Opinions

VC Funding: When Less Can Lead To More

Start-up funding is the norm, but is it always necessary to secure big bucks when you launch a business?

Share this article

Share this article

Start-up funding is the norm, but is it always necessary to secure big bucks when you launch a business?

Opinions

VC Funding: When Less Can Lead To More

Start-up funding is the norm, but is it always necessary to secure big bucks when you launch a business?

Share this article

Founding a company can be extremely exciting, but also a huge professional and personal risk. You might have a great idea for a product and the ‘can-do’ attitude to match, but as you grow out of a handful of people working from home, the road can be tough.

The complexity of defining and executing an effective growth strategy, while maintaining current revenue streams, sees many fail at the first hurdle. This is why most seek external investment from the get-go – often from venture capitalists – to provide, they believe, room to breathe and survive the early stages of growth.

As start-ups struggle stoically through the first few months, a quick-fire cash injection from a VC might seem like the only realistic means of progress. In fact, today it’s the new norm.

A practice the UK has adopted from the Silicon Valley, VC firms have ploughed £938 million into start-ups in the first quarter of 2017 alone. Many start-ups are even receiving seed investment before they’ve built a product or established a customer base.

Clearly, if you’re starting a business then you need money for a whole host of things – from marketing to product innovation and development – and there is no arguing that fact.

But, what I will argue is that not every business needs to be VC funded from day one, and for those businesses that focus initially on organic growth, the long-term benefits can be far greater.

Investment is the norm, but timing is everything

While external investment is usually necessary at some point, it’s key to determine when the time is right.

How long will it realistically take to build revenue without investment? Are you ready to dilute the business and, if you need further cash down the line, possibly through multiple parties and in multiple rounds, how much are you willing to give away?

Are you ready, and willing, to take on-board outside advice about how to run the company? Do you have the knowledge and expertise inside the business to grow, or would external expertise help?

These questions, and more, need to be seriously considered before taking on outside money. It is, after all, your idea, vision and business.

There are many excellent and supportive investors out there. They want to help you grow, and with connections, market insights and varied expertise they can be a hugely valuable asset.

However, their ultimate goal is to get a return on their investment and, unless founder and investor are on the same page, challenges can present themselves, particularly in the early growth phases.

Slow and steady wins the race

Start-up founders will often feel that substantial upfront funding enables them to bypass traditional challenges to market entry by allowing them to invest heavily in product development, sales and marketing from day one.

There are plenty of headline-grabbing examples where this aggressive strategy has paid off, but there are also plenty of cases where it fails simply because it takes too long to establish the stable revenue streams required to maintain the business in the long term. Inevitably, these stories don’t make the news.

In reality, it often takes time to gain a full understanding of the market, to weigh up the competition and build a product with a cutting edge. Investors like businesses that have an in-depth knowledge of the sector in which they’re operating, and will be reassured by a proven track record and a solid long term vision for growth.

Shun a VC? They’ll think fondly of you for it

Investors look for four things when deciding whether to entrust you with their money: experience; customer base; opportunity and a good team. Businesses who receive funding without a proven track record can be a big red flag for VCs.

They want to see those that are tried and tested and have had the experience of finding the right market opportunity - even if that means a pivot or two along the way. They also like to see an established portfolio of clients with the potential to grow and diversify, and an industry-changing product or service.

Holding off on funding until your business has matured will not only show that you can scale instinctively without cash up front, but will be looked at favourably by those investors for the simple fact that it’s clear you know what you’re doing and put in the hard work to get there.

It also strengthens your negotiating position, ensuring that you achieve the necessary levels of funding on your terms.

Though VC funding is still a viable and sometimes much-needed option, start-ups should never consider it the lifeblood of their business - at least not in the early stages.

Competition for funding is fierce, especially if the founder has no prior start-up experience, so be prepared to develop the tools to grow your business organically. Resilience is key for any entrepreneur and proving that quality can result in far bigger gains in the long run.

Related Articles
Get news to your inbox

VC Funding: When Less Can Lead To More

Share this article