All businesses need some sort of investment to get started. Whether that money comes from the entrepreneur, their family and friends, an investor or some other solution, if you don’t have experience raising money, it can be easy to fall into certain traps or attempt certain strategies that may seem like smart moves at the time but actually end up sabotaging your efforts later on.
To help ensure this doesn’t happen to you, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council share some guidance below. Here, they discuss the biggest mistakes they ever made while trying to raise money for their startups and what they recommend others do to avoid making those same mistakes.
1. Not Realizing It Takes A Long Time
The biggest mistake I made was not realizing that fundraising takes a longer time than you think. If you think you can close the round in a certain amount of time, plan to double that. It takes time for investors to get interested, to get introductions to the right people at the right funds, to take back-and-forth questions, negotiate terms, choose who to let in for the round (if you are lucky and get a lot of interest) and close the round with participating investors. Plan accordingly, because if you underestimate the amount of time fundraising will take, you might find your company running short on cash and, therefore, in a weak negotiating position. We ended up closing the round in time, but in retrospect, accurate planning would have been tremendously helpful. – Chenyu Ren, Markai, Inc.
2. Not Developing A Clear And Concise Pitch
Information overload was a problem when I tried to raise money for my first startup idea. Like many budding entrepreneurs, I had crammed too much information into my elevator pitch, which was confusing and off-putting to the investors. One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when trying to raise money for their startup is not having a clear and concise pitch. Your pitch should be clear, direct and to the point. It should explain what your startup does, why it is unique and exciting and what you are looking for in terms of investment. My pitch lacked all of those things. It was a sign of inexperience. You need to build relationships and show investors that you are serious about your business and your pitch. – Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz
3. Not Approaching The Right Investors
I tried to raise money for my startup from the wrong investors. I approached people who I thought would be interested in my product, but they didn’t really understand the market or the opportunity. As a result, I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to convince them to invest, when I should have been looking for investors who already believed in my product and understood the market. To avoid making this mistake, I recommend that startups do their research before approaching potential investors. They should look for investors who have a track record of investing in similar startups, and who have a good understanding of the market and the opportunity. – Adam Preiser, WPCrafter
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4. Not Considering The Tone Of My Pitch
The biggest mistake I ever made when trying to raise money for my startup was overpitching. I got so caught up in the excitement of the moment that I didn’t take the time to think about what I was saying or how it would be received. As a result, my pitch came across as overly salesy and pushy, and it turned off a potential investor. To avoid making the same mistake, I recommend taking a step back and thinking about your pitch before you start talking. What is your overall message? What are the most important points you want to get across? Once you have a clear idea of what you want to say, practice delivering your pitch. When you’re finally ready to talk to investors, stay calm and focused and avoid getting caught up in the excitement of the moment. – Sujay Pawar, CartFlows
5. Not Keeping More Equity For Myself
Giving too much equity away was the biggest mistake I made while raising money for my startup. This is a pressure trap many entrepreneurs fall into, as many savvy investors want greater ownership of the business. While a lower percentage might seem like a good idea to give away so that you can raise much-needed money and grow, it might become a costly mistake down the line. You can avoid this by looking for alternative sources for raising capital. Don’t just fall for any investor with deep pockets. If you need to, bootstrap early on. Max out your credit cards, but hold on to your business ownership. Try bank loans, but chart out how much you would need to keep yourself lean while building your business and improving your baseline profits. – Brian David Crane, Spread Great Ideas
6. Not Thinking Through The Investor’s Terms
The biggest mistake I ever made while trying to raise money for my startup was agreeing to the investor’s terms without giving them a second thought. I just wanted to get started as quickly as I could, and that didn’t go as planned. The lesson I learned from this was to never compromise on your vision. If the terms prescribed by an investor are contradictory to your goal, then it’s better to part ways than blindly accept the proposition. Alliances that benefit all parties are indeed the ones that foster trust and ensure lasting relationships. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Not Realizing There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Pitch
Different types of VCs have varying approaches to investing. As an example, multi-stage VCs view investments quite differently from seed-stage-only investors because the mechanics in which they generate returns for their funds are different. As another example, some funds place more emphasis on quality growth, not just growth. Therefore, the pitch has to be modified. I used to think that there was a one-size-fits-all pitch, but this is far from the truth. Understanding what different types of investors are looking for (i.e., the nuances) is an art. Therefore, start building relationships early on to gain such understanding and build trust. This increases your probability of successful fundraising. – Greg Soh, RoadFlex
8. Not Understanding That ‘No’ Isn’t Personal
The biggest mistake I made when trying to raise money for my startup was taking “no” personally. I felt like someone deciding not to invest was them attacking me as a person. I quickly realized that I was overthinking the situation, and it’s healthy for people to say “no” if they’re not interested in a specific arrangement. I suggest you go into each investment meeting with nothing but business on your mind. Don’t get upset when things don’t go your way. A line from an old mentor comes to mind: “Some will, some won’t, so what?” In other words, don’t get discouraged by someone saying “no,” because someone willing to say “yes” is around the corner. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
9. Not Thinking About Scaling From The Beginning
The biggest mistake I made during a fundraising effort for my startup was not thinking about scaling from the beginning. I knew what I wanted to accomplish, and I raised money for that, but I didn’t anticipate a huge success that would require scaling up quickly. That is where we ran into monetary issues because we didn’t raise money for that. We were thinking of slow and steady growth. However, when these larger opportunities came, our investors expected us to pursue them. Yet, they weren’t prepared to contribute more because they felt they had done their part and this was up to us. My recommendation is to plan for scaling up and inform your investors upfront that it may require additional investment if it happens quickly. They need to be on board with that from the start. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure