Behind The Raise with Porter

Gary Piazzon founded Porter after becoming frustrated finding a suitable hotel. He shares some of his key learnings from fundraising and his biggest mistake in this edition of #BehindTheRaise.

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

It was a nightmare, timely and stressful booking experience that led me to the idea of Porter; I visited one of the large online travel agents, entered my search criteria and was hit with a pretty intimidating 2,000+ results.

I wrongly assumed the hotels near the top of the list would be a great match for me. They were nowhere near where I wanted to stay and only appeared higher up as they were clearly paying a higher rate of commission.

That got me thinking, why see the results you’re not interested in?

Porter is designed to make booking a hotel simple and fun by learning about the elements that matter to users so it can assess the thousands of potential property options to help recommend the right places to stay.

In a nutshell, Porter simplifies hotel booking, by only recommending your best matches. 

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Raising investment was pretty much a necessity to really get things off the ground.

As we’re building a very technical platform leveraging various levels of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we needed to ensure we could attract the right talent, as well as pay the bills for hosting etc. so raising investment was really important from that perspective.

Beyond the technical aspects, it’s also been crucial in helping us raise some initial awareness of the site, and further we purposely targeted ‘smart money’ and ended up with a collection of very experienced, knowledgeable investors, all of whom have contributed advice, support and knowledge to the business. 

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

My top tip would be to ensure you have a clear story, and think about the traction you can show to demonstrate interest.

From a story point of view, I think it’s really important that when investors look at your pitch, or speak to you, they come away with a really clear understanding of what you’re trying to do, why you’re doing it, and how you’ll do it better than anyone else.

You should then be able to support this with some sort of traction that demonstrates people being interested. This could be in the form of users signing up to your pre-launch page, user engagement on your MVP, revenue numbers etc. 

What attracted investors to your company?

I’d say there were a few key things:

·        All of our investors resonated with the problem we’re trying to solve. They’d all experienced the frustration and wasted time of endlessly searching for the right place to stay when going on holiday. This immediately put us in a good position when discussing the business.

·        Secondly they recognised that there’s an enormous opportunity to go after, and the market has proven itself capable of supporting numerous large players. Globally, the online travel agent market is worth c£440bn, but in the UK alone, the market is worth around £35bn. That means, even if we were to capture 1% of the market, we’d be achieving £350m of revenue.

·        The final thing that attracted investors to our company was our strong founding team, and the interest we’d demonstrated through our pre-launch page. We built an initial team with experience spanning Development, UX, Product and Marketing and built a pre-launch waitlist of over 3,000 users. The combination of these two points gave our investors the confidence that we were the right team to try and tackle the problem. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Initially failing to adapt pitches and conversations for my audience. I quickly learnt that different types of investors were looking for different information from our discussions, with a big difference between angels who were much more interested in the vision and team, versus VCs who were much more focused on the quantitative side of things. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

I was actually recommended to AIN from a fellow founder who has previously raised a number of rounds through the platform.

AIN was a no-brainer thanks to its ability to connect us with such a large number of investors. Not only did using AIN help us successfully close our pre-seed round, but it also helped us meet some really interesting industry experts.  

What is the main focus for Porter for the year ahead?

We’ve actually recently started raising our next round of funding to allow us to accelerate product development, grow our team and reach more people.

This is a really exciting time for Porter. As travel restrictions start to ease, we’re already starting to see an uplift in people wanting to travel. Our focus now is ensuring we’re best placed to help as many users as possible discover and book their best matched trips. 

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.

#BehindtheRaise with WeCoffee

We spoke to Ben Carew, Co-Founder at We Coffee, about how to complete a successful fundraise, and also equally important, what not to do.

WeCoffee aims to provide flexible and affordable workspace for post Covid working, along with curated events.

Benjamin Carew, Co-Founder of WeCoffee

Tell us about WeCoffee:

WeCoffee was created to make working from anywhere something anyone could enjoy. 

By curating  a distributed network of free and unique workspaces and a community you can cowork with online and in real life, we believe we are well on the way to achieving this. 

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We decided to raise investment so that we could bring our unique and exciting model for coworking to the whole world. Something that mine and my business partner’s lifetime savings wouldn’t quite allow, at least at the speed with which we want to do it. 

People often ask why the speed and scale matters and for us we see a window of opportunity, while the world’s ways of working are changing, to allow a better social norm. 

We believe for too long the standards have been set by employers with outdated policies, or more recently landlords hijacking the term coworking only to supply fixed office space as a service. 

We want to make sure that the future of work will give power and choice back to the worker, ensuring a happier and more productive worklife. 

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

I’m going to be cheeky here and give a few:

  • Angel investors are people not ATMs, understand them and make them feel confident and safe with you by treating them how you would like to be
  • Be firm on your timeline, if you don’t have one set one 
  • Don’t be shy to check they actually want to invest, not just introduce you
  • Treat it as near to a full time job as you can. Maybe 50% off the time, as yes you need to run a business. 
  • As soon as you have a yes, add them to the term sheet. Its less scary to follow someone else
  • If VCs keep being really nice but don’t invest your probably too early. Save yourself the time and build more traction and try and do an Angel round or friends and family
  • Be flexible in what your raising, if you get half can you make a business or the next step? If double what would you do? 
  • Don’t be scared to say no. We met one total **** who was incredibly aggressive, wanted to force a board member who was an ex-founder removed from the company by their shareholders for negligence, thought WeWork’s IPO would go through and that only 8 banks failed in the 2008 crisis. We were very happy to not molly his coddle 
  • Lastly join WeCoffee as there are lots of us on or who have been on this journey. We are more than happy to help one another avod the ****, find the right investors and generally navigate the startup world. 

What attracted investors to your company?

You would probably have to ask them, but I think a big part of it was the total and utter passion that is born out of us as a team. We clearly know and love what we do, so if you believe in the idea that we won’t all work in an office 5 days a week, there is no better horse to back. 

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

It took me some time to realise that I needed to run it like any other business activity, as a structured process. I spent months pitching at intermittent events and meetings waiting for my angel to land in lap not realising what I was doing was practising.

I was at the wrong events, with no real investors; and worse meetings with the wrong people who were more interested in introductions than investing. 

Once I sat down, opened the round in SeedLegals, got all my deliverables in place, built a sales funnel and set a firm date to close the round then I was well on the way. 

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

I used AIN as it came across to meet my target investors (angels), as it had a wealth of investors that I could filter for by sector. Insanely helpful! 

If it wasn’t for you Angel Investment Network we wouldn’t have raised as much as we did.

Keen to hear more?

Try out one of WeCoffee’s online networking events to meet ‘creatives, marketing gurus, product creators, free thinkers, entrepreneurstech geeks, doers and dreamers’.

Sign up here for a 100% discount, i.e free entry.

Behind the Raise with flypop

Nino Judge, CEO of Flypop shares his advice for entrepreneurs about how he used Angel Investment Network to get his airline off the ground.

Tell us about flypop: The ‘pop’osition

flypop is a new British low-cost airline providing non-stop direct flights between the UK (London Stansted) and second cities of South Asia, starting with India, targeting the South Asian market in the UK, Europe and North America and their visiting friends & relatives (VFR).

flypop is also committed to protecting the planet by being the first and only fully carbon neutral airline in the world by carbon offsetting each passenger that travels with us.

flypop: It’s just good business.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

We needed a small amount of working capital for 2019 to help raise the larger amount for our Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Operator Certificate (AOC). Aviation is a highly regulated industry, and as such our first step is to apply to the CAA for our AOC. In order to do so, a minimum amount of capitalisation is required, which in our case was £6m in equity capital.    

How did your first external raise come about?

We, the directors, bootstrapped initially to purchase data, finish the business plan and design the website. However, it became evident we needed to achieve even more KPIs before the main equity raise of £6m.

We decided to raise another £80,000 to get us through Financial Year 2019/2020 and put a larger management team in place, get premises for the management team to meet regularly, develop a promo video for investors to understand our unique low-cost product and lastly have a reservation site showing this product is ready to generate revenue!

What attracted investors to your company?

Our USP of focusing on low-cost non-stop travel for the Indian & South Asian VFR market resonated with the millions of future passengers who would use our service.

Our competitive advantage is offering the lowest fares flying non-stop to the second cites of India (& South Asia) avoiding the potentially infected hubs and getting our passengers “home” to where they want to go in the shortest possible time.

We focus on the resilient VFR market segment that always needs to fly home. This segment has always recovered first from any recession returning to high load factors.

For the first time since 9/11 it was an advantage to start operations as a new airline rather than be a debt laden legacy airline.

My biggest fundraising mistake was… 

Not raising enough as building a company always takes longer and costs more. We ended up incurring unexpected costs including paying consultants to perfect the business plan. Good people cost money. Third party validation reports, marketing campaigns & events to raise funds, Legal & IT costs.

It always takes longer as the holiday seasons get in the way. With Easter, Summer, Ramadan, Christmas and New Year, nearly 4 months out of 12 are go slow or closed months. Let’s not forget our unexpected Covid -19 virus!

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

We wanted to work with a partner that had great global investor reach, reasonable costs with a professional and friendly support team. With AIN we received 30 enquiries within 14 days, and we closed within the month and could have raised 5 times as much.

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.