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15 steps to fundraising a new VC or private equity fund

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David Teten

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David Teten is founder of Versatile VC and writes periodically at teten.com and @dteten.

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Launching is easy; fundraising is harder.

I’ve been fortunate to be a partner at two different VC firms over the past nine years, and we’ve grown AUM 10x both times.

Based on my experience, taking the 15 steps below will help build the core of a high-performing fundraising and investor relations function.

1. Build the firm as much as possible before soliciting LPs

The more baked you are, the more investable you are. The best possible move is to invest in and warehouse some special purpose vehicles that fit your strategy. However, that may distract you from the larger goal of raising a fund, not just a special purpose vehicle.

The next best move is to build your core team, e.g., recruit an advisory board, venture partners and EIRs. Lastly, gather feedback. Yohei Nakajima, founder of Untapped.vc, said, “Before pitching LPs and building my firm, I talked with over 50 people I knew to get feedback.”

2. Set up a basic marketing toolkit: Deck, website and social media

It’s virtually mandatory to develop a detailed, data-backed deck and ideally a video pitch. Your materials should ideally meet the expectations of the Institutional Limited Partners Association, even if you’re not targeting institutions. Keep these documents constantly up to date, so all team members are aligned on key numbers, e.g., total dollars raised so far. You’ll look unprofessional if you’re not coordinated.

Fundamentally, almost no one invests based on a deck; they want to talk with the people. However, a high-credibility deck opens the door to a meeting where you then have the chance to sell yourself.

Note that limited partners view formatting as a proxy for professionalism. It’s worth investing a little money in a graphic designer who can design a consistent website, business card, logo and presentation templates.

Richard Dukas, CEO, Dukas Linden Public Relations, said, “If you don’t have a website and have no material online presence, you likely won’t get past the first hurdle with potential investors.”

When you’re fundraising, you’re selling a luxury good. The less widely marketed your fund, the more valuable it is perceived to be. For example, one LP told me she prefers to receive customized emails from fund principals, as opposed to a bulk-mailed quarterly update. An extreme example of this are venture capitalists who don’t even bother with a website, e.g., Benchmark and Thrive Capital. They are the equivalent of a nightclub with an unmarked door, but other investors will need to shape up their social media tech stack.

3. Make your online profile data-driven and internally consistent

All team members should have internally consistent and professional profiles on Linkedin at a minimum and typically also on Twitter, Facebook and/or other platforms you use. In particular, highlight the metrics by which you measured your past activities: size of exit, number of people you managed, budget you were responsible for, etc.

4. Set up a data room with a completed due diligence questionnaire

Among the most important information to include: details on return history, legal documents, fund organization chart, portfolio construction model, portfolio company one-pagers, key personnel resumes and case studies of past investments. We are using Digify to manage this.

5. Prepare FAQs for prospective LPs

You will inevitably receive a wide range of one-off questions from potential LPs. Make sure to compile all your answers in a single document so that you can recycle and refine these answers.

6. Conduct an honest self-evaluation

Can you realistically raise money from institutional investors, or should you focus on those with high net worths and family offices?

Institutional investors in funds are typically conservative. The great majority of first-time funds that raise capital from institutions have: (a) an industry-standard strategy similar to what the founders pursued before; (b) a personally attributable track record; (c) investment work experience at a top-quartile, well-regarded fund; (d) at least two experienced founders, preferably who worked together, and (e) target AUM of >$50 million.

If you’re fortunate to pass these tests, you might look like Homebrew, which says it raised $35 million in 100 days from “[four] institutional LPs, several smaller LPs and a few individuals” for their fund I. But if you’re missing any of these attributes, you might get lucky and raise money from institutions, but more likely you’ll have to focus your energy on high net worths and family offices. This will likely take you longer and you’ll have a lower close rate than firms who meet the criteria I list.

“You need to reverse-engineer institutions’ checkboxes. My recommendation is to take apart an investment report from a midsized foundation or a due diligence questionnaire built by an investment consulting firm, such as Cambridge Associates, Mercer or Wilshire,” said Julia Rhee, advisor to Typhon Capital Management.

“Also note, many institutional investors don’t really allocate to VC asset classes directly due to the size of their portfolios. Either they hire a fund or funds or discretionary advisory firms to create subvehicles to explore prospective co-investment opportunities or don’t have mandates at all.” See Should You Raise A Fund? An LP’s View On Challenges And Alternatives.

Flexible VC: A new model for startups targeting profitability

7. If budget permits, recruit fundraising resources

Depending on your budget, your resources focused on fundraising could include a part-time human or AI scheduling resource; advisory board members who are well-connected in LP circles; a full-time head of IR; and/or a partner whose primary job is fundraising.

Victor Park, CEO of CapitalIntroductions.com, said, “The best way to set up the IR function is to hire a former IR person from a similar fund, in the hopes that the IR person can fund their own partnership stake and/or their base salary themselves by bringing an anchor investor to your shop. Or, ask a prospective investor if they know of anyone that they’ve worked with that might be interested in the role at your fund. Having someone an investor recommends in the IR role at your fund could be exactly the difference in getting that prospective investor over the finish line.”

8. Aggressively maintain your CRM

Ensure all team members track all interactions with potential investors in your CRM. Set up a pipeline with stages such as “solicited,” and “accessed data room,” to keep track of where everyone is in the sales process. Our pipeline stages are:

Solicited > Responded > Call/Meeting Set > Material Sent > Accessed Data Room > Sub Docs Review > Closing.

When a promising lead has had no contact in two weeks, follow up with a note. The more accurately you keep track of everything, the better your statistics at the end will be when you review and improve your process.

9. Build your own network: Don’t count on a placement agent

You’ll need to go through all of your existing networks: schools, former employers, social clubs. Most people will reject you; but you’ll just have to keep asking for referrals.

Marco Cesare Solinas an analyst at Blue Future Partners, points out the importance of leveraging your network of service providers, such as bankers, lawyers and accountants.

But Vince Timoney, managing director, First Republic Bank, noted, “[N]one of these providers are placement agents, so do not count on them to deliver LP commitments. That said, if there are names in their network that are on your target list or can expand your network take them up on their offer. Perhaps these are LPs that are not a fit for fund I but could be a fit for fund II or III so its best to get to know them now. Similarly to asking your service providers, ask LPs if they have a name or two that you should be talking to. Emerging managers need to shake a lot of hands to get to a first close; be selfish in asking for help.”

I recommend you first devote resources to building your own network, not hiring someone else’s network, which inevitably will have a much lower conversion rate than your own network. Even a great placement agent will typically have challenges placing you, if you do not pass the traditional institutional tests above. When you hire a placement agent, especially one who does not have a reputation for being selective, you are positioning yourself as a good that the hoi polloi can buy. See The Use of Placement Agents for Emerging VC.

“Tap your advisors and mentors (and any existing committed LPs) to run fundraising as a team sport,” said Nathan Beckord, CEO of Foundersuite. “For example, invite your advisors into your CRM pipeline and explicitly ask them to add 10-15 potential LP leads to your funnel. Also, ask them to look at your target list and identify anyone they can make an intro to.”

10. Use online networks to efficiently identify the right potential LPs

The LP universe is opaque; there’s no easy way to tell which LPs are excited about firms like you. Even if you learn that a particular LP just invested in a very similar fund to yours, there’s a high risk they’ll say, we can’t invest; you look too much like our last investment. Online services like Palico, Preqin and Trusted Insight will give you visibility into the major allocators.

As a cheat code, look at the speaker and attendee lists for all of the conferences in your space. For example, if you come from a traditionally underrepresented background, look at all the conferences/organizations at the intersection of diversity and VC (which I list here). Any potential allocator who participates in such a conference has publicly indicated that they want to diversify their inbox.

I suggest attending or organizing events that potential LPs attend. You can spend a lot of energy trying to organize 50 one-on-one meetings with potential LPs, or you can be a part of an event with 50 potential LPs in one room.

I recommend side-channeling at virtual conferences. Look up the profiles of each of the people attending a conference, and send them a highly customized message introducing yourself. This is one of the primary advantages of virtual events versus traditional face-to-face, where people do not conveniently hand out their Linkedin profile along with their business cards.

A useful newsletter to track the players in the institutional investor universe is Charles Skorina & Company.

11. Build an event database and ask organizers for speaking slots

Keep an ongoing list of high-caliber investor-focused events in your geographies and sectors of interest. Reach out periodically to get speaking slots. You may have to pay to sponsor, but often you can get a speaking slot gratis if you’re a great fit for the event or if you bring other value to the table.

For example, if you can source high-quality speakers, or introduce sponsors, event organizers will recognize the value you’re creating.

12. Control the meeting format

Make sure to always reconfirm meetings and resend your deck at least 24 hours before a meeting. Send an email letting them know you’re “looking forward to our call at 9 a.m.-10 a.m. EST tomorrow. For your reference, here is our current deck (link).” That way everyone is literally on the same page, which is critical for a virtual meeting.

Start the meeting by asking the LP if they prefer to go through the deck page by page or jump in with initial questions. Ideally, no one should speak more than two minutes before giving the speaking stick to a colleague. Stop regularly to ask questions and make sure they understand. It is generally a good idea, but especially on a phone call when you cannot see the LP’s body language and monitor they’re paying attention.

13. Perform due diligence on limited partners

“Like a marriage, both sides want to know what they’re getting into. Fund managers should know as much as possible about prospective LPs,” says attorney and former investigative journalist Gordon Platt.

“Not only will this enable managers to customize their pitches, but it will allow them to know what to expect. Do LPs have the resources that they claim? Are they litigious? Do they have documented criminal or other legal or regulatory problems? For their part, fund managers should err on the side of disclosure. Omissions and distorted disclosures will set you up for future legal issues and are likely to come up during the due diligence process in any event.”

Various firms help address anti-money-laundering obligations, e.g., ComplyAdvantage.

14. Onboard LPs and build a trusted relationship

Make sure you have your legal counsel review every subscription packet before accepting the investor to ensure all is filled out correctly. The onboarding process typically requires a lot of tedious paperwork and back and forth with lawyers. A number of firms (e.g., Anduin, Assure, FundFormer, NovaHQ, Passthrough) have built highly automated processes which reduce the number of touch-points.

15. Once you have a first close, quarterly LP reporting is mandatory

Write up detailed quarterly reports to be sent out within 45 days of the end of each quarter. Make sure these are compliant with your Limited Partnership Agreement (e.g., if this states that you must give a list of all current holdings, do so in every report). One of the key metrics for fund II investors is the percentage of fund I investors who follow on.


Disclosure: Blue Future Partners is a member of the advisory board of ff Venture Capital, where I was formerly a partner. I’m also an investor in Foundersuite via ff Venture Capital.

Thanks to Annie Schmidt, Investor Relations and HOF Capital for helping research this essay, and to Prabhat Gusain and Winter Mead of Oper8r for feedback.

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