Do dry-runs with investors to raise your first million

By now you’ll already know that fundraising requires planning and that it’s often a good idea to raise bigger sums from fewer investors.

While this is true, there’s still plenty more you can do to raise your first million and get your business off the ground.

With this in mind, I spoke to two seasoned founders to get their top tips to help you raise from venture capital investors.

[Read: Every startup founder’s alternate realities: Business and fundraising]

Starling Bank’s Anne Boden: Dry-runs with investors

Anne Boden, the founder and CEO of Starling Bank, a UK challenger bank, has a wealth of experience when it comes to fundraising.

Boden, who previously worked in the traditional banking sector, recently closed a  €72 million (£60 million) round, bringing Starling Bank‘s total raised to a staggering €388 million (£323 million) in just six years.

She said raising her first million was “tiring,” and highlighted “it is the start of your journey, not the end.”

“When I was seeking funding back in 2014, I found that some Silicon Valley investors seemed interested only in backing people who looked like them and fitted the startup stereotype,” Boden told me,“ It felt like doors kept shutting.”

“My advice is simple: don’t do your first fundraising meetings with your most likely investors. With hindsight, I would have done some dry-runs with investors that didn’t really matter, just to get some practice and get used to the environment,” she added.

EntrepriseAlumni’s Emma Sinclair: More due-diligence

Serial entrepreneur Emma Sinclair — the youngest person in the UK to take a business public at the age of 29 — also knows a thing or two about fundraising.

Back in the day, Sinclair founded car park management firm Target Park, and health and wellbeing private members club Wakeman Road. She is currently the co-founder of EntrepriseAlumni, a corporate alumni management platform.

“I’ve raised my first million for a few businesses now. I think the most valuable lesson I can share is to due diligence potential investors. Who is giving you money and joining you on your journey matters,” Sinclair said.

“Look online, ask around, and trust any gut instincts you have. Any investors worth having on your team won’t mind you doing that,” she added.

Sinclair says she’s learned her lesson and now researches people obsessively. “Building a business is like a marriage and you want people with similar values on your team.”

In many ways, fundraising is an art, but even the most accomplished artist can benefit from improving their technique. I’m confident these useful tips will come in handy when you set out on your journey.

Got any other tips founders could benefit from? Let us know!

Like what you’ve read? On Growth Quarters, we strive to go beyond generic ‘fortune cookie advice’ and learn directly from the people who have walked the walk. And this summer, at TNW Conference 2020 in Amsterdam, we’ll take Growth Quarters offline again with a vibrant program dedicated exclusively to sustainable business growth. Listen to keynotes from leaders from the world’s most successful companies and get actionable guidance to help you grow professionally. Get early bird tickets now and learn more about the Growth Quarters track.

Published February 20, 2020 — 08:47 UTC

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