I hear from a lot of founders who want to know what I think.
I want to know what they think.
It’s fine if you’re at a super early stage, and you’re looking for some direction—trying to figure out if anyone has done something like this, or whether or not, in my “expertise” I believe some aspect of expected consumer behavior. Let’s be clear, however, that’s not fundraising.
That’s product research.
Fundraising is what happens after you’ve done your product research, your extensive customer interviews—it’s what happens after the past months and years of your life have led up to knowing that this thing is a thing, not guessing that it is.
The difference is homework, research and experience. If you’re going to pitch a two-sided marketplace, you should talk to early employees at eBay or Seemless or heck, even Notarize.com (one of my favorite business tools) to understand the keys to success there.
The right time to fundraise is when you know you should be funded—and you should act like it.
It’s very obvious when someone pitches me restaurant tech after solving a problem only for those seated at a restaurant, and without having talked to someone who owns a restaurant. They’ve never asked what that restaurant pays for Yelp or Singleplatform.
Pitch success is in many ways a function of confidence, but confidence isn’t just something you’re born with or that you psyche yourself up for. It comes from the knowledge that you have a company that a venture capital investor, with all of their return expectations, can make those returns.
It’s ok if you don’t come from the tech or VC world and don’t understand how VC funding works. That’s not taught in school—but there are plenty of books written about it like those written by Brad Feld. You should know and understand how returns work and what expectations are before you go asking for VC money for sure.
Signalling is also an important factor in perceived confidence. If you’re reading up about who gets funding and who doesn’t, asking for less isn’t going to make things easier on you. If anything, that’s going to play right into the stereotypes you’re trying to avoid. If the VC world doesn’t see women and BIPOC as places to take big risks for big returns, showing up to a meeting with a small ask with aims of moderate goals won’t make your fundraising any easier.
Neither I nor you can change people’s unconscious biases, but we can make sure we don’t step right into them.
If you’re confident you can hit big goals with a million dollars, ask for the million and tell me all about your big goals, no matter who you are.
(Well, if you’re planning to build in the NYC area and haven’t yet raised $750k in prior rounds anyway.)
And if you’re looking to figure out what a bunch of VCs are going to say about your business before you’re totally ready to get out there and spend a lot of time on fundraising, check out Feedback.vc.