Though 2021 is far from over, it’s already witnessed a record level of venture capital activity in the technology sector. With larger round sizes announced daily, founders may have their pick of term sheets — but they need to think critically and strategically about which firms to add to their cap table.
So far this year, we’ve seen $292.4 billion in venture financing across the globe, of which $138.9 billion was raised in the United States. Specific to tech companies, the capital is only accelerating: In Q2, founders raised 157% more capital compared to the same period last year, according to the latest data from CB Insights.
It’s not just that more companies are raising money
— they are doing so at a higher valuation. Median seed and Series A stage valuations today stand at $12 million and $42 million, respectively, up 20% to 30% from 2020. This can be partly attributed to growing exits/M&A activity in the technology sector, a record number of IPOs and a general bullishness around technology, as well as low interest rates and liquidity in the market.
Good VCs who are aligned with a startup’s vision create more value than the dollars they bring to the table.
At a time when we are witnessing record VC activity, founders would be well served to go back to the basics and focus on the principles of fundraising when determining who sits on their cap table. Here are a few pointers for founders in that direction:
1. Value > valuation
Good VCs who are aligned with a startup’s vision create more value than the dollars they bring to the table. Typically, such value is created across a few distinct functions — product, sales, domain expertise, business development and recruiting, to name a few — based on the background of the partners of the fund and the composition of their limited partners (investors in the venture fund).
Further, the right VC can serve as an authentic, objective sounding board for CEOs, which can be an asset to have as a startup navigates uncertainty and the typical challenges that come with scaling a young company. As founders assess multiple term sheets, it’s worth thinking through whether they should optimize for VCs who offer the highest valuation, or for ones who bring the most value to the table.
2. A two-way street
Running an efficient fundraising process, in part, entails holding VCs accountable to their own diligence requests. While it is unfortunately common for VCs to request a lot of data upfront, startups should share information after assessing intent and appetite on the investors’ part.
For every additional data request, founders are well within their rights (and should) check with their potential investors on where the process stands and get indicative timelines for moving forward with next steps. Mark Suster said it best: “Data rooms are where fundraising processes go to die.”