Fundraising for an Early Stage Startup

early stage

The ability to fundraise is a highly critical skill that every founder needs. Knowing how to raise the proper financing at the right moment makes it easier to carry out the founders’ vision and allows them to concentrate on product and business objectives. Fundraising looks and works differently at different stages of a start-ups life. Raising your first check is frequently the most challenging and daunting. We identify crucial aspects in this post that may assist founders in securing their first investment, as well as resources that connect them to angel investors in that are relevant to their current stage and industry. 

  • Credibility: At the early stages investors are investing in your team rather than the product. Its important to have the right team in place and expertise. 
  • Angel Investors or accelerators at the early stages: Approaching a VC at the beginning is tempting but angel investors and accelerators will be much more beneficial.
  • Approach: It might seem quicker to use a template and send a mass email but you’ll have a higher conversion rate reaching out to them individually.
  • Network: The most successful tool for your business will be to grow your network. You can do this through pitch competitions, demo days or check out Montreal’s very own Startup fest or C2 MTL

Credibility 

In the early stages, its important to build your credibility in order to sell your vision. Investors prefer to focus on investing in people and their vision rather than things. The most successful founders have already existing skill sets, relevant experiences and backgrounds, and existing ties. Investors want proof that the early management teams have worked together before, have had success and be able to execute said vision. Being able to onboard the right people will be an extremely valuable asset to your start-up.  

 This is especially crucial during the product development stage because businesses do not have the luxury of giving validation through traction, growth, or financial KPIs at this stage. It’s also more difficult to determine and demonstrate product market fit. Simultaneously, some solid techniques for demonstrating product-market fit include signing first clients (even if at a loss) and creating a large pipeline of potential clients ready to acquire the product when it’s ready. 

Angel Investors or accelerators at the early stages 

There are many different types of investors in today’s Startup environment, each with their own set of criteria and objectives. While venture capital is an attractive and crucial part of the system, it may not be the most appropriate source of funding for the idea stage. Many founders are also enticed to apply to VCs because it is extremely simple to do so. VCs frequently have application portals and intuitive channels on their websites. However, this is a waste of time and resources. Often times they are uninterested in the idea stage and product development. Not to mention, if you don’t get the funding, that can hurt your company from going back for financing in the future.   

As a result, early-stage enterprises should contact angel investors or accelerators rather than venture capitalists. These investors are looking for companies in the early stages of development, so they align themselves with start-ups at your stage. Applying to high-quality accelerators early on can have a tremendous payoff for a start-up. They provide access to top advisers, mentors, network growth and advice which results in increased credibility in the founder’s concept.  

Approach 

When engaging potential investors, there are a few things to keep in mind. It’s crucial to be aware of and respectful of other people’s time and effort. Reaching out with a templated email is good, but reach out to each person individually and, ideally, customise each note. Verify emails or your emails will be sent to spam by default if there are too many rebounds. 

At this point, your pitch deck is especially important. A clear and concise value proposition, identified problem, suggested solution, team, advisor description, competitors, market sizing, and early traction information are the most critical parts. Make your presentation flow like a story by fitting it into a narrative. 

Network

Growing your network is an easy and effective tool that can easily create long term opportunities for your business. Attend events and competitions to promote your business and make it stand out even more. These provide short- and long-term funding opportunities, as well as increasing your competitive edge by giving it legitimacy. 

At the early stages, your start-ups best chance at fundraising is applying to an accelerator. The chances of receiving funds are much higher than from an angel investor or a VC. Not to mention, it will be much more beneficial for your start-ups growth as it can provide your start-up with all the tips mentioned here. It will give your start-up credibility, provide you resources, mentor you and give you access to a large network. If your start-up is looking for an accelerator you can visit our accelerator program and mentorship program! 

Financial Mistakes to Avoid for Every Startup

mistakes

Financial management is a challenge for many small business owners. As a business founder, it is your duty to ensure that your company grows and thrives in the most efficient manner possible. However, if you’re not cautious, you may wind up making expensive errors. A recent study shows that in the first year 4% of Canadian businesses fail and that percentage rises to 30% in the fifth year. In Canada, 7000 businesses go bankrupt every year. A lot of different factors lead to this failure but poor financial planning is one of the main causes.

A lot may go wrong, from capitalization problems to budgeting to incorrect accounting procedures. Whether the company is just getting started or has already made it through the first few years, sound financial management is essential.

To avoid financial catastrophe, stay away from the following frequent blunders:

1. Separating personal and business accounts

Many entrepreneurs will fail to open separate business accounts and use their personal accounts. When first starting it out, it may seem easier to just work from your personal accounts, however this will become difficult to maintain your business budget and expenses. It’s important to create separate accounts so you can effectively monitor your businesses finances.

2. Poor tracking expenses

At the early stages of a startup, there may not be that much capital to invest for growth, however it’s important to keep track of every expense. You need to have a control of debt to avoid digging yourself into a debt hole that’ll sink your business.

3. Sticking to a Budget

This is the most crucial part of financial management. It will allow you to not spend more than what’s coming in. Sticking to a budget will protect your businesses sustainability and it’s a good way at addressing resources.

4. Business Credit

In todays world, credit score means everything. Having a bad credit score will impact your financial management tremendously. For a business, a bad credit score will cause a lot of difficulties to obtain loans which is imperative for a business growth. Not only is maintaining a good business credit important, but personal credit will also still have an impact on your business. For startups, since the business is still small creditors will look at personal credit scores of the shareholders and determine if they will grant the credit. A bad credit score ruins your credibility in terms of your financial management which is not a good look for a startups founder.

Different types of business credit:
  • Business credit card
  • Seasonal commercial loans
  • Term loans
  • Installment Loans
  • Business Line of Credit
  • Business Taxes

A lot of founders tend to be confused about business taxes. When first starting out, you should seek professional help in order to avoid any mistakes. A small mistake can end up becoming costly to your company and you don’t want that at the early stages of your business. Make sure to file your taxes on time, monitor due dates and regulations.

These small mistakes can easily slip under the radar but will end up costing you big time. So be sure to stay away from these common mistakes to keep your small business a float for a long time!

How to Tell your Startup Story

Pitch

The key elements to include are:

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
  3. Product
  4. Traction
  5. Team
  6. Vision

It is always difficult piecing together your start-up story in a deck at the very early stages of your business venture. The early stages are crucial in the growth of a business and acquiring investors are quite tricky. Creating the perfect pitch deck will allow you to smoothly deliver your start-up story to investors to secure that funding. It requires a lot of time and detail and how you piece this together will be the foundation in delivering the perfect pitch to investors. The key elements that are essential in the deck are as followed: problem, solution, product, traction, team and vision.

Tag line

At the very beginning of the deck, the slides should start with a one-liner description of the business. This slide is literally one line or tag line that gives some insight on what the business is at the start. Its short and sweet, be creative!

Problem

The first key element you want to jump into is the problem. This is a great start to the pitch deck as it will allow for the smooth transitioning of the rest of your story. Identify the problem in a clear bold manner. This will intrigue the investor to continue onto investigating what solution you bring to the table and in finding out how big and real is this problem. Its important to keep this slide short, you can go into further detail in person or in a document. For the purpose of the pitch deck, it should remain short and straight to the point

Solution/Product

You pointed out a problem now provide your solution! A good format is description of the solution followed by a few points as to why your way is the best way. Following that, you can proceed two ways either: go into how it works with a few screenshots/demonstrations or go right into your vision. Since all stories are different and depending on what your business is, choose as you see fit based on your start-up. If your startup does not requires much explaining, go right into the vision of where you see your simple concept growing into something massive in the future. If the vision slide is not included in this section it can be included in the end as well.

Traction

Convince your investors your solution is scalable! Its time to give your start-up some credibility with some data. This slide can be “where were at today” showing the kind of attention and momentum your start-up has gained. For early stage companies, this momentum can be the amount of users on a wait-list for when the product is ready or some early users your product has gained. Investors care about the last 3-6 months and the next month. Having a weak 3-6 months prior will lose many investors, if your next month is weak then you’ll lose your momentum. If you can, time your raise according to that.

A great additional add to this section would be to add testimonials from some of the users or clients. This shows that your product is already in use by real people and is already creating a buzz. This is the section that will excite investors.

Market Opportunity

You’ve sold the investor on your ability to execute your solution, so now you should tell them how big the market is. Using graphs and charts from credible sources that can easily present that there’s a huge market opportunity is and that this company is venture scalable.

Vision

What is in store for your company in the next 10 years? If you did not already include this slide now would be a good time. This will show how you plans to take this simple solution to a massive company and what great things it will accomplish.

Team

Introduce the dream team who is going to build this. Include the main team members with titles and summaries of past roles. This will indicate why they’re fit for to build this start-up. This can be done in one slide without going too in depth about each member.

The ask & funds slide

How much funding will it take for you to drive this business? The ask slide should be left for the end of the pitch deck. Include how much funding you will need to bring this company where it needs to be and what does that money get you. How will the funds be allocated and what will you be doing with it. What does that mean for your company?

Thank you/information

A thank you slide with your contact information is appropriate for the very last slide. For example, add an email, LinkedIn, company website or social media.

These are the key elements that every deck needs in order to successfully get across an investor. The order in which you present the key elements should follow the order listed here. However all start-up stories are different and may take a different flow. Some other elements that are optional to add could be competitors, revenue model and financials. Since this is a deck, you don’t need to give away all your information at the very beginning it might be better to include this is a business plan instead, however this is also your business so build a deck that feels right to you!

Les avantages du réseautage avec des pairs de votre âge

les-avantages-du-reeseautage-avec-des-pairs-de-votre-age-23Si vous êtes étudiant ou étudiant-entrepreneur, on vous a probablement souvent dit que le réseautage avec les supérieurs peut produire d’excellents résultats. La création de réseau est souvent interprétée comme un moyen de former des liens avec des gens qui ont plus d’influence que vous ou qui occupent des postes plus élevés que vous sur le plan professionnel. Alors que de créer des liens avec des personnes plus haut placées est très important, la valeur du réseautage entre pairs qui sont aussi étudiants n’est pas à sous-estimer. L’objectif du réseautage n’est pas seulement de vous assurer de côtoyer des individus estimés de votre communauté, il s’agit aussi de veiller à établir de précieuses relations avec les cadres supérieurs de demain. Le philosophe grec, Héraclite, a déclaré que le changement est la seule constante dans la vie. Voilà pourquoi s’adonner au réseautage avec vos pairs est essentiel.

Les liens que vous créez pendant que vous êtes dans la vingtaine seront parmi les plus précieux que vous créerez de toute votre vie. Beaucoup d’étudiants universitaires sont encouragés à participer à des activités parascolaires simplement pour glorifier leur CV. Si vous êtes un étudiant-entrepreneur, on vous a probablement aussi dit de prendre part à des cocktails de réseautage afin de rencontrer des investisseurs potentiels. L’avantage de participer à des événements de réseautage au sein d’un établissement d’enseignement parmi des étudiants, qui, comme vous, n’obtiennent aucun gain financier actuel dans ces relations est de rencontrer des gens de différents milieux avec lesquels partager vos expériences. Il n’est pas nécessaire que ces liens soient associés au domaine de l’entrepreneuriat. Le but du réseautage pendant que vous êtes à l’école vise plutôt à établir des relations précieuses, qui plus tard pourront conduire à des avantages dans votre carrière ou à des perspectives d’investissement. Il ne s’agit pas de rencontrer des gens qui ont de l’influence; mais simplement de devenir amis, et de créer des relations de travail avec des gens qui un jour deviendront influents.

Il est aussi important d’échanger avec vos pairs pendant que vous êtes à l’école, car il n’y aura aucun autre moment dans votre vie où vous aurez le temps d’investir dans des relations aussi riches que celles que vous créez à ce stade de votre vie. Ces liens encourageront vos contacts à partager des circonstances opportunes avec vous et à vous aider lorsque vous en aurez besoin dans le futur. Des études ont démontré qu’à mesure que les gens vieillissent, ils travaillent de longues heures, se marient, ont des enfants et accumulent les responsabilités — il n’y a pas beaucoup de temps pour faire quoi que ce soit d’autre. Par exemple, il a été remarqué que la majorité des femmes entre 25 et 54 disposent de moins de 90 minutes de temps libre par jour.

Les activités de réseautage d’aujourd’hui représentent des investissements pour votre avenir.Être proactif et participer à des activités de réseautage avec vos pairs à l’université est un investissement dans votre avenir. Que vous participiez à des activités extrascolaires, que vous tissiez des liens avec vos pairs lors de projets en groupe et dans vos classes, que vous parliez aux gens qui sont assis à côté de vous pendant des conférences ou lorsque vous participez à des réunions entre élèves, votre réseau peut croître de façon exponentielle. Vous pourrez être présenté à des gens dans le réseau d’un ami, être présenté à ses parents qui ont une expertise dans le domaine qui vous passionne, ou simplement instaurer un climat de bonnes relations et introduire des gens à votre propre réseau d’amis.

Finalement, le temps que vous investissez pour rencontrer d’autres personnes maintenant se montrera rentable à l’avenir. Comme l’a dit Matt Stewart, chef de la direction de College Works Painting «La confiance commence avec ce premier pas, alors sortez et commencez à créer des relations. Vos copains de collège seront des avocats, des fournisseurs et des partenaires commerciaux. Ils vous apporteront des affaires», dit Stewart. «Il est important d’avoir du plaisir, mais aussi de produire l’image de quelqu’un qui maîtrise bien sa situation, que vous êtes bon, et que vous avez de bonnes valeurs morales.»

Stephen Bronfman CoFounder PME

http://maximum-impact.co/stephen-bronfman-entrepreneur-investor-philanthropist/

Allan Isfan interview Stephen Bronfman at C2MTL

Stephen Bronfman, ProMontreal Entrepreneurs(PME) co-founder, sat down with Allan Isfan from Maximum Impact and had a short chat . They discuss entrepreneurship and the various Montreal based initiatives his foundation is supporting with a particular focus on ProMontreal which he help start 16 yrs ago along with Jimmy Alexander.

He recorded this podcast at the C2 Montreal conference, an incredible conference that the Economist, coined as “the business conference unlike any other”. Approximately 5,000 attendees from all corners of the world come to  Montreal to network, experience new things and learn from speakers like Mohammad Yunus, Chip Conley , David Suzuki and Stephen Bronfman.

To hear the podcast it it’s entirety, click here

Hope you enjoy.

 

 

Demystifying Industry & Market Analysis

Understanding how your market works and what customers want is vital. When done right, it will enable you to find investors, help spot potential roadblocks, and most importantly, attract customers.

Having a properly done market analysis is going to provide key data to convince the investors that your business idea is worth investing in because you will have the hard numbers to back it up.

What is a Market Analysis?

Market analysis is determining the characteristics unique to your particular market and analyzing this information, which will help you make informed decisions for your startup. A market analysis will help you determine and gather valuable data that will enable you to get to know your customers, figure out your competitors, set pricing and pinpoint exactly where opportunities lie.

Industry Description and Outlook

The first step is to describe your industry, paying close attention to its current size and historic growth rate, as well as other trends and characteristics. Relevant industry metrics like size, trends, life cycle, and projected growth should all be included here.

Target Market or Niche Market

It’s important to establish a clear idea of your target market or niche market early on. A lot of new entrepreneurs make the newbie mistake of thinking that everyone is their potential market; they are not. By identifying your real customers, you’ll be able to better use your marketing dollars in an effective way while attracting and retaining loyal customers. The target market section of your business plan should include the following:

  • User Persona and Characteristics: A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a “type” regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics.
  • Market size: Do your research and find out who and where your competitors are, and how much your customers spend annually on your product or service. How big is the potential market for your business? A question you should ask yourself is who do you fear most and why?

Competitive Analysis

Evaluate your competitors by placing them in strategic groups according to how directly they compete for a share of the customer’s dollar. For each competitor, list their product or service, strengths and weaknesses, and size. Obviously, it’s a good idea to know what you’re up against, but this strategy also lets you spot the competition’s weaknesses. Are there customers out there being under served? What can you offer that similar businesses aren’t offering? The competitive analysis should contain the following components:

  • Market: Who are your main competitors? Are there any indirect competitors who could impact your business?
  • Competitor strengths and weaknesses: What is your competition good at? Where do they leave a gap where you can come in and meet the need they are not addressing?
  • Window of opportunity: Does your entry into the market rely on time-sensitive technology? Do you need to get in early to take advantage of an emerging market?
  • Barriers to entry: Is the industry easy or difficult to enter? If entry is easy, competitors enter the market during periods of high profitability and expand production capacity. This drives down prices and profit margins. Barriers to entry make it more difficult for competitors to enter so profit margins remain favorable. Barriers to entry include the following:
    • Limited access to markets – If the market is dominated by well established branded products, a new entrant will need to spend the time, money and effort to establish a successfully branded product.
    • Large-scale production – If large scale production requires substantial financial investment, the financial requirements will limit entry.
    • Limited access to technology or production processes – Patented technology and other intellectual property will also limit entry.

    This is where you examine your weaknesses. Be honest with investors and yourself.

Regulations

Some business may be subject to governmental regulations or restrictions in order to provide a fair ground in which to do business. If your business is subject to regulations or restrictions, you’ll need to bring them up and discuss how you’re going to comply with them. Is there a cost to the compliance?

In conclusion, market analyses vary from industry to industry and company to company. Most of the information you will need to include can be found by a simple Google search and, most importantly, it can be found for free. Keep in mind that a little estimation is okay, but the bulk of your numbers need to be based on facts and they must, in all cases, be sourced. If you don’t know were to begin, download our entrepreneurship guide that outlines all the good places to start your market research.