Fundraising 101: Since I have been often approached with this question, I thought of sharing it on GT. So how do you get funding for your business a.k.a start up?
It is really a tricky question as there is no ultimate answer. Unfortunate, I know. When starting BOULESSE little did I know what I was getting myself into. And I have to confess that I see the world differently now. First, the world has changed, my world has changed. And I have changed. With my world I mean e-commerce and the luxury industry. When starting BOULESSE, e-commerce was THE hot topic everybody was throwing money at. Sure, the whole luxury industry HAD to go online as they missed the train originally. Now, a few years later, VCs (Venture capitalits, details on them will follow), business angels and industry leaders have sunken trillions of $$$ into e-commerce and realized that the spiel does not work the way they thought. Many entrepreneurs came up with great ideas but were running out of money before even making it to years’ end. BOULESSE could have been one of them, but gladly we are not. Yet. You never know how life plays out, a lot can happen in 6 months’ time or a year, not even speaking about a decade. Nobody is too big to fail. Looking at the poor performance of the money bleeding machine Rocket Internet (West Wing and many others you’ve never heard of), investors shy away from everything that’s not profitable.
So how do we answer your question now? Depending on your business there are many ways to start, but if you want my honest opinion, I would not quit my job and start a company unless you have sufficient funds in the bank. If you have to worry about rent, food and a healthy work-life balance, don’t do it as your work will become your life. Trust me. Otherwise you will not succeed. Also you HAVE to have somebody who is brilliant in sales. Whatever you do, you need to sell your product or services. Also, it helps if you have an outstanding product as there are just too many companies out there. People have this romantic phantasy of a start up, which does not reflect reality at all. It is really brutal out there.
After setting up your minimal viable product or prototype (these days they have to be quite sophisticated to woo somebody), you can reach out to family and friends, which you call the family and friends round. Be careful who you are asking. If you loose their money, they will certainly not be your friends any more. If you have problems with that round, let me tell you, it will only get harder with each round. Except if you are Facebook. Or Snap. Other than that happy trying.
It is crucial that you come up with a good valuation of your company BEFORE earning money. If you dilute in an early stage, little equity (your share of the company) will be left later on, which will repel professional investors and your work efforts will suffer due to limited prospects. Once you start earning money and showing numbers, they will always measure you on that, no matter how insignificant those numbers are. Raising money in Austria, for example, is particularly painful as there is no tax benefit like in the UK for investing in a start up.
Of course, you can also try your luck at an Incubator but this was never my way to go. You start in their open floor office on their terms with their people and tools.
Depending on your progress and the stage and land you are in, you might consider another family and friends round as you might be too small for a Venture Capitalist, as they like to invest in solid businesses with a couple of millions turnover and might consider you being to small. Again, I am speaking from a tech perspective as fashion & co works very differently. There you have to have a brilliant network to place the products and create a hype. Otherwise I would not recommend you try, the costs to be involved in the spiel might kill you.
You also might turn to a business angel. They give you a bit of money and ideally also advice and open their network. Really depends on the business angel. And how well established your angel really is.
The VC-Venture Capitalist. Depending on the VC you approach you should be making 1 Mio+ turnover, ideally around 5 Mio+. I know what you are thinking: how the hell should I get there with limited funding. I feel your pain, thats why only 9 out of 10 survive. There is little in between.
IPO: Here I am not the right person to ask as this seems very far away for me.
My personal experience with fundraising is that people invest in people. But you have to have things in place. If you can’t do it, you have to have somebody on the team who is doing the fundraising for you. But even if they do the fundraising, you as the founder will always have to show up and do your magic.
Once you have convinced some investors you will have to live with them. That’s why it’s better to choose profiles, which can help you and know how it works. I would not advice to got with first time investors, but then again, pecunia non olet. If you have somebody who is passionate as well as willing to give you money and who loves your concept and you don’t have a better offer on the table, take it. But first know what you are getting yourself into.
Do not put too much weight on somebody’s word. People talk a lot but do very little indeed. You will be disappointed by some and surprised by others. It is crucial that you stay true to yourself and put yourself first. That is something that I haven’t been doing since launching my business. Slowly a new understanding has taken a hold of me. It is your idea and your are devoting your life to it to make it work. But it is also your health and your pride. You do not have to suck up everything just to make it work. If you loose yourself along the way, it’s better to alter the path. Everything comes with a price tag, also every investment.
I hope this helps! It is really not rocket science, it is just a lot of work, pain, nerves and faith you have to put in.