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As someone who has witnessed numerous startup pitches and has helped several startups secure investments, I think that I have gained valuable insights into what it takes for startup to secure seed round investment. In this article, I have summarized the key elements when seeking to secure seed investment in 2023.
I will be releasing detailed guides for each of the topics mentioned below. So be sure to follow my profile if you are interested.
Validating an MVP
Firstly, it’s crucial to validate the market demand for your idea. The most effective way to do this is by building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An MVP is a basic version of your product that includes only the essential features necessary to solve the core problem of your target audience.
In the seed round, investors want to see evidence that there is a viable market for your product and that customers are willing to pay for it. By building an MVP and acquiring your first paid users, you can demonstrate to investors that your idea has market potential.
If you are not yet ready to build an MVP and do not have a history in startups, you may consider broadening your team, seeking angel investment, or participating in a startup accelerator program to gain initial funding and support. If you have some funds saved up, you may want to consider partnering with an agency to build your MVP. It can be faster and much more efficient.
Before releasing your MVP, it’s essential to define success metrics that will help you measure the effectiveness of your product. These metrics could include user growth MoM, user retention, user ratings, the percentage of users who would recommend your product, and more. By setting clear success metrics, you will know if your product is growing fast enough and gaining traction in the market.
Last but not least, by developing an MVP you show your investors that your team is in fact capable of building such a product.
Bulletproof business plan
Having a solid business plan is essential to secure investment. It demonstrates to potential investors that you have a clear understanding of how to operate a successful business.
Your plan should include a clear timeline for launching your product, a breakdown of your financial projections, runway, and a well-defined marketing and sales strategy. It’s also important to include an analysis of your target market and competitors, as well as your unique value proposition. Your plan should also outline any potential risks and how you plan to mitigate them. Lastly, your business plan should detail your estimated valuation during your next funding rounds.
Your business plan should offer an answer to most of the investors’ questions. Some of these can be:
- When will your product launch?
- How much runway will your startup have?
- How are you going to reach your sales goals?
- Why did you choose to expand to these markets?
- What will be your estimated valuation during your next funding rounds?
The success of your startup largely depends on the strength of your team, and investors need to be convinced that your team has the skills and expertise to execute your business plan effectively.
When pitching your team to the investors, emphasize the strengths and qualifications of your team members. Highlight their relevant experience and education, and showcase any previous successes they may have had in their respective fields. It’s also important to mention any advisors or mentors you have on board, as they can provide valuable guidance and connections.
Consider finding a co-founder if you haven’t already, as having multiple co-founders is more attractive to investors. From my experience, the ideal scenario would be having three co-founders, each holding an equal stake in the company.
The perfect pitch deck
To secure a seed round investment, you will need to pitch your startup to many VCs. Your pitch deck must be engaging and leave investors wanting to know more about your startup. There are three types of decks that you should prepare, each tailored to a specific situation.
The Demo Day deck is used when the founder is presenting the startup during an event. The slides should be straightforward and to the point, and there is usually a time limit of around five minutes. The goal is to generate enough interest for investors to want to see your Email deck or even secure a meeting right away.
The Email deck is used solely to secure a meeting with VCs. Unlike the Demo Day deck, it should be self-explanatory since you won’t have the opportunity to present it. You can include more information than in the Demo Day deck but try not to reveal everything about your startup. The goal is to provide just enough information to generate interest in a meeting.
The Meeting deck is the most in-depth version of your pitch deck and you’ll typically have around 15 minutes to go through it. Be aware that VCs will expect to hear more about your startup than what was presented in the email deck. By this point, you should have a business plan ready, as it will help prepare you for the questions that come after your presentation. VCs will ask many questions and your answer better not be “I don’t know”.
It’s essential to understand the differences between the three decks so you can prepare them correctly for each situation. Although it can be challenging for startups to create all three decks, they are crucial to securing a seed round investment.
Importance of networking
Networking is an essential component of any startup’s success, and it’s particularly crucial when seeking investment. While accelerator programs and angel investors can provide valuable connections, founders should also attend meetups, conferences and industry events to build relationships with potential investors, advisors, and mentors. Networking allows founders to showcase their businesses, establish trust with investors, and receive valuable feedback on their ideas. Additionally, founders can use their networks to gain access to resources and expertise that can help them scale their businesses.
Choosing a VC
When seeking investment, it’s important to aim for “Smart money” — capital from a VC that provides more than just financial backing. Look for VCs who can help you solve some of your biggest challenges. For instance, if your startup’s main obstacle is selling to corporate clients, seek out VCs who have connections to such clients. The right VC can give you a significant advantage. If the VC sees that they can help solve one of your main problems, they’ll be more interested in investing in your company.
It’s also crucial to find a VC fund that aligns with your company’s values and goals. Some funds focus solely on certain segments of the market such as Ai or finance. In recent years, there has been an increase in VC funds that focus on founders overlooked by mainstream funds. These inclde funds that specialize in sustainability startups, funds that invest in diverse founders, and many more. By connecting with a VC fund that shares your vision, you can increase your chances of success and the VCs know it.