From Raising Right to that Minimal Site

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights. What are you reading this weekend?


On Starting Up…
Raise it just right.


On Design & Product Experience…
Minimize that optimal site.


On Modular Innovation…
View Modular Innovation in India taking flight.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy


The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (May 2, 2008)

reading_thumb1 Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

On starting up…
Be flexible and creative when seeking and obtaining capital.

On Design & Product Experience…
Handy tips and guidelines for when it comes to web-oriented typography.

On Modular Innovation…
Discussion of many of the precursors of and problems that are expected to be solved via the emerging trend of Modular Innovation.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Never do just enough.

important / warningWhen you come to the conclusion that it is time to raise money, raise MORE than you need. Now that you have decided…

Yes, I have something.
My product is working.
My user base is growing.
The hurdle ahead of me will need real capital investment.

… then, don’t raise just enough money. I have seen this same mistake, again and again and again! Every new entrepreneur thinks they can minimize the equity they have to give up, raise just enough for a few months on this new strategy, or just to get past that next hurdle. Everyone of those that think that they can do it on the cheap, that assume that their strategy will work give or take a few months because, hey, they carefully thought it all through, they lived and breathed this concept for a few years already, they know what they are talking about, is foolish. A company leader that approaches this problem this way is being reckless and jeopardizing the future of the company and its product — yet, I have seen it again and again (etc.), and seen it again after seeing these company leaders strongly cautioned. Don’t make this easily avoidable mistake.

Do not raise exactly what you need (or just a little bit more), based on projections, blah blah etc. etc. Be smart, recognize that you are not psychic and the unforeseen and the undesirable will always happen and alter your plans. Now that you have decided to bite the bullet and raise the VC money, don’t do it part way, or you will only get part way to your success. Part way to success is failure.

How much more?
Depends on how much of your company you are willing to part with and how much you need to set aside for potential future fund raising, and etc. You want to have enough money to carry you at least a year out, comfortably, and based on the new strategy that this money is being raise for — don’t assume that you will be able to go back to the other strategy temporarily. Always plan for the worse. You will be happy that you did. And, if you are raising another round in less than a year to take that next planned step, you wont be racing against the clock to not run out of money — have that cushion to find the best deal that you will also be comfortable with. 😉

Finally. I cannot stress enough, the number of times I have seen a start-up be overly optimistic about their path ahead and ask for too little or just enough money. Later on they had to give away huge chunks of their company to just stay afloat or just, simply, sunk. Approach fundraising with care and consideration, but then go all in when your product and company are ready.

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Creating your product…it takes money.

Money TreeLately, I have been working with a startup that is building its initial prototype product with the help of some angel financing. As it often does, the question came up of…

When should we raise VC money?

When you raise your first non-seed/angel round depends on many variables, not the least of which is your current burn rate and the criticality with which you need it.

Some basic guidance…

Do it based on need — not NEEEEEEED!
Approach with care. Only raise the VC money (you are going to be giving up a big chunk of your “baby”, your company) if you know that you need to. The sooner you tap into the VC money, the more you will be giving up. If you are on a sound footing with the current funding you have, stick with it — the frugality you learn now will also benefit you as you grow, and be appreciated by all your future investors.

Desperately needing. When you NEEEEEEEEEED it, it may already be too late. The distinction I am making is that raising money should be based on a strategy and planning — not based on the fact that you will run out of money in a month and will crumble without it. With a plan, your needs are defined as tools that will facilitate your entering into new markets or accelerating the growth of your product. If you are desperate, everyone will know it, you will have to give up much more of you company (if you are lucky), or basically you won’t even get a chance at raising the money — who wants to bail out a needy, early stage, pre-product start-up??? Try your angels…if they still believe in your product and your plan.

Wanting. Also, ask yourself, do you need it or do you just want it? Pause now, think carefully. You have raised an angel round and everything is working very well. Everyone is getting paid, you are hitting your goals, you are about to start your alpha, your beta, etc. Why are you even talking about raising more money, from a VC, and not an Angel? If you are thinking about going to a VC to help you start building your product, before you have anything real to show for it, or because you want an even bigger money cushion than your Angels provided, for bragging rights, perhaps… then, think again.

Goal Driven. Raise VC money based on achieving goals: development goals, revenue goals, user base goals. Before you have a product, before you have revenue, your angels, your family, and your friends are the best ways to build and solidify your initial vision. If you are lucky, you will never need to raise VC money, and the angel funding and support was just the right amount to get the job done successfully. As you build your product and company, and work with your current pre-VC financing, never stop, and remember to …

Build, build, build. The more value you bring to any round of fundraising, the more capital there will be to raise, and the smaller the percentage of your company you will have to surrender.

Think carefully before you decide whether or not to raise Venture Capital. Do it based on product and company goals, do it from strength of product and positioning. And, once you decide to raise your first VC round, go all in, raise enough for at least 1 year of execution on your new trajectory that you hope the money puts you on — don’t skimp on your chances for success.

Good Luck!

Jeremy Horn

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