Why can't my startup close investment?

Articles
Startup:
This is some text inside of a div block.
Vertical:
This is some text inside of a div block.
Market:
This is some text inside of a div block.
Fundraising:
This is some text inside of a div block.

Why can’t my startup close startup funding?  

That is a question we get a lot from all the Founders we work with through our flagship program and Amplify, our digital pre-accelerator.

And from all startups we’ve worked with, quite a few, we’ve identified some common reasons why your startup can’t close funding.

Let’s start on the three factors in startup fundraising that you need to have in sync: product, communications and price.

If you don’t have these in sync, you will have difficulty converting investors, it’s that simple….or is it?  

Product

This is the area that most founders focus on.

The product is your company, your founders, your traction and more.  Most mentorship programs focus on this aspect of fundraising. Investors will want to understand:

  • What big problem you are solving
  • How big the potential market is
  • Why you are the right team to be doing this
  • Why now is the right time for this solution
  • How are things going to date (traction)

This is all very important and there’s a lot of examples and blogs available on this topic.

However, many founders don’t give enough attention to the other two factors:

Communications and Marketing

Is your messaging clear and does it generate excitement in potential investors?  

As someone who has run accelerators for 5 years and worked with over 50 startups, I can tell you most of the companies that come into our program fail at this.

Fail at the messaging, fail to tell their founder story, fail to effectively communicate their startup and value proposition.

We spend a lot of time coaching them to improve, with sometimes massive results.

In 2020, we had a startup enter our program who had a great product, a solid team, good early traction with Fortune 500 companies and a well-structured round.

Sounds like they should be able to raise capital easy. Right?

Wrong. They couldn’t get any investors to write a cheque.  

This was the startup I thought had the highest potential to be a unicorn out of the cohort, but nobody else was seeing it.

I began to doubt myself initially, but what I realised is that the communication from the founders to investors was ineffective, not the product.

We worked on this over the two months during our 1-1 sessions, refining the message, looking at the communications and marketing.

Along the way an Angel investor (and LP in our fund) came in and wrote a cheque.

By the time we reached Accelerating Asia’s Demo Day they had drastically improved their pitch and it was one of the best in the group. Subsequently, the startup received three term sheets from some of the most reputable venture capital firms in Asia.

What can you do now to improve your messaging, without access to an accelerator:

Focus your pitch more on the customer than on the product.  How much money or time does your product save your customer compared to their current solution?

Why is now the right time to be taking this product to market?  What are the trends in the market that create a “wind at your back” in the coming years?  Examples could be demographic, financial, regulatory and more.

What are you going to do with this money and where will that take you?  An example template could be:  “With that $500k, we will hire a product manager and a VP of sales in addition to three more developers, which will take us to $1M annual recurring revenue from our current $100k monthly recurring revenue nine months from now.  

If you have commitments already, use that to create some FOMO: “We are raising $500k with $300k already committed and expect to close the round by the end of next month.”

You should also be able to clearly describe your business in less than one minute.  

Here’s a format I use with founders:

  • Hi, My name is [NAME] and I’m the [TITLE] and co-founder of [COMPANY].  [COMPANY] provides [PRODUCT/SERVICE] to [CUSTOMER], resulting in [VALUE PROPOSITION].

From there you can move into traction, product details and fundraising.  Many founders find success by starting off their longer pitch with this format as an intro.

Price

This is often overlooked, but should be obvious.

If you go shopping and the product is too expensive you probably won’t buy it, right?

And if it’s too cheap then you’ll think something is wrong with it and you probably won’t buy it either. The same rules go for startup investing.

Do your homework and ensure that you are pricing your round at a level that is appropriate for your business’ maturity.  If you have $5k in MRR and you are raising at a valuation of $5M then you will probably have a hard time finding investors, unless you are a serial founder with previous exits.

Talk to potential investors and mentors who know startups, do your research on comparables for startups in your region at your stage of maturity and do your best to ensure that your round is priced at a level that gives the company a quality valuation that is also low enough to attract investment.  

Many founders are pricing their rounds too high and it’s self-defeating. If your price is too high then you may not receive investment at all. At the very least you will spend a lot more time on fundraising instead of running your business. Build a win-win price for the round that helps you raise capital fairly quickly while giving investors plenty of upside potential for the risk that they are taking.

The bottom line, when you are fundraising, get product, communications and the price right.  

Then the rest should fall into place.

Accelerating Asia invests in and accelerates Pre-Series A startups through our flagship 100 day accelerator and our digital program. Applications are now open for Cohort 5 of the flagship accelerator with up to US$250k investment and access to 1-1 sessions with our Entrepreneurs in Residence, top active investors, masterclasses and more.

tags:
Articles

Invest in the future

Accelerating Asia invests in startups with scalable technology solutions and revenue generating business models that combine purpose with profit.

Disclaimer

In making an investment decision, investors must rely on their own examination of startups and the terms of the investment including the merits and risks involved. Prospective investors should not construe this content as legal, tax, investment, financial or accounting advice.