So through the cohort I have learned that though we need capital to grow, VC funding may not be the right route to go. We are morphing into a social enterprise, during one of our class days, while we were defining our goals, one of my goals was to find funding.
I had always heard that VCs were great to seed and grow your enterprise. So I went searching for mentors per the advice of my cohort:
I asked myself…how should I get access to capital and how do I approach a VC. I have been in business since 2006 and have pivoted once or twice to meet the need. I am still bootstrapping and need to have access to growth capital. I see other companies raising millions of dollars in funds and I’m wondering if I are going the wrong route when it comes to how I have fundraised and seek out funding. To piggyback off of this question, once you found someone who is willing to give you that capital, how do you assess your ask? I know operationally how much I need to operate for the next three years. Do I ask this potential investor for the operations cost for three years or do I tailor that down in some way?
I found two successful mentors who helped me through this VC craziness. Amir Barsum, CEO of Vezeeta.com, an Egyptian healthcare marketplace company and Arlan Hamilton, the Founding Manager of Backstage Capital.
What my mentor Amir Barsum shared…
VCs are a no go. They want money. Their basic mindset: “I give you money so you can make me money in areas that I don’t have access and I can’t make. Don’t say “donation” to VCs. It’s bad word. Seek out social enterprise money and show how you can reach profitability in 4–5 years to repay their investment. Don’t sell half of your company to anyone. There are SEVCs that will fund without this term. Research for the right one or two and only ask for what you need and use it all. Review a term sheet and be very comfortable and familiar with your before you seek funding. Negotiate every line over the agreement and be shrewd or get someone who can do it for you.
Since you have a product you can sell, start selling it and you may not need funding a lot of seed funding. You may be able to get one or two large clients and then develop a Series A/Series B funding plan based on the projected growth and success of your sales.
Definitely look into the S-Corp and fully develop out your social enterprise. Being a successful startup is not about having 1,000s of clients. It’s about having 100–200 loyal clients that would die without your product.
Get two or three large customers to start. Then venture into a new market, get them to use SANCTUARY so you can test, and they can get hooked, for a short trial period and then charge after the trial if your product is new to the market.
Go to the biggest markets to target. Core operations should be wherever is the cheapest for you but target the largest markets and companies where you make the biggest impact financially and generate the most revenue.
European Union — go to the top (government) and have them distribute for you. They will.
Fail fast. Don’t waste your life on something that is going nowhere.
What my mentor Arlan Hamilton said…
Looking first to make sure that you are not spending more than you have to and put power back in your hands by staying lean and cutting costs.
Is there a component we can use my non-profit to offset the costs of the platform? Bulk up your budget and find some grants. Grants will cover half of your costs. A year from now, watch the grant tree grow. NON-PROFIT = Dividends not paid to stakeholders.
Venture Money — 10X return — is it worth the effort?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — choose a number and do more market research (law enforcement) and get comp information.
Do the pilot with COA first. Pain points and successes. Leverage that experience and bootstrap until you can’t.
Interesting position — doing great work and positive social equity.
Go in speaking/author tour and get followers and social media — speaking engagements.
The theme of their advice…VC’s are not for SPLLC. Maybe one day, but not now.