Transcript of "Startup Conference LA - raising your first round"
Raising Money for First-Time Founders By Gagan Biyani @gaganbiyani
Gagan Biyani: Something from Nothing 24 Months Ago: Today: • Never seen a VC in person • Met with over 100 Investors • No Connections in the Valley • Investors from Groupon, Yelp, YouTube, Square, etc. • Biggest Aspiration for the Year: • Biggest Aspiration for the Year: Getting through it without being Disrupt the $2 Trillion Education fired Industry • Never launched a website in my • Co-Founder of Udemy.com life • No money • $4,000,000 in funding
Before you start raising, make sure you’re READY
Overview 1. Meet Tons of People Goal: Grow your network in the Startup community 2. Find Advisors/Connectors Goal: Find “advocates” who will help you get meetings 3. Getting the Meeting Goal: Intrigue investors so they take the meeting 4. Nail the Meeting Goal: Get investor to say “yes” by the end of the meeting or quickly thereafter
Step 1: Meet Tons of People Goal: Grow your Network
Affiliate with Great Startup Brands • Incubators – Founder Institute (22 cities worldwide) – Y Combinator (Silicon Valley) – TechStars (Boston, Boulder, Seattle, NYC) – Others: DreamIt, AngelPad, 500 Startups, Black Box • Co-Working Spaces – Dog Patch Labs – Hacker Dojo – PariSoma • Take Advantage of the Affiliation – Be an Advocate (blog, tweet, facebook, refer) – Get involved (meetups, drinks, dinners) – Meet everyone in your group (not just the guy in charge)
Go to Events • Find out about Events in your Area – Plancast.com: follow local startup celebrities (and ones who travel a lot) – StartupDigest (52 cities worldwide) – Meetup.com: search for technology keywords in your area • Getting into Events Without $$$ – If you can’t afford it, offer to Volunteer – The best events are cheap and small anyways – Make friends with the organizers • While at Events – Talk to everyone (don’t be a d-bag) – Bring cards + E-mail / LinkedIn contacts afterwards – Iterate on your high-concept pitch – Try to provide value/insights and care about what others are doing
Pitch Everywhere You Can • Stealth Doesn’t Help – May be good for business, but not for meeting investors – Investors like businesses or people they are already familiar with • Pitch Events – Apply to all of them • Founders Showcase, TechCrunch Disrupt, VatorSplash, OAF, local pitch events – Don’t Pay to Pitch • Waste of time and money; • We got invited to Kereitsu and DEMO and it was tough to say no – Have a Good Story • While Pitching – Be confident, enthusiastic and SMILE! – Sell the vision, not the product – Ignore key aspects of a pitch (e.g. competition)
Step 2: Find Advisor/Connectors Goal: Have Multiple “Advocates”
Who Should you Target? • Pick the right people – Don’t pick the famous guy – pick the famous guy’s friend – Companies often have multiple key figures; only one or two is public-facing but the others are often more useful / willing to help • Fellow Entrepreneurs – Ideally, find people who are in your space but not competitive – Consider people who are not yet successful but are “on track” – VC’s/Angels listen to their portfolio more than anyone else for introductions • Industry Experts – Lawyers can be useful but should not be relied-upon – Professors and authors may not be useful for fundraising but will be useful outside of it • Investors – Associates at later-stage firms can intro you
Connect with Advisor/Connectors • Grab Coffee / Drinks – Meet somewhere with a WiFi connection – Short, concise e-mails – Ask for specific advice • Help out a Few “Target” Entrepreneurs – E-mail about competitors / make introductions – Ask them what their needs are – Retweet their stuff, comment on their blog, but don’t be annoying • Hang out with Peers – Just because someone hasn’t made it yet, doesn’t mean they won’t – Connecting with entrepreneurs will help you meet and learn more • When you want an Introduction – Tell them you’re thinking of fundraising – Don’t push it.
Angel.co • What is AngelList? – Available at http://www.angel.co/ - also a great resource to find out information on investors (along with http://www.crunchbase.com/) – Startups post your pitch; the more people who “upvote” and “follow” you, the more visibility you get • When to Apply – The party line: “Anytime” – Greater success if you have “social proof” • Application Process – Be as short and concise as possible – Intros always help (especially from scouts) • Yes, You Should Do It – We got 30+ meetings in less than 3 weeks – At the least, you will know whether it is the right time to raise a round
Step 3: Getting the Meeting Goal: Schedule Tons of Meetings
Introductions 101 • The “forwardable” e-mail – Any e-mail asking for an intro should be readable by the target – Provide links to video demo and clear vision/traction – 3-5 sentence pitch (shorter the better) • The Basics – Timing (Sunday evening – Thursday morning) – Less than 3 intros per person – Follow up if you don’t get intros – Get additional intros to a target if they are not responding to one • Responding to the Intro – Wait 12-48 hours to respond to an intro request – Move the intro-er to BCC immediately…
Forwardable E-mail Example “Hi Darian, Short call to action. Great seeing you last week. As we discussed, I’d love an intro to Keith Rabois. High-concept pitch Udemy (http://www.udemy.com/) seeks to disrupt education by enabling anyone to build an online Spaces between paragraphs course. make e-mails seem shorter. Since launching in May, Udemy’s course catalogue has grown 25% a week and 900+ instructors have created Traction and team are key. 1600 courses. My co-founders previously built Numbers rarely lie. SpeedDate.com from launch to 10M users. Thanks so much in advance! Thanking them in advance makes them feel bad if they don’t do it. Best, Gagan”
Follow-Up E-mail Example “Darian – thanks for the intro. Moving to BCC… Moving to BCC spares the introers inbox. If your introer Keith, is inexperienced, say “Moving to BCC to spare your inbox” Pleasure to meet you virtually. I don’t know why, but this is what everyone says Darian has said great things and we really admire his opinion. I’d love to get a chance to connect. Of course I already know who Keith is! I’m based in Palo Alto and available next week on Wed between 1p-4p and Friday between 10a-3p PST. Specify place, time, time zone. If those don’t work, feel free to propose another time. What time works for you? I actually have a completely Best, empty calendar, but I pretend like I’m busy. Gagan” End with a question in case they don’t read anything else.
Step 4: Getting to YesGoal: Inspire or Excite the Investor
The Pitch Meeting • The Pitchdeck – 6-8 slides; 4+ more in appendix if necessary – DO NOT E-MAIL THIS until after your first meeting – Go over: Team, Market, Opportunity/Problem, Product, How Much? • Competition, Financials are FAR less important • The Basics – Be on Time (5 min early for angels; 10 min early for VC’s) – Dress Business Casual and don’t look like a Hobo – Don’t be nervous, defensive; your non-verbal cues are most important • How to Win – Inspire the investor about your business – Needs to believe: • A big market opportunity • You are the right team • Your solution could be right
The “Yes” and what to do with it • The “Yes” conversation – 25% in the meeting, 25% over phone after meeting and 50% over e-mail the following week(s) – If they aren’t moving on to next steps, they aren’t interested – Ask about “next steps” and “process” – you will know what to do from there – “Can I use your name?” • A Lead Investor – Rounds always have a “lead” - but it doesn’t need to be formal – Get documents signed by the “lead” before moving on to followers • Followers – Like herding cats – you literally must just keep on top of everyone (spreadsheet) – Every time you send a follow-up e-mail, send some good news – Don’t take any major risks after the lead has committed • No new hires, or advisors • No major product changes
Summary 1. Meet Tons of People Goal: Know tons of people in the Startup community – Pitch as much as you can; meet as many people as possible 2. Find Advisors/Connectors Goal: Find “advocates” who will help you get meetings – Gain favor with potential “advocates” + use Angel.co 3. Getting the Meeting Goal: Intrigue investors so they take the meeting – Basics of an Introduction – Carefully craft your e-mails 4. Getting to “Yes” Goal: Get investors to agree to invest – A “Lead” investor is critical – Leverage your fundraising traction to close the round