One issue that continues to surprise me in meetings with founders is their expectations about how long it takes to raise capital. I recently met with a couple of founders who thought they could raise angel capital in a month! I thought it would be helpful to put together a typical timeline for raising capital from professional investors. You might be able to raise capital from friends and family in a month, but you should plan on taking six months from a standing start to raise capital from VCs or angel groups. There may be an angel who falls in love with your venture or who is a total newbie who will invest sooner, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
Typically it will take you 6 months from the day you start to the day the wire transfer is in your company’s bank account or the check clears the bank. It can take a lot longer.
Here’s what you need to get started:
- a one-page, highly graphical executive summary
- 30 second pitch
- 4 minute pitch
- 20 minute pitch
- list of investors who are a fit for your company – meaning they have invested in other companies in the same or similar space previously
- warm introductions to investors who fit your profile
Here’s what you need to do. Email your one-pager to the partner at the firms you are targeting. Make this a personal note referencing the introduction from your mutual acquaintance and requesting a meeting.
Follow up your email with a phone call. If you don’t connect leave a succinct voice mail message. Turn off caller ID, then keep calling but don’t leave messages. You don’t want to look like a pest! Try calling first thing in the morning, many VCs get to the office very early – say 7:00 am and call late at night, say 8:00 pm. You job is to get the meeting! If necessary settle for a video call, but not a POTS voice call. That way you can have your executive summary available on the call.
Congrats! You got the meeting. But investors are very busy. So the time from your phone call being answered to getting a meeting can be 4 weeks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that your meeting is not with the partner, but with an associate. Associates can’t make investment decisions; they screen for partners. Make sure to follow up your meeting with the associate with an enthusiastic email covering any points missed in the meeting.
Congrats again! The associate likes your venture! He’ll setup a meeting with a partner. But the partner’s on vacation so it will take a while. Keep pushing your venture forward! The more value you create the higher your valuation. For the next meeting you will need a set of financial statements (income statement, balance sheet and cash flow), sales projections, unit economics – but far more importantly, your financial assumptions.
Finally you get to present to a partner. He asks a lot of tough questions but you have prepared for virtually of them, which blows him out of the water. The demo of your product has him leaning forward. He tells you that he’s so excited he’s going to invite you back to meet another partner.
Three and half months
You blow away the other senior partner as well! Next step? You get to present to the entire firm. It’s show time. But keep in mind, all investment decisions by partnerships must be unanimous. Just one naysayer can kill your deal, so don’t ignore anyone.
You prep for the partners’ meeting with a friend or two who have been through it and role play with you.
You ace the partners meeting! Next step is due diligence. You need to get to everyone who you have ever worked with and prep them for a partner’s or associate’s call. Just to be on the safe side you talk to your kindergarten teacher as well. To prepare you put together a binder of all contracts the firm has entered into, the NDAs the staff and execs have signed, your cap table (which better be accurate and clean), references for the entire senior management team, a list of customers to call – in other words every possible document an investor might want to review and contact information for anyone they might want to talk with. Your job one – make the investor’s due diligence process as simple and easy as possible by providing them needed contacts and documents. Job two, have you done your due diligence on the firm? You may want to bring in an experienced CFO to help you prepare the due diligence folder. There are many available on a consultant basis.
Congrats again! You passed due diligence with flying colors! The firm tenders you a term sheet. You have it reviewed by your attorney, who has seen hundreds of them. You have reviewed it with your consulting CFO. Both advise you to accept it, as you don’t have the time to get into a negotiation with this firm over a fair offer, as you are running out of cash.
You are invited into the VC’s offices to sign a zillion copies of the funding agreement. Two weeks later the investment is wire transferred to your bank. Congrats! The
pre-season is over, time to play ball!
Note: it’s been several years since I’ve raised capital so this process may have changed somewhat, though from what I know from founders and mentors, it hasn’t changed much. And every investment is different. Just keep in mind it will take longer than you think, so manage your cash accordingly.