Fundraising for My Startup Almost Wrecked My Marriage

Evan Loomis
Oct 21, 2015 · 6 min read
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

The Startup World’s Dirty Little Secret

Sixty-three percent of today’s American twenty-somethings want to start a business. Whether it’s the next Facebook, the next world-changing nonprofit, or the next coffee shop down the street, starting something is the ambition of today’s generation.

Why most advice on fundraising sucks.

There’s no shortage of advice on fundraising. Most of it is terrible. Self-described experts spout phrases like, “create a business plan,” “show traction,” and “create urgency,” without any practical insight into how to do what they suggest. A great strategy for a serial entrepreneur with a track record of success will likely be the worst possible advice for a first-time founder. Experienced entrepreneurs forget what raising money is like when you have no network, no track record, and, at best, only a conceptual knowledge of a term sheet. The entrepreneurs we know aren’t interested in the theoretical best way to do something; they are interested in what works. We asked ourselves: What if we could give entrepreneurs what we wished we had had when raising money for our ventures?

There’s a big gap between what experienced entrepreneurs like giving out as advice and the specific circumstances in which young entrepreneurs are operating. — Deena Varshavskaya, founder and CEO, Wanelo

So, Evan and I got to work. We mentored dozens of first-time founders and interviewed angel investors, venture capitalists, directors of angel networks, heads of family investment offices, and CEOs of crowdfunding platforms. We took improv classes. We worked with some of the country’s biggest accelerators and angel groups, and sweet-talked fifteen successful entrepreneurs into letting us show you exactly what they did to raise money, including the pitch decks they showed investors. We’ve also raised over $45 million for our own ventures, including the second-largest round ever raised on the startup platform AngelList at the time. We did all of these things to answer one question: What does it really take to raise money?

  1. Don’t listen to experts. Look over other founders’ shoulders. Entrepreneurs, especially first-time entrepreneurs, don’t need a perfectly optimized fundraising strategy; they need to know what works for them. Entrepreneurs need to see the real pitch decks of ventures who raised money. They also need to see what kind of investors they closed, the email scripts they used to close them, and the mistakes they made along the way.
  2. Communicate visually. Great visual design is critical to communicating your vision to others. Visual design masters like Nancy Duarte, Dan Roam, and others have shown that good design is more than just window dressing, it’s a critical part of getting others to understand and care about what you are doing.
  3. Tell stories. Great fundraisers are master storytellers. They develop their own versions of 4 basic story archetypes that answer 4 critical questions about their ventures: the origin story (why are you doing this?), the customer story (what problem are you solving?), the industry story (why now?), and the venture growth story (what have you done?). What we discovered, though, was that as helpful as these techniques are, they are not the secret to raising money.

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Craft Your Story, Build the Perfect Pitch Deck, and Launch the Venture of Your Dreams

Evan Loomis

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Craft Your Story, Build the Perfect Pitch Deck, and Launch the Venture of Your Dreams