Founder & CEO, Step2Growth – Helping Startups Reach Self Sufficiency | Women of Influence | Startup Mentor & Marketing Strategist
As a startup mentor, I often see startups struggle with fundraising, and often the reason for the struggle is not having an effective process to plan, reach out, track and learn during the fundraising process. In this article, I try to break down and simplify the process so that startups have a checklist to follow when thinking about fundraising.
1. Create Your Target Investor List
Start a list of the investors you are interested in. If you target investors like you target your customers, you will be more effective and get better results. Create a list by researching (this research will prove to be very useful for other things, too) and segmenting investors based on:
• The industries they invest in. See which investors are focusing on certain industries.
• The funding stage. Check the investors’ portfolios and see whether they match your need.
• Past investments. Most investors do not want to invest in similar or competing products.
• Their area of focus. Many investors focus on diversity, sustainability, community and other such areas. See whether you fall into any such groups.MORE FOR YOU
Once you have this list, divide investors into buckets like “a long shot,” “perfect fit,” “maybe,” etc., and start reaching out to investors in the “maybe” bucket or lower on the priority list initially.
2. Develop Relevant Marketing Assets
These assets will help you communicate and convey your startup story. Keep in mind that these are dynamic assets, and you will have to keep modifying them based on the feedback you get from mentors, advisors and investors. A few marketing assets you should create are:
• An executive summary. This is a short two-pager or a few slides (five to six) that include information about the problem you have identified, your solution, your team, market/opportunity size, your revenue pipeline, your funding request and your revenue forecast.
• A pitch deck. This is a more elaborate version of the executive summary that has more details like your revenue model, business and marketing plan, road map, competitive advantage, use of funds, any other asks and product/service details. You can create this as a master deck and keep creating customized versions based on your needs.
• Email templates. Creating the perfect email at the time you need it is not very easy, especially for technical founders. Having a well-thought-out and perfectly drafted email can be very handy and reduce your stress levels when someone asks you to send an introduction email (I have been there many times). A good practice would be to draft an introduction email about you and your startup. Use this when you are introducing yourself to someone or share it when you are requesting an introduction from someone. The less work someone has to do to make an introduction, the faster you will probably get connected.
3. Conduct Personalized Outreach
Do your homework before reaching out to an investor. Investors get many pitches and are more likely to talk to startups that have taken the effort to learn about them. Study their past investments and their wins and losses, and use that data as you reach out to them. The research you do while creating the investor list will come in handy here.
See whether you can find connections within your network to make introductions. You are more likely to get time from investors through a warm introduction than by reaching out cold. Use LinkedIn to find and connect with leaders who can help.
4. Create A Follow-Up Routine
Plan a follow-up routine to stay in touch with investors you have spoken to, and execute it. Keep them updated about your progress. They may not be ready to invest today but might do so after seeing your progress. I have seen this happen many times. Create a monthly newsletter to share product updates, successes, learnings and your asks. In my experience, most startups do not follow up and miss out on opportunities. Do not be one of them.
5. Track Your Efforts
This is the most critical step, and it is often ignored. Startups often have limited resources, especially at the early stage, and as a founder, you have to wear multiple hats. It is important to track your efforts to be sure you are being effective. Use tools to help you with this.
• Manage your contacts, progress and notes in one place. This can be in an Excel sheet or a customer relationship management tool.
• Use an email marketing tool to design and send your monthly newsletter. Draft it when you have a clear mind, schedule it and then forget about it for the next four weeks.
• Assign and track action items using a project management tool. Set notifications and reminders so that things do not slip through the cracks.
Use this checklist as a guideline to create a system that works for you. Fundraising is hard, but being intentional about your efforts can make it worth your while. The good news is that there are many accredited investors out there, and you only need a handful.