20VC: Fundraising 101
Today we are going to walk through the process of raising a funding round for a hypothetical company. We will break it down by different stages in the fundraising process and at those stages I will talk about how each element differs according to the round being raised.
First, for 99% of fundraises it is a game of shots on goal. You need to have enough investors in the pipeline, it is a sheer numbers game. Miki Kuusi @ Wolt said on 20VC recently for his Series B he got 68 rejections before Laurel Bowden @83North said yes. Wolt sold in 2021 for $7BN to Doordash making a monster return for the company's investors. But 68 meetings before that yes, for the Series B. Also goes to show, you sometimes just need one true believer.
How to Create a Target List of Investors
Now we know we need enough shots on goal, we need to bring together a target list of investors, put these investors in three buckets:
So how do we choose who goes in what bucket? First, founder references speak volumes and lead to warm intros, so speak to your friends who are founders, ask which of their VCs have been the best, place even more weight on their recommendation if the company has not been a success. It is easy to be a VC champion when the company is flying, you often see the true colours of the VC when a company is really struggling or fails. Get a couple of names there and then analyse the VC landscape, you can do this on Twitter or the VCs website or blog and find the VCs that resonate best with your company. Look at the types of deals they have done before, are they interested in pre-seed fintech in Europe, do they do enterprise SaaS Series A in the Silicon Valley. You can see their portfolio, make sure it is a fit for them. I get about 200 inbounds per day across channel, about 150 are clearly not a fit for me because of stage, sector or location and so making sure the obvious are aligned is crucial. Then double down on their Twitter or public profile to see as much as you can about their values and how they portray themselves. Rule No 1, never work with assholes. Value alignment is really important. Now we have the five priorities and then I would say do the same for the Tier 2 and Tier 3 bucket, make sure they invest both in your stage, sector and geography.
The Biggest Mistakes Founders Make Pitching:
So now we have our pipe of investors. A couple of big mistakes I see founders make in this next step.
Now we have done the first investor meetings and we have iterated our deck and messaging in accordance with the feedback we got. We now progress to taking meetings with investors we want as our partners.
How to Master the Subtleties of a First VC Call:
The 7 Sins of Fundraising Decks:
So while we are on the deck, I want to go through a couple of elements that I so often see and they are killer mistakes:
How To Structure The Size and Composition of Your Funding Round:
Now at some point in the discussion the size of the round and the price of the round will be asked. Use this as a chance to show your calibre as a founder.
How to Answer the Question of Valuation:
When you say the size of the raise, say $2M, the basic assumption is that each round will dilute 15-20% and so the average VC will think of a $10M post money valuation straight away when you say a $2M raise. That said, you do not want to anchor yourself to a price, you are running a process as transactional as it sounds and I am not saying you want to optimise for price by any means but the majority of the time, it is best to say, “hey we are raising $2M and we will let the market decide on the price”. This is a great way to answer the question as this will not put anyone off, it will not anchor you to a price and it will also show you are savvy as to the raise process which any incoming investor should want to see as your ability to raise the next round is fundamental for them. Again, use this question to show your sophistication and knowledge as to the finer details of how to navigate a fundraise successfully.
How to Choose Your Lead Investor?
The biggest problem of the last 2 years was people chose their lead having met them once. They will be a partner to you for 10 years and you will not be able to get rid of them, it is literally harder to remove an investor than it is to get divorced. Brian Singerman @ Founders Fund said on the show recently about how he was unable to do his job in COVID as he could not meet founders in person. It is so important to meet your lead investor in person before signing the deal, so much can be gained and learned from those meetings in person. Then there is the question of how do I really get to know someone, especially if it is in a compressed timeline, there are ways that you can accelerate a relationship and getting to know someone, make sure to ask:
How to Set a Timeline in a Fundraise?
In this deliberation phase where you are waiting for a term sheet, you do need to create some form of urgency. Investors often need a reason to move and so it is good to put a timeline on the raise. 14 days is perfect, this is enough time for any VC to do the work they need to do but also if they cannot do it in that time without a plausible excuse, it is unlikely that they would have done the deal and so it will force timewasters to a no sooner and save you time.
Your Term Sheet is Ticking:
One thing to be wary of is exploding term sheets. If any VC says you have to sign this here and now, that is BS. Do not do it and that is no way to start a 10 year relationship. That said, it is fair for them to set some form of timeline, otherwise, you can shop the term sheet; share it with everyone and use the first people to commit as leverage to create FOMO to get other people to commit. This can be a disadvantage of being a first mover as a VC but that is why they will often have some form of expiry date and that is not unreasonable.
When You Have Multiple Term Sheets: KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID)
Then you have leverage and you can optimise the round on price, size of round, size of lead check to angel allocation etc etc. My advice here would always be do not over optimise. If the chosen partner is slightly lower, take it. Do not lose the right partner because of a small 5% difference in price or size of round. Another big mistake founders make when they have multiple term sheets is communication. It is fine if you need another couple of days to consider the decision but keep everyone updated. Let each investor who is waiting know, you are still thinking it through and will be back to them shortly. Name when you will have an answer, a communicated delay is fine, no communication is not. Then another massive mistake founders make is for the VCs they choose not to go with, they do not turn them down graciously. These investors could likely fund your next round, a bridge round and you never know when you might need them and so always turn them down super well and keep them on side, they could be helpful in the future.
If a VC Does These 3 Things: Forest Gump It:
Now the massive red flags with leads in this process that we need to call out:
So now we have our lead VC locked in and we have to allocate the rest of the round. I would work hand in hand with my VC to construct the rest of the round. They will have angels they work closely with and think highly of. Use them to help map out those people and then make those intros for you.
How to Allocate Your Angel Allocation:
Assemble your angel cap table as you would a sports team. Each person has a specific position which they are specialised to and have a world class skill in. Someone for marketing, hiring, regulation, PR, partnerships etc. A massive mistake I see so often is founders try to cram down all their angels to their smallest allocation so they can fit as many as possible. Do not do this. Give fewer people more allocation. The only thing that matters is that the check size matters to them. For some it will be $10K for others it could be $50K but fewer with more skin in the game is important.
Next I see so many founders drag out the process meeting just one more investor and just one more, after a certain time, just get it done, get it closed and move on.
Just Closed: Time to Prep for the Next Round
So now we have closed the round, congrats. Now time to start prepping for the next round, one thing to remember, as a founder, you are always raising. So here is what we should do next:
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Barry McCarthy is Peloton’s CEO and President. McCarthy is a seasoned executive who served as CFO of Spotify from 2015 to January 2020, and CFO of Netflix from 1999 to 2010. Prior to Netflix, McCarthy held various leadership positions in management consulting, investment banking, and media and entertainment. McCarthy has served on the boards of directors of Spotify and Instacart since January 2020 and January 2021, respectively. In addition, McCarthy has served as a member of the boards of Chegg, Eventbrite, MSD Acquisition Corp, Pandora, and Rent the Runway.
1. From Netflix to Spotify to Leading Peloton:
2. Barry McCarthy: The Leader
3. Barry McCarthy: The Master of Boards:
4. Barry McCarthy: Mastering the Mechanics:
Hadi Partovi is a tech entrepreneur and investor, and CEO of the education nonprofit Code.org. Before founding Code.org, Hadi founded two prior startups: Tellme Networks (acquired by Microsoft, discussed on 20VC with Emil Michael), and iLike (acquired by Newscorp). Hadi has also been an active advisor and angel investor to some of the best including Facebook, Dropbox, airbnb, and Uber. If that was not enough, Hadi currently serves on the Board of Directors of Axon and MNTN.
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4.) Hadi Partovi: The Person:
Hadi's Favourite Book: Sapiens: The #1 bestselling journey through human history and anthropology
Maggie Hott is the Director of Sales @ Webflow where she leads their Sales Dev, Account Executive, and Solution Engineering orgs. Prior to Webflow, Maggie spent an incredible 6 years at Slack in a period of hypergrowth for the company having joined as the founding AE scaling to a Sr Enterprise Leader. Before Slack, Maggie was the founding Sales hire at Eventbrite. If that was not enough, Maggie is also an active angel investor, an advisor to Cowboy Ventures, Scribble Ventures, and is a Founding Operator and LP @ Coalition Partners.
1. The Cold Email that Led to a World-Class Sales Career:
2. The Sales Playbook: PLG and Enterprise:
3. Building the Bench: Hiring Your First Sales Team:
4. Making the Machine Work: The Process:
Ben Chestnut is the Co-Founder of Mailchimp, the all-in-one marketing platform for small businesses. Last year, in Sept 2021 it was announced that Intuit would acquire Mailchimp for a reported $12BN. There are so many things to love about the Mailchimp journey to this point. First, Mailchimp was founded as the result of a side project of a design agency Ben and his co-founder, Dan, used to run. Second, Mailchimp is and has always been based in Atalanta, eschewing the notion you have to be in SF or NYC to build a massive business. Then third, they never raised venture funding for the business all the way until their $12BN acquisition. Ben led Mailchimp to over 1,200 employees and millions of global users.
1. From Mama's Kitchen to the Smell of Business and Founding Mailchimp:
2. Ben Chestnut: The Leader:
3. Ben Chestnut: The Person:
4. Mailchimp: The Business:
Bob Pittman is Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc., the number one audio company in America. Prior to iHeart, Bob has just had the most amazing career as a co-founder and programmer who led the team that created MTV. He has also led some of the most incredible turnarounds as CEO of MTV Networks, AOL Networks and Time Warner Enterprises and as COO of America Online, Inc. and later AOL Time Warner.
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2. Decision-Making in Leadership:
3. Tactics vs Strategies: Why Plans Are BS!
4. The Secret to Messaging and Storytelling:
5. Bob Pittman: AMA:
Marty Cagan is one of the OGs of Product and Product Management as the Founder of Silicon Valley Product Group. Before founding SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay. He worked directly alongside Marc Andreesen and Ben Horowitz at Netscape and Pierre Omidyar at eBay.
1. Entry into the World of Product From Engineering:
2. Lessons from Marc and Ben at Netscape and Pierre @ eBay:
3. Hiring a World Class Early Product Team:
4. Mastering the Onboarding Process:
Martin Casado is a General Partner @ a16z where he focuses on enterprise investing. At a16z, Martin has led investments and serves on the board of dbt Labs, Fivetran, Material Security, Ambient AI and many more incredible companies. Before venture, Martin was previously the Co-Founder and CTO at Nicira, acquired by VMware for $1.26 billion in 2012. While at VMware, Martin served as Senior VP and General Manager of the Networking and Security Business Unit, which he scaled to a $600 million revenue run-rate business.
1. From $1.26BN Founder to Leading Enterprise Investing for a16z:
2. The VC Model is Broken and Why:
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4. The Changing Guard at a16z:
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Will Hockey is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO @ Column, the only nationally chartered bank built to enable developers and builders to create new financial products. Before co-founding Column, Will was the Co-Founder, President, and CTO @ Plaid, a world-leading data network and payments platform. In 2020, Visa attempted to acquire Plaid for $5.3BN, however, this was blocked due to regulatory issues and the company went on to raise at a reported $13.4BN valuation just 9 months later. Additionally, Will is on the board of Scale.ai.
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4.) Fintech: The Next 10 Years:
Will's Favourite Book: The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources, Merchants of Grain: The Power and Profits of the Five Giant Companies at the Center of the World's Food Supply