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A Primer for Early Stage Fundraising

TheFunded.com Advice

Posted by J on 2008-09-14

Tags: Preparation Strategy Early Stage

PUBLIC:

Raising money for early stage companies has become more challenging. Traditional angels are more organized and difficult to reach. Most early stage venture funds have exited the field, and the remaining funds are (1) overwhelmed, (2) extremely focused, (3) incompetent, or (4) incubators.

Within this challenging environment, it is still possible to succeed if you know the "new" rules of the game. Here are some tips to consider with your early stage fundraising.

Structure: Almost all professional North American investments are made into Delaware C corporations. Lawyers greedily sell LLCs to charge you for conversion. If needed at inception of your fundraising, convert to a Delaware C corp structure with 2 to 5 million authorized shares to avoid closing friction.

Geography: Most angel and early stage investors focus on a strict investment region so that they can spend time with portfolio companies. Unless you are SERIOUSLY planning to move, don't bother to pitch a firm more than 100 miles away in the early stage. It's literally a waste of your time and theirs.

Traction: Every early stage investor will want to see traction before they invest, whether that is a prototype, a patent, or a committed team of experts. Gone are the days of funding a dream and a PowerPoint pitch. You alone are going to need to make the initial investment in your idea, committing both time and money to get your idea off the ground.

Relationship: Having a standing relationship with your early stage investors makes a big difference, so start attending regional entrepreneur networking events as soon as you have an idea. Don't wait until your idea is ready for prime time, as this is already too late.

Format: Avoid embarrassment by knowing about round types and raise amounts. A friends and family round is usually a purchase of common to get the company off of the ground, but can also be part of the angel round. Angel investors tend to participate in convertible debt or equity rounds that raise between $100K and $1.5 MM. Venture capitalists lead Series A rounds for $750K to $5 MM in preferred equity, sometimes more. The average Series A round varies widely by sector and geography.

Focus: More and more early stage investors are focusing, and they will rarely invest in competing businesses. This means that you should do your homework before pitching a fund. Just check their portfolio page to get a sense of what they are doing.

Pitfalls: Be very weary of convertible debt from venture funds, since, if that fund does not invest in future rounds, you will be completely unable to raise further capital. Avoid corporate venture firms, as these investors scare off other professional investors, since everyone will ask why the big parent corporation just doesn't buy you.

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