Fundraising is necessary to grow a startup, and it can be one of the most challenging tasks ever for any founder.
As founders of two of the most promising startups in the UAE, Bana Shomali, Founder of ServiceMarket and Imad Hammad, Founder of CarSwitch who raised over $10 million for both companies combined, have put together some tips, secrets and takeaways based on their experiences of fundraising, with insights from their early stage investor Glowfish Capital:
The online home services marketplace in the UAE ServiceMarket, has completed its fourth funding round last month, bringing the total funding since its inception to $8 million, while CarSwitch, the UAE’s first online marketplace for certified used cars, has raised $2.3 million since it was founded in 2016.
Here are 14 exclusive tips that startups’ founders should follow if they want to get funded:
Paint your vision with a good story
- Everyone loves a good story. So before you step foot in a meeting room with a potential investor, be very sure of the story you are about to tell. Your storytelling should introduce the most common, yet important, story arc: What is the world like now? , What change will your idea bring? And what will the world be like then? Have a true vision of how the world will look different because of your app/startup, and bring that to life.
- Look at what is going on globally with regards to your idea, especially in other emerging markets, this is especially important in a region like MENA where technology-enabled disruption has just begun.
Make sure your pitch pack covers all your bases
You need to be clear on the following important things so that you can tackle any questions with solid, well-reasoned answers:
- Look at the competitor landscape. Are there already strong and established players in the market? According to Wim Torfs, co-founder of Glowfish Capital, your venture is unlikely to receive funding if that is the case; unless you can prove that your idea can be executed in a unique or better way to solve the problem.
- Know your numbers. You don’t need to know just your traffic and transactions, but also the revenue per transaction, cost per transaction, the lifetime value of your customer, etc. It should make economic sense in the long run.
- Be clear on how much money you are trying to raise and why? You should know what milestones the investment is going to take you to and what actions you are going to take to get there.
- Be compelling on what is unique about you and your team. The deciding factor between two equally promising pitches is the team, because individuals really matter. Give the investors a way to evaluate the individuals in your team. List education, job titles and employment history.
Avoid these common mistakes
While it is okay to make mistakes, and you will probably make dozens before you perfect your pitch, it is best to be mindful of the following:
- Everyone prepares a pitch deck, but a captivating teaser is what gets your foot in the door. So don’t forget to give the teaser a lot of time and thought. You need to draw attention from the very first email introduction. Make sure that the teaser covers the size of the opportunity, explains how your proposition changes the game in a nutshell and highlights the traction to date.
- A really fast way to make investors lose trust in you is by changing your numbers from one conversation to the next. That is why doing your homework is essential. Ali Malik, co-founder of Glowfish Capital, is of the opinion that it’s better to tell the investor that you don’t know the number for that and will get back to them on it.
- Think through your data sharing strategy. If you’re overly sensitive about what you share, you’ll have a hard time getting anyone excited about your product. At the same time, you want to be mindful of preserving your competitive edge until the conversations mature to more serious stages.
Start meeting investors early and leverage your network
- It is never too early to start. You can get a lot of input from conversations, and even the introductions that precede them, and incorporate the feedback into your pitch. Starting early also lets investors get to know you better. It’s recommended that you should start at least six to nine months before you need to raise.
Another great reason to start early is that you don’t always know the investment cycles of your VCs, angels, etc., so discussing early helps you sync up and connect with them when it is relevant.
- Leverage your network. LinkedIn is a great tool to do this. You may be surprised by how many investors you might be able to get a more personalized introduction to which will give your later conversations stronger traction.
- Diversify your conversations. Reach out to angel networks and traditional corporates, besides local and international VC firms. Traditional corporates are no longer looking into the e-commerce market tentatively. A great example of this is Emaar Industries & Investment that joined the funding round for ServiceMarket this year.
- Have patience. It will take several attempts to get a meeting with the right person, and it may take several meetings to get a decision from them. This is actually a good thing because it gives you plenty of time and chances to perfect your pitch.
- Swallow your pride. You will get a lot of feedback and criticism. Take the feedback as a positive sign. Imagine pitching to a group of people that can’t be bothered to make a single comment on your idea! You should always consider incorporating the feedback into your future pitches if something sounds right to you.