Make sure you focus on the right milestones on the road to your next round of funding.
One of the most common areas of advice CEOs and founders seek our CFO input on is fundraising. This activity seems never-ending and is always top-of-mind for CEOs and management teams. Smart startups focus their effort between funding rounds to build and hit the milestones required for the next round, while knowing that every successive round changes the company itself and how milestones evolve.
There is a plethora of literature and advice regarding startup funding strategies available online, but I recently came across an easy to follow and comprehensive ‘checklist’ written by Pete Flint, a Managing Partner at NFX, that caught my eye. His article (access it here) draws on a decade of insights as the environment for Seed and Series A has transformed. The hurdles, as Pete Flint indicates, are higher and more sophisticated than before. A reason for this is that Series A financing amounts are bigger, and as a result, Seeds have also grown to the point where it is not uncommon to see Seed rounds in the range of $2 to $5 million. The knock-on effect of capital expansion in early rounds means that the hurdles and expectations in funding for Series A are looking similar to what you would expect to see in later rounds.
The checklist includes what Pete refers to as “thirteen proof points” that startups must master in order to get from Seed to Series A funding. Unsurprisingly, not all of these proof points are numerical and indeed most are not. We can bucket the proof points into 5 categories:
- Show traction (proof point 1)
- Prove scalability & unit economics (proof point 3)
Product & business model
- Demonstrate product market fit (proof point 2)
- Chart the path to defensibility (proof point 7)
Mindset of the team
- Have a big vision (proof point 4)
- Build out the team (proof point 6)
- Project momentum (proof point 10)
- Build social proof (proof point 13)
- Build a clear, compelling narrative (proof point 5)
- Make a world-class pitch deck (proof point 12)
Strategizing your ask
- Build scarcity (proof point 8)
- Build VC relationships early (proof point 9)
- Climb the ladder of proof (proof point 11)
Pete Flint provides great insight into each of these proof points, but the biggest insight is that none of the elements in his checklist has more weight than others. A powerful story is as important as the product-market fit. Having a big vision while building traction with smaller wins, compose equally necessary elements of a successful company.
As an experienced CFO, I do not see these proof points varying too differently between Seed or Series A, or for that matter Series A to B, or B to C. It is all a combination of hard numbers, a product that people want and buy, a team united by vision, a powerful story, and a sound strategy for fundraising.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel