We got invited to a Startup training organized by Venturelab and sponsored by InnoSwiss.
Last week the first day took place and I must admit this is one of the best trainings in my whole life. We are learning a lot about getting prepared for investor pitch and startup a business (starting up a business is not done with company registration, but is a long phase including such elements like IP, contracts, different funding rounds etc.). But it is not just the learnings, also the spirit and the culture in the room which makes this training something special.
Some of the presenters are/were founders them self’s and others work very closely with startups together. Each shared his/her experiences in a very open manner. What also deeply impressed me was the culture in the room. How many times in your life have you discussed “how to give feedback”? In this room this is no topic at all. This is just “a given”. Everyone has such a motivation to learn as much as possible and respects everybody else in the room (as you know how hard it is to startup a business). With such a spirit in the room you benefit a lot and you can enjoy.
Here some of the learnings I would like to share
1. The right team… I am in the luxury situation that my co-founder and I already worked together and successfully delivered challenging projects. We know each other quite a while and know the strength and weaknesses of each other. The same goes for your IT partner and the others supporting us. But I once again was able to realize the value of this, as this is not a given and probably very rare.
2. Focus, focus, focus… as your product is not yet in place, it is tempting to adjust and re-shape every time you get feedback from someone. Of course it also depends on the product… for us it is probably not that much of a risk for the product itself (as we have a clear view), but for the market entry (as our business is international). For us the focus means selecting the right members (Crowdfunding platforms) with whom we want to go life.
3. If you setup a company and you are more than one founder or you may want your employees to benefit from equity, you may consider a vesting agreement. With this you can define what happens when one e.g. walks away or dies.
4. What is the right timing to reach out to investors? During the past months some recommended me to reach out to investors fast and I saw some going almost with empty hands to investors, but with a great idea. Personally I always thought this is not optimal, as it forces to sell your shares on a low rating and on the other hand it is a huge risk for an investor, as it is not more than an idea. The “right timing” definitively also depend on the business / product. However, it really confirmed my own view on this.
5. Even if at the end it would completely turn out differently, you should have a clear view on your funding strategy (have it thought through, understand the differences and possible impacts). If you have NOT fully thought it through, you may end up in a situation where one founding round makes it almost impossible to get another founding round, because the criteria of the first one makes is uninteresting for others to join or it has even an impact on your business success. Therefore you should understand the different interests of investor types (strategic investors, business angels, VCs) and understand the meaning of preferred shares or if someone requests to be part of the board etc. There is not “the one and only right setup”. One setup may be perfect for a single startup and for another Startup it is a very bad thing. Again, it really depends on your situation, but to know which one it the right approach for you, you need to understand the differences.
6. Never give up and keep your motivation! One of the founders shared with us how many times he failed, until one success story took place. I even remember one of the products a couple of years ago - that was a nice idea. There are so many things which can go wrong, but if you are really passionate / hooked about what your are doing and your eyes are shining and sparkling when you can talk about it… than I think you have already one of the prerequisites (one… not all ).