The road of travel from your startup’s inception into the glorious exits that we drool to become one day can be a confusing journey. There’s an array of elements your business has to encompass — let alone accomplish — to reach such a status. But in between the two polars is what we all like to generally refer to as funding, metaphorically, I like to reference as the grey area.
But more often than not, you’re not in the 5%. You have the idea but you need the resources to build the product. Or you’ve been skillful enough to create the product but in order to scale you need — you guessed it, the funding. All roads carry that dependent variable, regardless of if the seed comes from family and friends, early VCs or like options. The pool of good ideas are all going to need the backing sooner or later but when your network doesn’t present such a route, the effort put into your business often gears more towards gaining exposure during the early stages.
After working with a few fully funded startups and in route to expanding my second mobile app startup Bando, my co-founder and I have focused on establishing a core audience and charting traction from day one of our beta program. Bando is the flipboard for the urban culture and in just two months we’ve seen over 1000 organic users who are on the Bando app for over 2 hours a day.
Our iOS version released in early September and since then we’ve seen gradual growth in all metrics, the graph here shows our daily sessions for Apple users.
Though our numbers aren’t mind blowing, we’ve seen daily traction and built an impressive MVP without a lick of funding and those data points and intangibles alone have attracted VC attention.
Based on my experience, here’s a few ways to consider when seeking funding without any connections to capital:
Utilize your Online Outlets
The journey between good ideas and funding is becoming more of a recognizable issue but there are a couple platforms have stepped up to bridge the gap. Sites like Angel.co create a great way to set up a digital portfolio that organizes how to appropriately present yourself to investors.
Angel.co does a great job highlighting the important things that usually lead startups to funding, within an active community of other startups, entrepreneurs, and investors. It’s easy to identify individual VCs as well as accelerators or investment firms that may be interested in your business.
Venture Fund is another platform on the rise that has the same kind of focus except it allows you to connect your data so investors can see your daily growth. Focus on the right wording and metrics to focus on when approaching these two platforms so that it’s easier for outside parties to see your value.
Reach out to Alumni
Inevitably, the best way to reach a grab a VCs attention is through an introduction from someone they trust and respect and what better way to connect with those accomplished individuals than through your alumni network.
Reach out to alumni within your industry or professionals who have a network that could be of use to you. Sometimes this will require cold outreach but if you can establish common ground through your university then speaking about your product or service will be a much smoother transition. Using LinkedIn is a great way to find applicable alumni or pursue contacts via email.
Make a Name
Investors have quoted to me that they’ve seen thousands on thousands of pitch decks per year and one can see how that becomes diluted. What’s going to set you apart from the crowd? That’s the name of the game right? That one element that gives your business the competitive advantage is your job to identify and ultimately exemplify.
Without much capital it’s tough to scale a startup but if are able to somewhat establish yourself within a given industry then interested investors will find you. Focusing on organic growth could give you the opportunity to monetize early on.
Creating an organic following in any industry has always been a dependable route because even without funding, you can begin to monetize through the audience you’ve established.
Many times good ideas are stuck on an island where they need funding to produce any type of MVP, marketing for initial users and other intangibles needed for an early phase startup. But if you can create a functioning product and focus on a few metrics to develop steady traction upon then it’s inevitably easier for VCs to see the opportunity for revenue.
The seed round is always the hardest but doing the intangibles that matter is a necessity when you’re seeking funding without many connections to capital.