7 Tips for Startup Founders From an Entrepreneur Who Turned VC

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Building a tech startup is a long journey full of ups and downs, and every founder needs to take some crucial decisions along the way. Here are some tips on pitching to venture capitalists, understanding their motivation and the main “don’ts” that make an entrepreneur’s path smoother.

1. Invest in your team

The biggest asset any startup has is its team. The product may change, the market and the regulations as well, but if your team members are able to adjust to new circumstances, if they don’t panic and can work in situations of ambiguity, that means your startup is sustainable. Invest your time, money and expertise in building up strong relationships with talented professionals around you. No matter what crisis happens, your team of like-minded people will be there for you. That means a little give and take. Do not forget to be open to criticism. It is hard, but the people you work with need to feel valued and listened to. That is why they want to be able to be open and sincere with you. VCs will challenge your leadership qualities as well as pay close attention to the atmosphere between the team members.

Related: How to Keep Your Startup Team Adaptable

2. Don’t look for your investor at the meet-ups

You don’t need to waste time attending dozens of events, as a speaker or listener, actually. In the first case, it mainly feeds your ego. In the second, you’re essentially fearing missing out. None are useful to a startup founder, quite the contrary. Covid has taught us to engage in all kinds of social interactions online, so try to spend your time with reason and arrange first meetings via the internet. Attend only a limited amount of offline events, where you can learn something new from real experts or meet people who might become a solid part of your network.

3. Burn bridges

This might sound scary, but for a venture capitalist, the fact that a founder is focused only on their startup is a must. Of course, there have been cases where successful founders ran two to three projects simultaneously, even cases where they had a full-time job while building their startup on the side. These are rare exceptions. Do not consider these examples or rules, because VCs do not. You should decide whether you are “all in” if you want others to give you money and trust in your willingness to create a huge company.

4. Understand the VC logic

VCs will only consider those investment opportunities which can likely meet their target to make a 10x return on investment. The timeframe for that return must be realistic as well. It should not exceed 5 to 7 years of post-investment. Good deal terms equally matter, thus we need to take into account a combination of the investment amount, the pre-money valuation, the equity ownership, the potential dilution, the acquisition purchase price, etc. The founder and the investor will be in the same boat for quite a long time. Hence, it is crucial for them to understand each other’s motivation from the very beginning.

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