that You Know the Way to the Exit.

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Black Squirrel on 2008-05-27

Tags: Preparation Liquidity Model

PUBLIC:

"This Way to The Egress -> "
- P.T. Barnum

An important part of your presentation to investors is the exit strategy; to wit, how are the investors going to get their money back"

Devote a couple of those 16 precious PowerPoint slides to the exit. Show comparable companies to the one you plan to build, and their acquisition dates, prices, capital raised and the excellent financial return to *their* investors. Show that you know the names of the prospective acquirers in your space. Show that you understand the way multiples of revenues and earnings are calculated for acquisition prices in your sector. Don't talk too much about IPOs....

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Avoid Exclusivity

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-09-29

Tags: Negotiation Exclusivity

PUBLIC:

If a fund asks you to go exclusive in the term sheet - AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE. The usual reasoning by the fund for the exclusivity is the difficulty of due diligence. I have had a venture fund pull out after the company signed a completed set of closing documents, and the company was left high and dry with no other warm prospect. You have no control over the decision making of a fund, and, therefore, you should never sign something that limits your options without compensation.

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Convertible Debt

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2007-09-11

Tags: Preparation Convertible Debt

PUBLIC:

I've had a few people recommend this as a viable (and even preferable) option for us. I know there have to be others out there who are looking for honest feedback as well.

Experienced entrepreneurs - post your thoughts (as comments) on whether its a good, a bad, or (as I suspect) a conditional thing.

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Outcomes of Early Stage Funding Meeting

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by Anonymous on 2011-06-05

Tags: Early Stage

PUBLIC:

Most folks look at the funding meeting as having a “yes/no” outcome. It is much more realistic to recognize that there are many outcomes:

Funder Doesn’t Get It/ Like It:
1) Don’t get it - go away
2) Don't get it - but I'll learn more

Funder Gets It:
1) Get It, but not are my area of investment – will contact Mr./Mrs. XYZ on your behalf and suggest that they meet with you
2) Get It – I’ll give you some $$ - and I’ll let you run the company until you screw up
3) Get It – I’ll give you some $$ - and I’ll let you run the company until Point XYZ – at which time we’ll bring in a new CEO
4) Get It – I’ll give you some $$ - but I want my EIR to run it from Day One
5) Get It – I won’t give you $$ - but I like what you are doing so much I’ll
a. Tell one of my portfolio companies to do what you are doing
b. I’ll build it myself

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