Fundraising is a game of competition. VCs compete against other VCs to fund the latest startups. Startups compete with other startups to attain funding from the brand name VCs.
So, to be successful fundraising, “the founder must create a competitive process between VCs,” according to Aaron Hirschhorn, the founder of DogVacay, in our latest interview.
Parkinson’s Law states that, ‘tasks expand so as to fill the time available for it’s completion’. This can be attributed to fundraising. As a result, it is the role of the founder to be strict in setting and maintaining a deadline by which the fundraising must be complete. This allows the founder and team to plan and set milestones but also provides impetus to VCs to involve themselves in a round before it closes.
Not all money is the same, evident through Hirschhorn description of the value of having Bill Gurley on the board. Therefore, founders should have a precise and definitive list of the VCs they would like to participate in their round. The number in this list varies according to founder. Gagan Biyani at Sprig told us, ‘I write down 5 VCs and that is it, those are the ones I want’. Hirschhorn provided a more varied view suggesting that ’30 names was the optimal number to go for when fundraising’.
Time Your Pitch
In fundraising, momentum is everything. As a result, it is crucial to time your pitch to correlate with milestones that show meaningful growth. For Hirschhorn, this was when DogVacay was doing ‘a couple of hundred thousand dollars a month’. For a SaaS company this could be when you sign a big enterprise client. Whatever it is, VCs are drawn to growth and momentum so correlate your raise with those moments.
Practice Makes Perfect
The first time a founder presents to a VC, it will not be the best presentation they make. Not by a long shot. Consequently, never place the VCs that you most want in your round in the first week of pitching. Practice does make perfect with Hirschhorn suggesting the optimal time for pitch perfection is week 3. By this time, the founder and team have ironed out any inconsistencies and perfected the narrative of their story.
A major pitfall of many founder is their inflation of where they are at in their raise. Do not fall victim to this. Transparency is key in fundraising. As Hirschhorn describes, ‘they all talk to each other, Sand Hill knows everything’. Hence, it is all about clarity, let the VCs know where you are in the process and how you want to move forward from here.
Ultimately, the VC industry would not exist without founders creating startups, as Hirschhorn emphasises, “it is up to the founder to control the dialogue.”