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The Less Obvious Fundraising Strategy for Entrepreneurs The key to a long-term strategy is to identify potential investors and begin conversations early on

By Radha Kizhanattam

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Successful fund-raising hardly ever happens in a meeting. So, what are the clear strategies one must deploy to get the coveted cheque and investors' trust when you need those? A long-term strategy goes a long way.

That's right. The key to working through this long-term strategy is to identify potential investors and begin conversations early on. This way you can stay connected with the investors to get their advice and update them about your startup's progress. Only a few founders do this consistently, let alone doing it well. These are the ones who are then able to cash in on the advice and the investment; quite literally.

Startups struggle through fund-raising for a variety of reasons—too early, and hence no attractive traction worthy of investor interest; and no clearly established differentiation, among others. Tailored investor updates allow entrepreneurs to keep potential, networked investors informed on their progress. This initiative also helps entrepreneurs keep potential investors updated on the company's work on key issues pointed out by investors towards becoming investable. The strongest positive benefit is that it helps entrepreneurs stay top-of-mind, get facetime when needed, gain strategic advice and open doors for funding.

Tailor-made updates can become a double-edged sword if entrepreneurs don't know what the right information is to share. Below are a few aspects to keep in mind when providing updates to investors.

Keep it Crisp

Avoid rambling. Stick to key metrics, milestones and launches. Contextualize your startup's highlights and growth statistics to act as a proxy to showcase your company as an investable business.

Customize Updates for Each Investor

Take that effort, even if it means sending five variants to five investors. Some investors won't spend more than 10 seconds, others could be comfortable with long emails. Getting this nuance right will be important. Also, be aware of their portfolio, and set context on how the firm will fit in the venture's investment strategy.

Incorporate Investors' Feedback

Doing this will help investors realize that you are considering their inputs and gives them the confidence that you listen and learn. It is fine to not agree, but demonstrating that you listen, deliberate and act on their feedback is important.

Maintain a Good Frequency

A quarterly update is typically just right. A time period shorter than this will likely mean you won't have big changes to showcase. Remember to set context from previous updates (don't count on them for recalling from your previous mails).

Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help

Besides funding, there are several ways investors can help or support. These updates are a great way to ask for doors to be opened, especially if you've set context to what that help could achieve. Be specific about what you ask for and why you're asking a specific investor for it. Avoid saying, "I need a CTO". Instead mention your problem and who you think can solve it.

Decide How Much is Too Much to Share

You might be concerned about sharing ideas, especially if the investor's portfolio has your competitors. Remember that ideas are plenty—it's the details and execution that really matter. Investors are always upfront with disclosures especially if they see any potential conflict. After all, Facebook was hardly the first social network or Apple the first smartphone maker.

Remember that as an entrepreneur, your "sales hat' is always on. Investors can add way more value beyond just the funds they provide. An entrepreneur should view providing tailored updates as a nice way to build and maintain this relationship.

Radha Kizhanattam

Investment Director, Unitus Ventures

Radha Kizhanattam is an Investment Director at Unitus Ventures. An experienced technology and investment professional, Radha joined Unitus Ventures in 2013 and now leads new investments and portfolio management efforts at the firm. She is responsible for identifying, evaluating, and investing in promising startups and then working with portfolio companies to help them grow profitably to subsequently realize strong exits for the fund. She is a mentor at NSRCEL, IIM Bangalore and also supports BIRAC with evaluation and funding of biotech startups. 

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