September 2, 2019 | 6 minutes read( 1050words)
Guest Post by--
Early Growth SF Market Manager
Nicole is a dedicated business development professional with a multifaceted leadership background. Nicole brings 14 years in the aerospace industry to the startup ecosystem; and her experience in the global network of regulatory, investor, and corporate contacts in the finance aviation and space sectors. She is currently a Business Development Manager for Early Growth in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley markets where she works and helps a robust world of startups and companies who are VC backed.
I have been coaching and working with startups in Silicon Valley and San Francisco for the past 6 years. It has been a blast to work with startups all the way from pre-seed to series A. Fundraising has been a big focus of mine. Now more than ever when I talk with entrepreneurs I get the following question over and over again: “How do you raise money from VCs, CVCs, angels, etc. when you aren't well connected or located in San Francisco or Silicon Valley? Or maybe my company is super early or all of the above?”
The fact is it’s not by any means an easy road. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve noticed that bring actual results.
Get to San Francisco and Silicon Valley
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being present in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. While that does not mean you have to move your startup here, but you want to incorporate traveling to this the fast-moving city into your budget and schedule.
I would also like to emphasize that the ultimate goal for you as an entrepreneur is to look for smart ways to grow your network and most importantly develop meaningful relationships. You don't need a million of them, you just need to spend time looking for the right one.
Build the right relationships
Like everything else, we hear conflicting advice on when is the best time to start meeting with VCs. Some VCs say that you should start building relationships early. Others say that you should only pitch when you are at the right point in your business. What’s a founder to do?
Start meeting people before you need them. Spend some time researching the type of investors and partners that you will like to know and that are particularly interested in the field that you are working in. Know which VCs fund which stage. For example, Seed is a huge rage these days — know where you are and what investors are investing. Target your pitch to that stage of the investor. You’ll want to get familiar with the new terminology in the seed round including mango seed, avocado seed, and yes while we can keep going, I would encourage you to research some of those terms.
There may be a limited number of opportunities for VCs and founders to meet, but there are some great events that can put you right in front of the person you need to believe in your startup. Just make sure to do your research. You don’t need to go to every event especially if there is no one there that could be a potential investor. Since 2017, Early Growth has hosted a program that is incredibly useful and I recommend you attend. Our Meet the VC monthly event is where we invite Venture Capitalist to speak to founders. I have had the opportunity to moderate several of these fire chats, and I’ve seen many founders connect to investors that they’ve wanted to meet.
There’s also the option of getting introduced by your service providers. As you grow your startup, you’ll begin working with a series of service providers, advisors and more. Lean on them to make a connection for you. They can be the door to key introductions.
One thing to remember as you make your rounds to meeting people and building relationships is don’t shy away from selling yourself and what YOU as an individual bring to the table.
Have a plan for acquiring customers
My last piece of advice I would like to share is what I need founders to really think about that will set them apart. Most entrepreneurs at the pre-seed stage haven’t thought much about customer acquisition. A strategy for getting customers can help differentiate you as a savvy or experienced entrepreneur. For pre-seed, you need to have a clear direction and understanding of the problem you are solving. You need to have built a product at a minimum in many cases and in some cases, done some level of customer validation hopefully with real users or revenue traction.
Pitch on the big stage
Consider pitch competitions. This is an excellent way to meet investors, particularly angel investors. It gives all participating founders the same opportunity to share their company story and capture the attention of a potential investor. You also get the chance to be seen by not just one but at least a panel of investors and at some competitions hundreds of VCs and angel investors come to ‘discover’ the next big thing. Don’t worry if you don’t walk away as the winner, the visibility is what you want. You never know who may be in the audience that wants to partner, join your team or invest after hearing your pitch.
One more thought...
I love this ecosystem. When I see new emerging companies and the passionate founders behind them, it reminds me of why I made the choice to call this home. With guidance, the right support and team you can build the startup that the world needs and wants. San Francisco and Silicon Valley remain the heart of startup culture.
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Venture Capital Term Sheet: 7 Things You Need to Know
About Early Growth
For over 10 years, Early Growth has provided early-stage companies CFO Consulting Services
, Accounting for Startups
, and 409a Valuation
. We saw a need in the marketplace for a service that would allow founders to still focus on business while building a healthy financial story. Our Outsourced CFO, Outsourced Accounting, and R&D Credits services have helped many companies grow.