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06-Jan-2017 08:51

Fundraising only seems a puzzle because it's an alien world to most founders, and I hope to fix that by supplying a map through it.

To founders, the behavior of investors is often opaque—partly because their motivations are obscure, but partly because they deliberately mislead you.

September 2013Most startups that raise money do it more than once. But the three phase path is at least the one about which individual startups' paths oscillate. That's the type the startups we fund are doing on Demo Day, and this essay is the advice we give them.

A typical trajectory might be (1) to get started with a few tens of thousands from something like Y Combinator or individual angels, then (2) raise a few hundred thousand to a few million to build the company, and then (3) once the company is clearly succeeding, raise one or more later rounds to accelerate growth. Forces Fundraising is hard in both senses: hard like lifting a heavy weight, and hard like solving a puzzle.

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When a startup is only a few months old, every week that passes gives you significantly more information about them.

The other time not to raise money is when you won't be able to.

If you try to raise money before you can convince investors, you'll not only waste your time, but also burn your reputation with those investors. One of the things that surprises founders most about fundraising is how distracting it is.

So what tends to happen is that they all wait as long as they can, then when some act the rest have to.

Don't raise money unless you want it and it wants you. Most companies in a position to grow rapidly find that (a) taking outside money helps them grow faster, and (b) their growth potential makes it easy to attract such money.

When a startup is only a few months old, every week that passes gives you significantly more information about them.

The other time not to raise money is when you won't be able to.

If you try to raise money before you can convince investors, you'll not only waste your time, but also burn your reputation with those investors. One of the things that surprises founders most about fundraising is how distracting it is.

So what tends to happen is that they all wait as long as they can, then when some act the rest have to.

Don't raise money unless you want it and it wants you. Most companies in a position to grow rapidly find that (a) taking outside money helps them grow faster, and (b) their growth potential makes it easy to attract such money.

The ultimate source of the forces acting on you are the forces acting on investors.