From locating potential investors to pitching your company and negotiating terms, there are a lot of things a founder needs to learn when they’re raising capital for the first time.
Jonathan Hollis founded Mountside Ventures in 2020 to help European founders navigate this challenge. Focusing on startups from the late seed stage to Series B, his company helps founders find the right investors and provides guidance for optimizing the fundraising process.
Because fundraising can be such a time-consuming process, Jonathan’s goal is to save founders time by helping them identify the investors who are most likely to be a good fit and have cash ready to deploy.
To do this, Mountside Ventures constantly collects information from investors to understand which types of investments firms are currently focusing on. He recently joined Nathan Beckord on Foundersuite’s How I Raised It podcast to share his approach, and we’ve picked out some of the most insightful details in the post below.
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How to Get Investor-Ready
Even when they’re working with an advisory firm, founders still face some risks when they’re raising capital.
As Jonathan put it, “Investors of all shapes and sizes want to deal directly with founders, so we often take a step back and just help them find the scene. The founder needs to be front and center throughout the race, but they can rely on us for support in the background.”
It can feel like a lot of pressure, but having strong numbers to present can lighten the load on the founding team. While the existing team structure and future key hires do help investors assess a startup’s maturity, in the end, it all comes down to finances.
“As a general rule, the standard revenue benchmark for European B2B companies is £1 million per year when raising a Series A, and £5 million per year when raising a Series B,” says Jonathan. He also noted that the threshold varies greatly across investors and industries.
“If you’re a deep tech or healthcare company, the £1 million per year might be a much softer benchmark. And most investors for an A round might look at companies that are producing a lot less revenue than that. Whereas if you’re a consumer brand company, that £1 million typically is an absolute minimum, and if you’re raising a Series A round, most investors want to see at least £2 million in revenue.”
Fundraising with a Financial Model
To be investor-ready from a documentation standpoint, a company needs a pitch deck, a financial model, and an investor FAQ.
Jonathan underscored the importance of having a detailed and robust financial model. He recommended that founders include these details at a minimum:
- 5-year forecast
- Minimum 2 years of actuals
- Profit and loss statements
- Balance sheets
- Growth projections for different scenarios
The last point is perhaps the most critical part of the model for investors because it addresses their main concerns.
“As an investor, I can look at the assumptions and see what happens if my growth doesn’t double year-on-year, what happens if it takes six months instead of three months for my new sales hires to become productive and bring in new customers, what happens if my customer numbers fall.”
Though some investors only see the financial model as another box to tick, Jonathan notices that, especially in the UK, most investors want to see what happens in a “doomsday scenario.”
Jonathan stresses that the optimal strategy to maximize the number of potential conversations is to please the median investor.
“If you’re making it harder for those picky investors … then you’re just missing out on conversations you could be having. Even if one-third of investors don’t like the model at all, you don’t want to remove the possibility of speaking to the other two-thirds.”
Jonathan notes that it’s a good idea to send VCs the full spreadsheet with all the financial data later in the process so that they can pull information directly into their database.
He also shared that you shouldn’t be too concerned about how questions about the details will impact your valuation. “The financial model is there simply to show the vision and the growth drivers. It’s there to be updated and to be discussed.”
The model serves as a way to see the founder’s thought process and understand the factors that will impact performance.
How to Set Yourself Up for a Great Term Sheet
Jonathan outlined some ideas to help startups efficiently navigate the institutional stage of fundraising. Given that a founder might need to approach 100 to 150 VCs to get three term sheets, it’s crucial to ensure there is a general fit before you reach out to a potential investor.
Additionally, Jonathan recommends:
- Using online lists to filter out irrelevant VCs
- Determine if an investor is open to cold emails in addition to warm intros
- Look for funds that have recently invested in similar companies
- Focus on a reasonably-sized group of investors
Mountside Ventures also compiled a term sheet report with data gathered from 200 global investors and shared some interesting takeaways to help founders understand the current VC landscape.
Here are a few of the notable items found in a market-standard term sheet:
- An average valuation of £29 million (increased from £6 million in the last 10 years)
- A one-time non-participating liquidation preference
- 1-2% of the deal amount charged to the startup in legal fees
- Four years of monthly founder vesting with a 12-month cliff (98% of funds asked for this)
- One month of exclusivity
- No sustainability clauses
- 5-10% share options
- No equity ratchets, growths shares, or guarantees
Jonathan recommended that founders only start negotiating after they receive a term sheet, and only sign it once they’ve cleared up all the legal details mentioned above. This prevents ambiguity later on and provides more time for finding other investors to fill the rest of the round and comparing offers.
Negotiating Terms with Multiple Investors
Although sending the first term sheet to other investors to negotiate better deals is not considered a good practice, Jonathan points out that a similar result can be achieved with a message that reads something like this:
“We’ve got a term sheet we’re looking to sign in the next week. We’re looking to raise this many million at this valuation. We want to move fast and will accept final offers by this date. Let me know if you’re still interested.”
Finally, Jonathan urges founders to avoid rushing into fundraising and instead carefully prepare all the relevant documentation above before reaching out to VCs.
If your startup needs a fundraise-ready financial model, reach out to Forecastr today. We work with you to create a customized model that investors will love.
And if you’re looking for help raising your next round, reach out to our partner, Foundersuite. Their purpose-built tool brings structure, speed, and efficiency to fundraising and investor relations.