What is the best path towards successful fundraising in the first days of a business? That’s the question that was explored at our Beyond Breakfast event in September, hosted at Banyan Bar and Kitchen in Leeds.
The event provided some essential tips for anyone hoping to get a business off the ground. With first-hand business experience behind each one, we’re sure they’ll be very useful for budding entrepreneurs – as each one is from some who knows what you’re going through.
The goal of securing funds (and navigating the pitfalls that presents) was explored in more detail by our group of panellists:
- Paul Hallett, CEO, Vet-AI
- George Fairhall, founder and CEO, WAC
- Andy Naylor , Investment Director, Northern Gritstone
- James Whyman from KPMG Acceleris, who chaired the event
This diverse group allowed us to explore this idea from several different perspectives.
“We’re always thinking about the return on our investment”, says Paul Hallett. “That covers things like margins, costs and revenue. Growing a userbase is hard; we’ve spent £150,000 to get to the top of our particular pile. You need to remember your investor is a strategic partner, and factor that into your decisions”.
“In the initial stages of investment, anyone with a chequebook is appealing. But you need to say when you’re uncomfortable with an investor, and show a willingness to be vulnerable. That’s attractive to people working within venture capital.”
“In the early stages of a business, you’re selling an idea to customers”, says George Fairhall.
“At first, I was dealing with small amounts of money; I had to message two thousand investors, and I saw my pitch deck demolished on multiple occasions. But I’m proof that you can do it if you’re willing to graft”.
“Investment is a small community, so it’s essential that you’re fair and open”, says Andy Naylor. “We’re very data-driven, and we’re open and transparent in our business valuation.”
“We have very clear expectations before we write cheques. When we put money into a business, we’re confident that we can bring investors along with us”.
Tips on fundraising for early-stage businesses
Start with venture capitalists
Paul Hallett recommends talking to venture capitalists to begin with. This can be a valuable learning experience, helping you eliminate any unnecessary risks and create a more effective business plan. “Remember that venture capitalists aren’t like the investors on Dragons’ Den”, says Paul. “They want you to succeed in your efforts, and will do all they can to help you do so”.
Investigate legal support to avoid certain pitfalls
George Fairhall recommends using a legal platform for startups that makes fundraising simpler, such as SeedLegals. These platforms are an ideal way to talk through thorny legal situations, and get more information about benefits like investor tax relief. It may be worth investigating these platforms sooner rather than later to avoid tedious data input later on.
Find a mentor or advisor
George Fairhall also believes that new businesses often benefit from the involvement of an experienced hand, who can be involved in exchange for a small amount of equity. Of course, being honest with your advisor is essential for a productive working relationship.
Understand your own business model
For Andy Naylor, it’s essential that you clearly convey what you want to achieve, who your audience is and how much it’ll cost. Be prepared to show how your business works, and ensure you speak to both investors and potential customers in the early stages of investment. Make things as easy as possible for potential investors.
Be upfront about gaps in your team
Andy also suggests that even if you or your colleagues have some experience under your belt, it’s okay to have some gaps in your knowledge. Similarly, you may have some positions in your management team that haven’t been filled yet. Being honest about these areas for improvement is a solid way to build trust from potential investors, and find ways of plugging these gaps for long-term prosperity.
Make sure to secure your ticket here for the next Beyond Breakfast event on Tuesday 28 November – which will cover the topic of ‘how to enter overseas market successfully’.
Looking to grow your own business instead? Check out our case studies to learn how our members have grown their businesses with Nexus’ help.
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