Last week I published the sequel to my cult classic piece “Pause Your Fundraise till the Fall” – aptly titled “How to Survive till the Fall”
If you took the necessary steps to extend your runway till the EOY, you now have a few months before fundraising activity picks back up. Good job, but now what?
Now comes a period of intense focus.
You’re going to be working those little hands as hard as you can to set up the best fundraise possible. To do that, it’s helpful to understand a fact that few first-time founders grasp…
The best fundraises launch off of exceptional foundations based on fundamentals developed long before any actual pitching.
Raises that seemingly took the shortest amount of time likely spent the most time in the years prior building a strong foundation. Before I raised a $2MM round led by Greylock in 6 weeks, I spent the prior decade in tech and VC growing my abilities, building my reputation, and developing a strong network. No one knows about the grind leading up to the fundraise, they just know I got it done quickly.
You don’t have years of time to casually work on your foundation, but with some focused and strategic effort you can make a ton of progress in months.
When it comes to laying a foundation, there are 4 areas of focus that are particularly important for founders to focus on.
I like using the acronym “You CAN” to help me remember.
In the time you have before launching your fundraise, focus on projects that work on these areas.
Here are my suggestions:
YOU run the show. You establish the vision for the company. You set the tone for your team. Everything stems from you. If you aren’t showing up with the best version of yourself, you’re wasting your time.
On top of that, a healthy connection to the business is essential. Too many founders do startups for the wrong reasons which is a recipe for disaster both in the company itself AND with fundraising.
No better time than now to make sure YOU are good and working on the right thing. Think about it - running a venture-backed startup is difficult. Is it worth the lost sleep, time away from loved ones, and enormous enormous stress, to work on something you don’t care about?
Here are two efforts that can support you in this work:
Credibility = Trust. Trust = Support. Support = $$
Do investors believe you have what it takes to do what is necessary? Do they trust that you know what you're talking about?
Without significant data, credibility is all an investor can count on to answer those questions.
Some methods of establishing credibility take time, but there’s one straightforward element that establishes credibility with investors QUICKLY:
There's no better signal around company/founder quality than execution. You don’t have a ton of time, so planning ahead of time is key. Follow these steps:
Easier said than done?
Maybe. But you have to try.
The last 2 years might make it seem like VCs do deals days after hearing about them for the first time.
They don't normally, and we're returning to normalcy.
Lead investors like to learn about founders well in advance of a fundraise to gain comfort around the opportunity. In 2021, I spoke to a top SaaS investor about his approach to investing and even in those heady times he estimated less than 20% of his investments were in companies he met for the first time as they were launching their fundraise.
This is why building awareness is key.
With your newfound space and time, work on things that create surface area for people to discover you.
My fav projects :
Network. Network. Network.
Your network might be the most valuable thing you can build in the business world. In the fundraising game, it’s the tool you'll use to get warm intros, establish credibility, and influence decisions.
Have you ever seen posts from investors talking about how they “first met” a founder? Networks are powerful and can take time to build.
Beyond fundraising, investing in a strong network that believes in you will pay dividends beyond just your next fundraise. Never hesitate to invest in network.
2 great projects for strengthening your network:
So will you be able to build up that powerful fundraising foundation? Yes. You CAN. (*barf* i know)
But seriously, once you've established a stronger foundation the normal steps of fundraise prep (creating your target list, finding introductions, and executing the process) will come much more easily.
It's filled with:
- 15 instructional videos
- 8 step-by-step project plans
- 17 email + copywriting templates
It’s designed to make the work I described above braindead simple. No time wasted thinking how to do it…just instructions, plans, and templates to get you going.