Raising investment is a key step in the process of starting and growing a business. It involves obtaining funding from external sources, such as investors in order to finance the business’s operations and expansion. It is important for businesses to carefully consider the pros and cons of different funding options and choose the one that is the most suitable for their needs and goals.
Raising investment can be a challenging process, but it is crucial for the success and growth of a business. Many founders suggest it is a full-time job and takes a ton of effort and resilience. Raising investment for your startup will not only take a lot of time and effort, but it also involves a fair bit of rejection. However, it is always useful to learn from people who have gone before us and done that.
Here, we’ve brought some advice on how to raise investment from founders from the perspectives of Bangladesh.
Tazin Shadid, Founder, and CEO of AmarLab
“It is a new experience for me and an interesting one. Every time we meet an investor I learn a lot. I mentioned the story of Osiris and we have a lot of similar stories.
Investors offer different opinions and advice. It is about being able to parse them and decide what to accommodate and what not to. Healthcare is a different beast. Many people necessarily don't understand healthcare. So we need to be mindful as well when people offer feedback. You can see the list of feedback from one investor there (on the office whiteboard). Some of these we might be able to accommodate but others we would not be able to. After every investment piece, we go through it and try to understand it.
One lesson is that, apart from the feedback and inputs you get, you get more practice and you get better. Especially through Accelerating Asia, every week they have pitching events. Throughout the three months, you are always pitching to someone: angels, VCs, and LPs. I maintain a database to track where we stand with whom. I think we talked to 50-plus investors in order to close our pre-seed round.
In Bangladesh, I think we are in the infancy when it comes to local investors. In particular, we don't yet have standard term sheets. Many investors share terms sheets for pre-seed that are applicable for Series B. One investor we worked with took us to a lab we stayed away from, learned about our process, and launched a similar service afterward. So we had all kinds of experiences.
To raise funds, one lesson is that you should continue doing it and not get disheartened when people say no. You will hear more Nos than yes. I have seen many people who are doing well and have good ideas but after a few rejections, they stop trying. But entrepreneurship is difficult and you can’t have it any easier. Now that I think about my previous experience, especially our first venture which was in fintech, I can connect. We gave up too easily. We did not raise money and once ran out of money, we quit. We had a lot of interesting ideas. But we did not try hard enough. To that end, I would say not to give up. Continue doing it. That's one thing.
Second, raising investment from anyone is like a relationship. You have to try to pick the right partner. I see a lot of young founders take money from anyone who would offer it. It hurts really bad later on and complicates the later rounds of funding. You should keep in mind that you also have to say no to some people. Many founders don't practice this. It is very important to have the right investors. Not all investors could be right for you. If you think about it, it is going to be a long journey with you and your investors. It is hard to find exits in Bangladesh. So when you are raising investment, it is at least a five-year journey. So it is important that before you get into a relationship, both parties are happy and understand what they are getting into.
Finally, maintain some sort of framework to track all these conversations and communication. It is easy to track 3-5 communications relatively easily, but when you're dealing with numbers like 50, that's different. There are a lot of tools and templates out there such as Airtable templates, Trello templates, and others that you can use to keep track of all of it.
Raising money is a full-time job. It is important how you balance your operations and raise money. The advantage we have is that my co-founder Dr. Zahid, he focuses on operation when I focus on the investment. For strategic decisions, we do it together. It is important that your operation is running smoothly because you want your business to grow and not focus only on fundraising.
It is very important to maintain relationships with investors. Even with the ones who said no. Probably they said no because you are not at the right stage for them.
We maintain a database of investors who said no to us in our earlier rounds and send them regular updates. Many of them regularly help us by connecting us with people. Every month we send out a newsletter to our investors and close networks with real numbers and transparently. It often brings new opportunities.
Having said that, I have learned a lot. I love to learn and my learning hats are always on.”
Mohan Belani, Founder and CEO of E27
“I've been angel investing since 2013. I've done close to 30 investments to date. It's been a fascinating experience. My entire thesis has evolved over time and what I realized is that most of the solid founders I've met have a deep affinity for the problem they are working on. It has definitely affected them or their close ones in a way. They see it as their life’s calling to solve this problem.
Recently I have spoken to one of my favorite founders. I jokingly asked him, "If tomorrow someone offers you 200 million to sell the company, would you sell it?" Then he responded, "And then what do I do? What do I do with all the money? What do I do with my life?" He runs a company called NirogStreet in India. He said, "Look, NirogStreet is my life. I'm going to do this for many many years. I want to continue to push this vision that I have and I'll do this till the day I die."
So there is that mindset where for the founders the companies they're building, the organizations they're building, are not just solely to make money or to solve a problem, but it is also to reshape the world in their views, in their lens.
Let's use Mark Zuckerberg as an example. I know he's a polarizing character. But he fundamentally changed the way people connect with each other and build relationships with each other, catch up, and follow up with each other. That was his worldview. It's not important now whether it was right or wrong, but that was his worldview. It was not about being a billionaire or super rich or powerful. I think that's what is different about great founders and the companies they build.
I typically invest in founders, as I mentioned earlier, who have a deep affinity to the problem that they're working on. The second one is when I converse with them, I try to see whether they have the understanding and clarity of the problem.
Going back to the first principle, I try to see how clearly they understand the problem and what their vision is, and how the company solves the problem over time. That clarity of vision about the company and the problem is another interesting aspect.
I think for me these two have been the guiding principles when I am investing in a company or looking for founders.”
Reyasat Chowdhury, Founder, and CEO of Shuttle
“Initially, finding and building relationships with potential investors was a challenge. I had no idea where to look for investors or how to approach them. In March-April of last year, I put a lot of effort into learning and got in touch with a few key people who helped me understand the whole thing from where I did not have to worry much about connecting with investors.
As soon as I realized I could connect with an investor anytime, my main concern became whether investors would see Shuttle as a good opportunity to invest or not.
The importance of confidence cannot be overstated. Now I'm confident that I can connect with anyone and have a meeting. That has been the biggest change in the last year or two. The more meetings I had with potential investors, the easier it got. I would like to thank Accelerating Asia for this, the accelerator program that we were part of last year. We were able to connect with several investors through Accelerating Asia. We have not raised a great deal of money through Accelerating Asia. Working with them, however, I gained a good understanding of the process and the game of fundraising — how to connect, build relationships, and deal with investors. After I learned that, the rest of it got easier.
For me, the key takeaway is the importance of being connected with the right people who can teach you the process and the tricks of the trade. It could be an international accelerator program or an international venture capital firm. It is not something you can learn from talking to someone. Everyone has to go through this process and learn by doing it themselves. You have to spend a lot of time behind it. Initially, it would be challenging, but after a while, it gets easier.
First of all, you need to be clear about your fundraising requirements such as how you want to raise money - equity, SAFE, etc. and for how long (the runway) you want to raise the fund.
You should not play around with valuation. In my opinion, one of the things we did right last time was to base our valuation on the market price. We were like, 'We're building this company and we want to raise this much money'. Then, we observed what kind of valuation people who wanted to invest were willing to offer. After that, we chose a valuation that we thought was suitable for us, as opposed to putting together our own valuation and explaining why it was justified. We realized that my valuation is what people are willing to pay. If people are willing to pay me a high price then that is my valuation and if they want to pay me a low price that is my valuation. It does not matter what my justification is. If an investor wants to pay you 5 million dollars and another 10 million dollars, I suggest you take the 10 million dollars and don’t try to convince the 5 million investment to make it 10. We found that was very important.
My suggestion for new entrepreneurs would be to decide on a valuation that the market is willing to accept and lock in the lead investor as quickly as possible. Conversations with potential investors become considerably easier if you already have a lead investor and the valuation for the round is already locked.
Also, I think it is better to set your valuation at 75-80% of your actual value. It becomes a lot easier to lock in investments once you do that. If I want to get the highest valuation in the market, it will shrink the investor pool for you. The deal would not be lucrative for investors. Instead, I wish to offer an investor a deal in which he would feel he is getting a great deal at a great price. By not haggling with valuation, you can raise money relatively quickly, which has many benefits.
Preparation is very important. Preparing your data room where you have all the relevant information in one place is super useful. For example, you meet an investor who wants to know more about your company. If you have a data room with all your data and all the details in it, you can simply send him the link to the data room instead of preparing documents one by one as the requirements come.
For example, investors may ask for your pitch deck, financial model, and legal documents. If I send these documents one after another, the process gets lengthy and complicated. However, if I can share a link with the investor right after the meeting where he could find the details and everything in one place, it makes the entire process easy and quick. At the same time, investors also get the vibe that this person is prepared for fundraising.
Also, thinking about the shareholding structure from day one is very important. The first investment you are raising, the terms of the deal, and its implication — these things are important for your later stage fundraising.
In the early days, I used to think that getting money was everything. But now I understand this is not the only important thing for the business. Who are your previous investors, how much equity did they take, how much do the founders own at the moment, and where is your company registered – all these things play a very important role when you want to raise a new round of investment.”
Overall, raising investment is not easy. It is more so during an economic downturn. You’ll get a ton of rejections. People will say no a lot. Some investors will even reject your meeting requests. Don’t take their rejections and Nos to heart. They are, in almost all cases, neither rejecting your idea nor you as a person. They are merely saying no for now. Probably it is not the right time for them to invest in a company like yours. So the first thing is don’t get demoralized. Don’t take any rejection personally. Most importantly, don’t give up. The startup is usually about stamina. If you can keep going regardless of the rejections, you will succeed without a doubt. The majority of founders who have raised money would tell you, the road to successful fundraising is littered with rejections and NOs. But if you keep going, you will eventually succeed.
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