Mike Rosengarten
Oct 22, 2015 · 4 min read

Founder Advice

Fundraising is about building relationships with people who share your values and believe in your vision. Pitches, decks, lunches, events, and the like are all just opportunities to talk about your vision and get to know people. In this light, fundraising shouldn’t be scary. It’s rewarding: you’re finding people who believe.

I don’t think fundraising is easy. Quite the opposite. It’s difficult, demanding, and deflating at times. But remember why you’re doing it: you’re excited to turn your vision into reality. So if you’re stressing about fundraising and reading every blog post you can on how to perfect your pitch I’d encourage you to think about the following set of ideas. They may help you with more than just raising money. I hope they help you build your company.

Don’t lose sight of your vision

Your vision is your guiding star, it’s your Polaris. It’s easy to lose sight of your vision based on feedback from friends, strangers, and venture capitalists.

There are two major kinds of changes to vision that I believe are dangerous:

  1. Blowing your vision up. Making it so big that you’re intimidated to pitch it. It’s natural to think you need a huge vision to raise money or hire people. Figure out what you’re reasonably comfortable pitching and stick with that.
  2. Changing your vision straight up… You’ve gotten feedback that the market is too small, the technology is too hard, competition will destroy you, it has been tried, or people won’t use the product you’re imagining. Listen to feedback, take it in, but do your best not to let it shake you.

You will find yourself questioning your vision. It’s natural. When that happens go back to your original pitch deck and/or meeting notes from when the idea was born. Why did you love it back then? What opportunities did you see that excited you? Is there a fundamental truth in your idea that can drive you forward?

Know your deck, and know your business

You run a company. At a minimum, you have an idea you want to build a company around. You need to own that — know all facets of your business so you can have a real discussion. I recently watched the founder of a tech company on Shark Tank struggle to answer how much money he raised in his last financing round… Seriously? Don’t be that founder. You are the expert in your company, which should be obvious to investors.

Know the investor

A big reason you see so much “advice” flowing out from VCs has a lot to do with them wanting to help founders & CEOs pitch their firm. You can use this to your benefit: they’re giving you blueprints for how they work. Use this data to your advantage

For example, don’t go pitch an investor that writes 2MM checks when you want 200K. Their firm may not be setup to do smaller deals quickly (if at all). If they’ve stated they do Series B, pitching them Seed doesn’t really respect their stance. Sure, you might get lucky but as a founder you should be focused on highest reward for the least effort.

Additionally, learn a lot about the VC you’re pitching and make sure you want them as a partner. Don’t get trapped thinking capital is so hard to get that you’ll take anyone who’ll write a check.

Don’t lie

To yourself.

To your team.

To investors.

To anyone.

Be yourself, be genuine, be honest. You can still tell a captivating story and have lots of success.

Be open minded & collaborate

Far too often we think we know it all and meet folks who challenge us. We respond with shutdowns of different kinds:

  • “yes, agreed” and ignore
  • no that won’t work well
  • ok. (annoyed face)

Instead, embrace challenge and have great discussions. Invite folks who challenge you to solve the challenge with you, on your side, as a partner. Pretend they’re part of the team and work together. It’s a long road and I promise you will need help.

Don’t take it personal

Seriously, don’t. Anger, guilt, resentment, and the like are wasted effort. Maybe a little bit motivates you, OK, but for the most part they waste valuable energy. Love your team, love your idea, and love your product. CEOs and founders can tie their identity to their company or product so much so that when someone says “I don’t like that logo” they feel personal pain. That is a really unhealthy way to co-exist with your company and your team.

Rejection makes us stronger

Persistence is a wonderful trait for any founder. Rejections can often be grounded in wisdom and well-trained intuitions so listen to them. They don’t have to change our course but they can surely be helpful in identifying roadblocks that were not obvious to us. Everyone gets rejected. The smartest founders. The best startups. They all get rejected, a lot.

Written by

Mostly write about things I want to remember. CEO & chief herder building a new software stack for our Government @ Camino.ai.

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