Tips from the top: Raising investment

In our recent survey of startups in the UK and USA raising investment was raised as the number one challenge they faced, emerging from the pandemic. In the first of our new series of expert advice articles, David Pattison, experienced angel investor and leading media agency PHD founder, gives his top tips for those raising investment for the first time.

I have spent a lot of time chairing/advising young businesses and founders on how to approach fundraising.

It has always struck me that, at the very point when young businesses and their founders are looking for funding, you are at your most inexperienced and vulnerable. You are often in a negotiation dealing with very experienced deal makers. This negotiation is often pivotal to the future of your business. One bad clause signed up to in an early negotiation can magnify in size as time and fundraising rounds go on.

What can you do to try and even up the negotiation?

Before you start remember these three things:Investors only care about one thing and that is their money. In the case of Venture Capital and Private Equity that is how they are measured. They have clients who fund their funds and financial success is how they are judged and how they can then raise more funds. They want you to make money for them.

Raising money is hard. Right now there is a lot of money in the investment market, but you have to have a good business and a really strong offering to raise money. Young businesses seem to be lulled into believing there is a money tree at the bottom of the garden that just needs a shake. There really isn’t.

Raising money is really distracting. It takes focus away from the business and most companies suffer a slight drop in performance through this process. Just at the point where it’s not wanted. Share the load around and take advice from trusted sources.

Once you have got your head around that, what else can you do before and during the process?

Here are five of the many things you should do:

1. BE THE BEST BUSINESS YOU CAN BE

It sounds obvious I know, but investors are looking harder and deeper into prospective investments. You will need to present yourselves as the best business you can be. Showing that you understand all aspects of your company and your markets.

You need to be a well balanced and appropriately experienced team with a shared view of the future. Have a proof of concept (does it work?), ideally some revenue (is someone prepared to buy it?) and will they buy it more than once. A good understanding of the competitive set. If appropriate some IP protections. Most importantly that you are in control of the finances of the business and have good quality finance resource.

If some of these points describe your business, then you are well prepared for the questions the prospective investor will expect you to answer.

2. do not get close to running out of money

Never leave it too late to raise funds. Investors will sense if you are running out of money and will try and delay the completion so that they can ‘chip’ the deal just before closure.

Leave yourself plenty of time. Never underestimate how long it takes to raise money, allow 6-9 months if you are looking for serious money. Try to give yourselves options. Taking money from the least worst option is never good.

3. RUN YOUR BUSINESS AS IF YOU ARE ALWAYS ABOUT TO ENTER DUE DILIGENCE

Prepare, prepare, prepare. It sounds obvious but make sure you know your business and your market better than anyone. Do not take fundraising lightly. In the digital age it is easy to set up a data room that has all the company data in one place. Have good governance in place. Get the financials and the legals in order. Remember that DD is not a one-way street when you are raising funds then check out the potential investors.

4. be clear on what you want to achieve

This works in two ways. Firstly, be clear amongst the team on what you want for the business moving forward. Are you all aligned on the future strategy and exit points? Mixed messages to investors don’t travel well.

Secondly, when the time comes to raise the money be very clear to the investors what the money is for and what success looks like. Not many investors want to fund cash shortfalls and saving the business, and if they do it usually comes at a massive cost to you. They are called investors for a reason.

5. beware of deal fatigue

When you are in the fundraising process be aware of deal fatigue. Investors, and particularly the institutional investors rely on you running out of steam. If your chosen investor is a significant shareholder, they will be a big part of your business life. You don’t have to love them but make sure you respect them and their motives.

Very often management get to a stage in the process where they just want it done. They agree to a deal without looking at every last detail. This is where investors can add the hidden clauses that bite you in the future. Stay attentive and on the way through make sure you share out the workload amongst the team.

One final piece of advice. Everyone I speak to who is involved in fundraising says the same thing, ‘get the best lawyer you can afford’. Don’t be afraid to upgrade as you go through the investment stages. A good lawyer should be seen as an investment and not a cost. They will also do a lot of the legwork on the legal documents for you and keep you focussed and avoid a lot of the pitfalls.

As I said right at the start of this, fundraising is not easy, and you should take all the constructive help you can find. I have been involved in a lot of fundraising.

If this blog has been of any help, then you might be interested in reading my book: The Money Train: 10 Things young businesses need to know about investors. It’s a guide to preparing for the investment process from seed capital to Series A, with lots of real-world examples. Whatever route you take to raise funds I wish you good luck and success.

David Pattison has had a long and illustrious career in the advertising industry and as an angel investor. He co-founded PHD in 1990 and more recently he has been involved in a number of startups in a range of industries including, marketing, publishing, construction, motorsport, AdTech, MarTech, FinTech, production and broadcasting. He was recently announced chairman of Conversational media platform Octaive.

#SixtySecondStartUp with Cancha

For this edition of #SixtySecondStartUp we have Jack Oswald, founder of Cancha, he shares how his experience as a professional tennis player led him to set up Cancha – unique tennis bags designed from the ground up:

  1. What does your company do?

Cancha is a customizable sports and travel bag brand. Our bags feature a unique modular design, which allows different accessories to be mounted and detached from each other in a matter of seconds, allowing users to tailor their bag to their favourite activities and daily routine

Cancha Bags are also made from an abrasion-resistant, high-tenacity nylon, and incorporate the latest advancements in textile manufacturing processes, such as laser-cut fabrics, heat-bonded zips and RF Welded construction. Cancha launched during the pandemic of 2020, and has since seen a strong uptake among sporting and outdoor enthusiasts looking for an innovative and durable way to travel with their gear.

Jack Oswald - Cancha
Jack Oswald, Founder of Cancha
  1. Why did you set up this company?

    As a professional tennis player traveling around the world for over a decade on the circuit, I became frustrated with the tennis and travel bags out there for sport and active-minded people. I saw the need for a better tennis bag; One that could adapt for the next trip or activity and durable enough to keep up with an active, travel-hungry lifestyle. 

However, I soon became aware of the wider demand for durable, highly customizable sports bags that could adapt to each individual’s daily routines.  So I teamed up with my friend, who is a world-class soft goods designer, to develop a modular system that would allow a backpack, tennis bag, wet-dry clothes bag and shoulder travel bag (our first range of products) to attach and detach with relative ease. 

This took much longer to develop than originally planned – our 6-month schedule starting in early 2018 ended up taking almost 3 years! We refined and refined the designs, tested them among top tennis players, travelers and anyone who would be willing to try the bags out. We went through over 50 prototypes, all painstakingly built by hand in our small workshop. Eventually, after countless hiccups along the way, we were confident that our bags were ready for the wide world. 

  1. How did you get your first customer? 

I remember very clearly; It was in November of last year. The first batch of bags had landed in the UK and we had just launched the site. A lovely lady in London was our first customer, who bought a bundle of the Backpack and the Wet-Dry Bag attachment. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the order confirmation appeared in my inbox. I think we have never packaged up an order so carefully!

However, the hunger for more sales very quickly grows, and the desire to improve the customer experience starts to becom a bit of an obsession – whether that’s improving our website and social media touchpoints, responding fast enough to customer queries and, of course, continually finding ways to innovate the products themselves!

  1. We knew we were onto something when? 

The first few sales are always a bit of a novelty, but when the consistency of sales kicks in, that’s when you start to believe you have got something. Retailers actually wanting to stock the bags was also a huge confidence booster for us. I remember sending out samples to stores and just being petrified that they would hate the design, or that they would simply say that they didn’t believe there was a market for our products. When we started to get into some stores and have their validity and backing behind our products, things really started to kick off for us. 

  1. Our business model: 

Our bags are currently manufactured in Asia and then shipped off to the UK from there, where we fulfil our orders internationally. We make a large part of our revenue through ecommerce sales on our online store, but partnering with both online and brick-and-mortar retailers has given us the stability to grow.. 

  1. Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Media outreach. With eCommerce being a big part of our business, we have to mix a wide range of marketing channels into our strategy. However, being able to spread the word on the Story behind them brand, my background as a tennis player and the need we are filling, we have really been able to connect with our customers. I often get customers emailing after their order saying they heard me on some such podcast and the story alone swayed them to buy our products. It’s one of the most overjoying moments when you hear from people all over the world that they identify with our background, our mission and reason for being. This is why media outreach has been so successful for us, as it has allowed both Cancha and myself, as the founder, to get our message across in a sincere and personal way.

  1. The biggest mistake that I’ve made is:

Committing too early (financially and mentally) to a project. We launched our crowdfunding campaign in December of 2019, when our product wasn’t near enough to a  production-ready stage. My own desire to get Cancha’s offering out there made us rush our marketing strategy and meant that backers of our campaign had to wait substantially longer than forecast to receive their Cancha Bags. This is something I think that founders tend to struggle with in general; their passion, desire and determination to achieve their goals sometimes overtakes their company’s progress. While this characteristics is extremely useful, (crucial in fact), sometimes it can cause a company to pull the gun too soon, when it would have been more beneficial to build strength a little longer. 

  1. We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Times are changing, and we’re changing with the times. Cancha is not just about designing innovative and sustainable soft a products for consumers. We’re also committed to creating a sustainable and highly technical manufacturing service for western athleisure brands. The reality is that shipping products 3,000+ miles from outsourced production or assembly sites in lower cost nations has been the go-to strategy for western brands for some time now. However, we are seeing a substantial shift in the business environment, both among customers and brands for closer proximity of manufacturing and more responsive business models. We want to be a leader in driving this trend, providing more responsible methods to drive innovation and customer experience in the textiles and soft goods industry. 

  1. We worked with AIN because:

We’re looking to bring some forward thinking, ambitious individuals into the project. We’re looking not just additional capital, but also for expertise in retail and production to help propel Cancha in this direction. AIN’s comprehensive network of investors across a wide range of backgrounds and industries made them the obvious choice to share our project.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Angel investment Network announces launch of Institutional investment arm, AIV Capital

Ethan Khatri

London-based Angel Investment Network, the world’s largest online angel investment platform, has announced the launch of its Private Equity and Venture Capital division, AIV Capital.

Led by experienced investment manager Ethan Khatri, AIV Capital will invest between $10 -$75Mn+ into established businesses ranging from Growth/Series B to pre-IPO and has a flexible approach utilising both primary and secondary capital. Its sector agnostic focus will be on strong management teams with a demonstrated edge in the space they operate in. 

AIV Capital Managing Director, Ethan Khatri brings 16 years of investment experience across the European and Asian venture markets. Over the course of his career, he has successfully completed 27 transactions achieving 13 exits, covering technology, enterprise software, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and consumer. He will be combining his experience with AIN’s early stage market coverage and portfolio of businesses they’ve historically funded. 16 year old AIN has a global network of more than a million entrepreneurs and more than 280,000 investors, winning investment for a host of powerful businesses including What3Words, Simba Sleep and SuperAwesome. 

According to Mike Lebus, founder of Angel Investment Network: “AIV Capital is the natural next stage of AIN’s evolution. AIN has been a game changer in democratising access to angel investment and powering the dreams of so many startup founders on the first stage of their fundraising journey. With the right experience and team in place, led by Ethan, we are now able to support businesses right through the fundraising cycle, from the idea in a bedroom to seed funding right through to pre-IPO.” 

According to Ethan Khatri: “AIV Capital is a powerful new force in private equity and venture capital. Building on the evergreen network of AIN, our experienced team has access to an extraordinary talent pool of growth to late stage businesses which we can match with the right funding structure to ensure they deliver absolute return opportunities. Our watchword is flexibility. We invest across the capital structure and this is the method by which we maximize returns for all stakeholders.” 

Ends

Behind The Raise with Tooth

How often do you replace your toothbrush? Have you ever considered where it ends up or the environmental impact? Tooth is a subscription toothbrush service, looking to reduce waste. We caught up with cofounders Joshua Oates and Kiana Guyon to learn about their recent investment round.

Tell us about Tooth and how you came up with the idea

Over 7 years ago now an idea was born that still holds true today. ‘What if we made a toothbrush where you just change the head, like a razor blade and you keep the handle forever.?’ Out of this question Tooth was born.

The oral care industry is inherently very wasteful and has remained relatively unchanged for over 100 years. We’re here to change the norm and disrupt the market with simple product enhancements, design and smart materials. 

Tooth: the reusable toothbrush

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Like any startup, capital is needed to develop and grow the product and business. Physical products are capital heavy as it takes time to prototype, tool and manufacture the products. Having other minds on the project can lend some help and open up some pretty interesting doors moving forward. 

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

People invest in people.’ No one wants to invest in someone who is passionless, desperate and difficult. Sell yourself, sell the company, sell the product. You do it in that order you will raise funds. 

What attracted investors to your company?

Having a clear vision, product timeline and strong core team all played a part in closing deals across our round. 

The Tooth subscription box

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Taking money from anyone. Make sure you actually get along and the collective vision is there. Be picky. This creates demand. You then supply that demand.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

It provides a cost effective platform to get the project out into the ecosphere. The large network allows you to see if your idea is interesting or not to angel investors. 

Our number 1 focus for Eco Tooth for the year ahead is:
Proving our KPI’s (key performance indicators) is super important this year. Making sure we can hit our predicted acquisition costs, attrition rates etc will allow us to raise the next round of funding.

Keen to hear more?

If you would like to see what other companies are up to on Angel Investment Network, or are interested in raising funding yourself, you can find your local network here.

Majority of US startups very optimistic about the next 12 months

A majority of US startups (52%) are now ‘very optimistic’ about the next 12 months, despite 62% seeing business growth negatively impacted by the pandemic. This was a key finding of a new study of US startup sentiment 18 months after the start of the pandemic, by Angel Investment Network (AIN). The study of 1,205 US based startups found 76% expressed optimism overall with 19% quite optimistic and 52% very optimistic, versus just 24% who were pessimistic. It followed on from a similar survey we conducted of UK startup sentiment last month.

The results show the extent to which confidence has returned to early stage businesses Stateside, who are emerging strongly from the downturn. Of the 62% of respondents who revealed they had been negatively impacted by COVID, 37% had been ‘very negatively impacted’. Meanwhile 63% of those who had been planning to raise funds said they had delayed a raise as a result of COVID.

Top strategies to mitigate the impact of stalled fundraising were: Focusing more on networking, favoured by 46% of respondents, holding off launch plans (38%) and bootstrapping instead (32%), with a similar number delaying marketing.

Entrepreneurs were also asked what their biggest challenges were going forward. The top result given was raising investment (84%), hiring/recruiting the right talent (22%) and product development (22%). Ongoing COVID issues were a problem for 13% of those polled. 

US startups also believe more Government action is needed to encourage investment and help startups flourish. 57% favour making tax relief more generous to boost angel investment, 32% making R&D tax relief more generous and 22% lowering corporation tax. 70% of respondents are confident the US will retain its place as a startup hub.

AIN has seen surging growth on its platform with connections between entrepreneurs and investors up by 23% since the start of the year. Meanwhile revenues have increased by 40% to a new record, indicating the huge pent up demand from startups now seeking funding. 

According to Mike Lebus, founder of AIN: “It is encouraging to see how US startups have shown their mettle to ride out this really difficult period and emerge battle tested and with high levels of confidence. Many have been negatively impacted but have used their time wisely to build up their pipeline of contacts and bootstrap their businesses as far as they can go. RaIsing investment remains the biggest challenge going forward and as the world’s largest angel investment platform, we have been encouraged by seeing a record number of connections between investors and startups.” 

How did you respond to the pandemic?

  1. Focused more on networking: 46%
  2. Held Off launch plans: 38%
  3. Bootstrapped instead: 32%
  4. Delayed marketing: 32%
  5. Held off making hires: 27%
  6. Had to let staff go: 20%
  7. Relied on business loan: 19%
  8. Pulled back from R&D: 12%

What could the Government do to help?

  1. Make tax relief more generous to boost angel investment: 57%
  2. Make R&D tax relief more generous: 32%
  3. Lower corporation tax: 22%
  4. Offer more clarity on COVID restrictions: 14%
  5. Make it easier to provide VISAs for recruiting the right talent: 13%

What are your biggest challenges going forward?

  1. Raising investment: 84%
  2. Hiring/recruiting the right talent: 22%
  3. Product development: 22%
  4. Ongoing COVID issues: 13%
  5. Consumer sentiment: 12%