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Book Summary: Fundraising, by Ryan Breslow

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Article reading time: 6 minutes. Book reading time: 1 hour.

Ryan Breslow is the founder of Bolt.com, not to mistake for Bolt.eu, the shared mobility company.

Bolt is a one-click checkout startup that raised more than $215 million.

Ryan wrote this short book to explain how fundraising works and what you should pay attention to.

I give it a 7/10. Many of the information shared was just common sense. The flow was still interesting to learn.

Find below the summary.


Summary of Fundraising, by Ryan Breslow

Keep in mind the context.

  1. Timing: this is a seed and pre-seed fundraising book.
  2. Approach: we minimize leaving out fundraising to chance.
  3. Making it your own: authenticity is the most important aspect. Don’t blindly follow advice.
  4. Skill, not luck: don’t take advice from lucky people
  5. Practice: read this guide over and over again
  6. Have fun: fundraising is one of your most important job, along with setting the culture. Fundraising helps you become better at explaining your business.

The Mindset: Confident and Kind

Self-confidence is key to fundraising. Never doubt of your own worthiness, or fail you will.

Avoid high-ego investors. They may get jealous of you.

Imagine you are an investor. What would you be looking for?

  1. Relentlessness
  2. A unique founder
  3. Positivity and kindness

The more you stand out, the more likely you are to raise.

Make it clear that you are not messing around, mature, and professional.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Vision
  • Critical thinking
  • Warrior: you will have to take down walls to win
  • Authenticity

The Process: Momentum Is Everything

Fundraising is a matter of momentum.

So, you need to build it, in three steps.

1. Lay the soil (build a network)

If you don’t know anyone, you are going to have to take names. The best people to get to know are other founders.

The author met most of his network by hosting gatherings of interesting people.

2. Plant the seeds (casually meet investors)

You’re not raising here. Meeting investors when you are not raising has the following benefits

  • It shows you care about relationships
  • It signals competition for you
  • You get to know people and see if you want to deal with them
  • You can’t get no’s
  • You may get yeses.

To get to know investors, build your own Facebook. Make a list of all the people you know and find out which ones know the investor you want to meet. Then ask for an introduction.

The first meeting

The first impression you leave on a VC is everything. Be confident and authentic. Build the relationship by talking to them, not through decks. That’s because they are not investing in a business, they are investing in you.

If they ask you a question you can’t yet answer, tell them it’s too early to decide on that point.

Keep the meeting to 30 min max. The goal of the meeting is to get a second one.

You can send a super short email saying you appreciated the meeting with them at the end.

The second meeting

Start saying you don’t only want to talk about your company but that you want to get to know them better too. Ask them what they like to invest in and what they have invested in.

When they ask what the price is, offer them to do a deeper dive before naming any number.

If they’re still excited, then let them know how much you are raising at which cap.

At the end of the meeting, they will whether say it was great but won’t invest, or they’ll ask you to invest.

When it’s the case, let them know you are honored and grateful. Don’t say yes right away, don’t make it too easy.

Make sure you know them and their motivations, and if not, offer a follow-up.

Ask them how much money they want to raise, and offer them to meet someone on your team.

Also, ask them for references (we discuss this below)

3. Fundraise

By this point, you have had several contacts with several investors and are getting good at pitching.

You have had some investment offers, and maybe you even already accepted early payments. Your momentum is at its peak. It’s time to send an email to everyone and let them know you are raising.

The purpose of this phase is to raise as much in as little time as possible.

Begin with a $6M market cap.


References

References help you find out about your investor, let them know you are intentional in your actions, and meet other founders.

Email or call the people to discuss the investor.

If you find out something that turns you off upon calling the references, don’t let the investor in.

Once you have vetted, call back the investor and let them know you are happy to have them on board. Tell them they offered to invest X and that there is room for Y.


Understanding a No

Investors that say a clear no and telling you why are golden! Few of them exist.

If some let the process dragging on, they likely won’t invest.

Most will say no but not be really clear as to why. Ask them to let you know clearly.

Then, don’t worry, and remember that the biggest startups of today really struggled to get early seed funding.


Understanding a Yes

Receiving a yes does not yet mean you’ll actually get the money. You can’t celebrate until you see it in the bank account.

When investors say the business is amazing and that you are a great founder, that’s a 10% to receive investment.

When they say they want to invest, that’s a 50% chance.

Finally, when they want to write a check, read the terms, say that they are fair, and promise to wire the money soon, that’s an 80% chance.


Good Investors VS Bad Investors

Prioritize the feeling of connection with investors.

A good investor will support you and get out of the way when he must.

A bad investor will kill your company.

Signs of bad investors:

  • Large ego
  • Disrespectful
  • Unsophisticated questions
  • Make up investment steps (like an introduction to one of their “friends”)
  • Missed deadlines
  • Unclear investment criteria
  • Bad energy

Prioritize the individual, not the brand or company he comes from.

Make sure that the investor has decision authority in their firm, or you will sign a contract with someone you virtually don’t know (the person pulling the strings).


Board Seats and Control

Preferred board seat cannot be taken back from the investor (until you go public). Once they have it, they have it.

So, don’t give them to people you don’t like. In fact, don’t give them to anybody.

Never give up a board seat in a seed round.


Best Practices and Pitfalls

The first one is multiple co-founders tag-teaming fundraising.

In fundraising, one co-founder should take a leading role, and the others should assist, but not step in.

Track the process with an Excel spreadsheet.

Keep track of

  • Firm
  • Target investor
  • Last touchpoint
  • Next step
  • Interest level
  • Notes on prior conversations

If you need more money, your number go-to should be existing investors.

When you reject investors, explain to them that you had to go with people you already had relations with. You don’t want to hurt the relationships.

Don’t let a fund invest at the beginning.

Don’t reveal too early that you are fundraising.

Make sure you focus enough on the raise.

Don’t share the name of the other investors that have invested until they have wired the money.


The Structure

The author recommends SAFE or convertible notes as they are flexible instruments.

Don’t completely trust your attorneys, and tell them you want the most founder-friendly terms.


The Pitch

As a founder, you are the chief storyteller. In the beginning, you are the only one to believe in the story. Then more people do. Then your customers do.

Your pitch is your most effective fund-raising tool.

The best way to have an amazing pitch is to know what you are talking about.

The most important pitch is a casual one. When investors ask you what you do, you need to knock it out of the park.

Practice your pitch at least 20 times before delivering. You must be bulletproof.


The Perfect Pitch

They follow the following structure:

  1. Here’s how the world works today.
  2. Here’s how the world should work in the future, but it doesn’t because x is missing.
  3. Here’s why no one has been able to solve this problem so far. This is a massive opportunity, whoever solves this problem is going to have to do X, Y, and Z but will be heavily rewarded.
  4. Here’s the secret to how we’re going to solve this problem. Can be an insight, a technology, an invention….
  5. Here’s why we are the best to execute this

Supplementing Stories

When someone asks a question, don’t answer yes or no. Explain your answer, and use stories to do so.


Later Rounds

You will likely need a deck filled with data for the later rounds. Make sure it is on point.

For more book summaries, head to auresnotes.com.

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