Why and When to Raise Money?
Why Raise Money?
Without startup funding the vast majority of startups will die. The amount of money needed to take a startup to profitability is usually well beyond the ability of founders and their friends and family to finance.
A startup here means a company that is built to grow fast. High growth companies almost always need to burn capital to sustain their growth prior to achieving profitability. A few startup companies do successfully bootstrap (self-fund) themselves, but they are the exception. Of course, there are lots of great companies that aren’t startups. Managing capital needs for such companies is not covered herein.
Cash not only allows startups to live and grow, a war chest is also almost always a competitive advantage in all ways that matter: hiring key staff, public relations, marketing, and sales. Thus, most startups will almost certainly want to raise money.
The good news is that there are lots of investors hoping to give the right startup money. The bad news is, “Fundraising is brutal”. The process of raising that money is often long, arduous, complex, and ego deflating. Nevertheless, it is a path almost all companies and founders must walk, but when is the time right to raise?
When to Raise Money?
Investors write checks when the idea they hear is compelling, when they are persuaded that the team of founders can realize its vision, and that the opportunity described is real and sufficiently large. When founders are ready to tell this story, they can raise money. And usually when you can raise money, you should.
For some founders it is enough to have a story and a reputation. However, for most it will require an idea, a product, and some amount of customer adoption, a.k.a. traction. Luckily, the software development ecosystem today is such that a sophisticated web or mobile product can be built and delivered in a remarkably short period of time at very low cost. Even hardware can be rapidly prototyped and tested.
But investors also need persuading. Usually a product they can see, use, or touch will not be enough. They will want to know that there is product market fit and that the product is experiencing actual growth.
Therefore, founders should raise money when they have figured out what the market opportunity is and who the customer is, and when they have delivered a product that matches their needs and is being adopted at an interestingly rapid rate. How rapid is interesting? This depends, but a rate of 10% per week for several weeks is impressive. And to raise money founders need to impress. For founders who can convince investors without these things, congratulations. For everyone else, work on your product and talk to your users.
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