Founder Focus: Cambridge Biolabs
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 Dr Paulina Chilarska (https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulina-chilarska-146a947a), Founder & CEO of Cambridge Biolabs (http://www.cambridge-biolabs.com/)
MC: When did you start trying to raise your most recent round?
Early September 2016
MC: How did you work out which investors you were going to approach?
Already at the very beginning we have realized that recommendations and introductions work much better than cold calls so we have delved into our personal networks of contacts and even asked investors who were not interested to introduce friends who might have some interest. We were also trying to approach investors based on their investment profile in order to increase our chances and make sure that the money comes with advice and experience.
MC: What documentation did you initially send to your targeted investors? I.e. a one pager?, a short slide deck? a long slide deck?
Usually just a pitch deck of 12 slides. More only upon request so as to protect our ideas and avoid boring people with unnecessary details.
MC: Was there a typical response from the investors you targeted?
Many said that our stage was too early for them and asked us to come back at a later point. We still have these contacts handy and even go meet them regularly just to update them on our progress.
MC: Have you received any interest from investors and have you had any meetings?
Yes, investors were surprisingly friendly and we had a number of meetings with angels and VCs alike.
MC: What common questions have you been asked by investors?
Everybody wants to know the potential Return on Investment (ROI) and where it it is supposed to come from so my advice for those applying for investment is: know your numbers and be prepared to justify them.
MC: Is there anything you wish you hadn’t said/done in an investor meeting?
I have once handed out a business card with outdated contact details additionally featuring an old logo design and only thought about the consequences upon seeing the investor’s facial expression. Moment not to be repeated.
MC: What do you wish you had said, that you didn’t say?
We could have been clearer on our unique selling points (USPs). When you are so deep into your own ideas you may start assuming that the USPs are obvious. You also tend to start noticing too many of them which makes the message unclear. One very strong and sharp USP is worth much more than five muddy ones.
MC: In your opinion, what are the “no-nos” worth bearing in mind when talking to investors?
The biggest “no-no” is discouragement. Don’t be discouraged. You will be refused multiple times and your core assumptions will be challenged. It’s normal, it definitely doesn’t mean your business idea doesn’t have legs. It also doesn’t mean you won’t hear “yes” at some point. Just don’t give up and you’ll get there.
MC: Have you got any advice for other entrepreneurs who are preparing for an investor meeting?
Do your homework. Have the answer to every question literally rehearsed in front of the mirror. Know your business plan and your market by heart and be ready to impress by quoting relevant numbers at the relevant moments. Also, if it’s your first startup do make sure that you are familiar with the jargon so that you don’t look taken aback when asked about things like Net Present Value (NPV) or monetisation strategy.
MC: Have you raised anything so far as a result of your efforts?
Yes, we have received £50,000 in pre-seed money and we will be releasing our first product soon at which point we plan to open the next round of funding.
MC: If you have raised money, what do you think was the most compelling factor about you/the business?
I think it was a combination of innovative idea, sound science and a very attractive market segment (skincare).
MC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced along the way?
I would say it’s juggling multiple roles: a small team needs to do everything, from finance to product development to manufacturing. Fundraising alone would be enough to keep us occupied full time not to mention running operations on top of that. Having said that, it’s typical for startups, largely unavoidable and in many ways even enjoyable as life never gets boring.
MC: What’s your overall view on the UK funding market? Tough? Easy? Over-hyped?
Different segments of this market behave differently. Angel syndicates hold a lot of power and can be very convincing when trying to bring the valuation down. However SEIS is of great help to both startups and investors. My advice would be to get the Advance Assurance as soon as possible. The crowdfunding scene in contrast is tempting and valuations tend to be much higher there but after a closer look we have decided not to do any crowdfunding at the moment. The terms you need to sign in order to benefit from most crowdfunding platforms and the need to bring in at least 35% of the investment before the “crowd” takes any interest both make it much less attractive than it initially seems to be.
MC: Any last tips?
Believe in miracles and make them happen. As Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.