Everything You Need to Know About Raising Funds

November 15, 2018 By Alysha Willden

Everything you need to know about raising funds from choosing the right investor, to pitching your business, to giving up the right amount of equity. John Mayfield and Chris Shelton, two veterans of Private Equity, share their thoughts from the investor’s perspective.


In today’s Silicon Slopes Finance Chapter meeting, we learned from John Mayfield of Peak Ventures and Chris Shelton of Tower Arch, two veterans of Private Equity. During the Q&A, Mayfield and Shelton discussed the best practices to receiving funding including: choosing the right investor, pitching your business, and giving up the right amount of equity.

Choosing the Right Investor

To quote John Mayfield, receiving funding is not a financial event, but rather a “marriage”. When raising funding, it’s just as important for the CEO to select the right investor as it is for an investor to choose the right company. Shelton related this selection process to choosing a partner — select an investor you’d be comfortable working with for the foreseeable future. Money from private equity often comes with strings attached, so before you rush to accept the first check you can get, be sure you’re willing to partner to grow your business.

When considering a raise, consider which type of private equity is better suited for your business at its current stage. For example, Angel investors and Family Offices are better suited for very early stage startups with an idea or concept. Venture Capital firms are great for businesses with a product and a team to back it. Private Equity firms are better suited for businesses with a proven business model. Do your research — look into Limited Partners and funds: what types of businesses does this particular investor tend to invest in? What stage are most of their portfolio companies in? The more research you can do in advance, the better shot you have of landing funding and bringing on a good investor.

Pitching Your Business

After you’ve selected a group of potential investors, your research is not done. Mayfield recommends networking with current portfolio company founders to get your company noticed by potential investors. He recommends finding a founder you already have a connection to and getting to know them personally. Once you’ve established a relationship with them, ask for an introduction to a partner at the firm. When the recommendation comes from a current founder, the investor much more likely to consider allowing the company to pitch to them.

Once you’ve landed the opportunity to pitch an investor, you’ll need to prepare your pitch. To start, you should prepare a clear plan for growth, including steps to get there. The key here is specificity — the more specific you can get about capital usage and strategy, the more likely the investor will invest in your company. Consider how much money your company really needs, backed by information on how it will be used to drive growth.

Besides strategy, your pitch will need to cover three important questions: (1) why this team, (2) why us, (3) why this problem. Be prepared to justify your choice in partner(s). Investors like to see founders with relevant experience and expertise. Next, explain your reasoning behind choosing them as investors. If you’ve thoughtfully chosen investors to pitch, you should be ready to explain why they’re they right investors for your business. Lastly, you should be able to explain what drew you to this particular problem. If there is significant competition in your industry, you’ll need to be able to explain your competitive advantage.

Giving Up the Right Amount of Equity

Because every business and investor is different, it’s almost impossible to say how much equity you should give up for a certain amount of funding. However, Mayfield offered the following wireframe:

Pre-Seed: <10%. ~7.5% is pretty standard.

Seed: ~10%

Series A-B: ~10-20%

Obviously, the amount of equity should be commensurate with the amount of funding received. If you want to learn more about funding rounds, this is a great article.

Shelton recommends using a simple proportion to evaluate offers. For example, if an investor is offering $1M for 10%, they are effectively valuing the company at $10M. While not the only term to consider, it may help you “gut check” whether or not an offer is worth taking.

One last note about accepting funding, think about how many rounds of funding you’re going to need before you can stop. If you’re accepting funding for 15% of the company, but you’ll need at least 5 rounds of funding to build your business, you might consider waiting, bootstrapping, or debt options. While private equity may help you grow your business quicker, it may not always be the right choice for your business. If you need help deciding which source of funding is right for you, let us know.

Raising funds can be daunting for any startup. However, by doing the right research, you can choose the right investor, nail the pitch, and get the right amount of money for your equity.

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