So you wanna raise $1 million. That amount's probably too much for one or two investors, but not enough to interest VCs, says Asheesh Advani, Entrepreneur's speaker for the "How to Raise Money Now" breakout session at the 2011 Growth Conference in Atlanta.
Advani, the former founder and CEO of peer-to-peer loan management firm CircleLending and author of the book Business Loans from Family and Friends, feels your pain. (On first-round fundraising for CircleLending: "I probably was rejected 80-85 percent of the time," he says. He shared what he learned:
1. Tap your network for investors willing to part with a smaller amount of money. Investors who part with less than $25,000 are more "patient." Since they don't need repayment immediately, they won't be on your case--and that will allow you to stay in control of the timeline of your business plan. Feel free to try banks and VC firms, but don't forget about the nonprofessionals, because almost 90 percent of startup funding comes from family and friends. Crowdfunding sites (Kickstarter, PeerBacker) are an option, too.
2. Develop a fundraising plan. A business plan isn't the only thing you should devote time to. A to-do list: make a list of prospects; work and refine your pitch; expand that prospect list; and decide on a closing date for your fundraising round. Build your projections with costs first--not revenues, which aren't as easy to predict. Then update the numbers every quarter.
3. Refine your "kitchen table" pitch. Here, it's not about selling your idea, but about educating people about what your business is all about. If you can develop a tangible version of your product, do it. Then, be clear about what happens if the money can't be paid back, and provide options for funding amounts and repayment terms.
4. Do your research (duh). Be careful about using intermediaries, like brokers, financing consultants and microlenders, as well as crowdfunding sites.
Bonus: Advani's inspirational quote, from Warren Buffett: "You only have to do a few things right in your life so long as you don't do too many things wrong."