Founder Focus: Subba-Cultcha
We asked all of our entrepreneur users to share their funding journeys, for other start-ups to learn about how their peers approach raising capital.
We will be running a series of blogs about these journeys over the coming weeks, today it is with Mark Jennings (https://www.linkedin.com/in/mjennings1), Head Honcho of Subba-Cultcha (http://www.subba-cultcha.com/)
MC: What’s your elevator pitch?
We’re a Tripadvisor style platform for music fans!
MC: When did you start trying to raise your most recent round?
Approx. 18 months ago.
MC: How did you work out which investors you were going to approach?
Tough one… after spending a large amount of time talking to others within the community (founders, angels, VCs) it emerged that investment strategies can be very dangerous… ie. if you focus on a best fit investor approach you limit yourself from others that might invest.
I decided it was a numbers game and proceeded to work with a consultant to contact as many VCs and Angels as possible through both our networks. The consultant provided more resource and a wider reach but also had limitations as many VCs aren’t best pleased by being approached by consultants (had an article featured in The Times about the pros and cons of this way of working which received interesting responses).
The numbers game seems to have worked more effectively as the VC looking to invest sees Subba-Cultcha.com as a diversification of their current investment portfolio (technology) and I wouldn’t have approached them if we were only focusing on sector relevant investors.
MC: What documentation did you initially send to your targeted investors? I.e. a one pager?, a short slide deck? a long slide deck?
An opportunity note (2 page word doc with key info) and an investors deck (20 page powerpoint expanding slightly).
MC: Was there a typical response from the investors you targeted?
Not really. The only consistency was the lack of seed stage investors that exist (according to the true definition of the term “seed”). Although we contacted hundreds of VCs we did primarily focus on those who claim to invest in early stage or seed rounds. Frustratingly, although the majority of the responses were positive towards the concept and proposition, however, nearly all replied to highlight that we were in fact too early stage for their investment. Few clarified their position further, but if they did it was to say how we needed to prove the revenue models and scalability further. We were always slightly bemused by this as we were always under the impression this was the purpose of seed round investing? Hopefully they will be more receptive if we contact them again for our series A or B round!
MC: Have you received any interest from investors and have you had any meetings?
Yes… thankfully! We’re in the due diligence process with a US based VC and have been meeting with their UK representative frequently.
MC: What common questions have you been asked by investors?
How fast do you think you can scale the business? Do you feel you’re asking for the right level of investment? How soon are you likely to need more investment? Are you willing to grant non-dilution share rights to investors? What are your long-term plans; retire early on a beach, management buy-out, or are you aiming for the Fortune 100?
MC: Is there anything you wish you hadn’t said in an investor meeting?
Although honesty is paramount for building the trust of any investor, talking about the trials and tribulations of seeking investment rarely does you any favours. Investors are not looking for a sympathetic investment, they’re looking for strength and leadership.
MC: What do you wish you had said, that you didn’t say?
Following on from the above, really really really focus on the keys strengths of the team, the platform and the opportunity. As daft as this sounds, having the most to the point and punchy pitch will make or break it – a one liner essentially. We obviously did this a number of times, but I wish in some instances we’d been a lot more bullish about it.
One other harsh lesson I learnt, don’t be shy about asking how much the investors have available to invest at the beginning of the conversation. I spent 4 months pitching to an Angel who’s average investment was £20k… we were looking for a fair bit more!
MC: In your opinion, what are the “no-nos” worth bearing in mind when talking to investors?
Never be flippant, for the love of God know your numbers inside and out and understand why they could possibly be looking to invest i.e. do you research!. There is a fine line between being well informed and being arrogant too… you may know your market very well but if you’re not willing to learn and develop the product more most investors won’t invest.
MC: Have you got any advice for other entrepreneurs who are preparing for an investor meeting?
Preparation, preparation, preparation… this is your livelihood, make it count. Don’t be caught out by a question you should know the answer too. On the plus side, if they have accepted the meeting there is a strong likelihood they are interested in one way or another so that’s hugely positive.
Treat it as the most important job interview of your life… no pressure!
MC: Have you raised anything so far as a result of your efforts?
We are in the process of negotiating our seed round. Approx. $6m.
MC: If you have raised money, what do you think was the most compelling factor about you/the business?
I don’t believe there is one factor… it’s a combination of the team, the opportunity, the scalability and multiple revenue streams available.
MC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced along the way?
Money! Blood, sweat and tears are part and parcel and can be controlled to a certain extent, but being able to keep going in light of financial difficulties has been the biggest hurdle.
A very close 2nd is time. Everything takes a lot longer than you ever expect. You will need to have unshakable patience as many of the elements of the process are out of your control (waiting for contracts to be put together, waiting for lawyers to evaluate said contracts… the list goes on).
MC: What’s your overall view on the UK funding market? Tough? Easy? Over-hyped?
Very tough, slightly over-hyped unless you’re in fin-tech and also way less advanced or well-funded in comparison to the US market.
MC: Any last tips?
KEEP PUSHING!! I’ve always truly believed the Subba Media proposition is phenomenal and with the right team it will go very far. Although it’s taken the best part of 2 years to get to this stage I can’t explain how excited I am for the journey ahead.