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The Family (AAA)

How They Raised Series A: Automata

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Robots began to be used in manufacturing in the ’60s, letting legacy players prosper but also making them reliant on oversized machines running on proprietary operating systems that are hard to upgrade and use together with other robots. Automata is here to shake things up with their “desktop” robotic arm, Eva: smaller, cheaper and easier to program than all the rest. Co-founder Suryansh Chandra was kind enough to give us an inside look at how they raised their Series A round in March 2019 🤖

How long did it take you to raise Series A?

It took Automata 6 months from the day we formally started the process until the day the cash was in our bank account.

Did you think about fundraising/networking with Series A investors since the day you raised seed, or did you ignore it until you felt 100% ready?

We did for a short while after raising seed, but soon put our heads down into building the company and only fundraised when we were ready.

How much did you raise and from whom?

We raised £5.3m, led by Hummingbird Ventures and with participation from Hardware Club, Firstminute Capital, and existing investors like EF, LocalGlobe and ABB.

What was the biggest difference between raising Seed & Series A?

Having a team 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 — and that means running the company while fundraising. At seed the company nearly stops because it’s only the founders and it takes nearly all their time. At Series A there’s so much going on internally (much of it critical to being able to fundraise) that taking your eyes off everything and focussing on fundraise is not an option. Having said that, our team still did see a lot less of us during the process. My co-founder and I had a clear task split and put a plan in place to deal with my reduced availability — paired with deep trust and frequent communication, that helped a lot.

What do you wish you had known before starting? What would you do differently?

It’s hard to pick just one thing, but there’s a ton of front-loading we could’ve done that we didn’t know of before. We keep regular tabs on things like competition, markets, opportunities opening up to us, etc., but it all lives either in our minds or in a plethora of docs and spreadsheets across lots of places. Having it centrally compiled in a format that was shareable to a complete outsider (which a VC usually is at first contact) would’ve helped save several weeks in the ‘courting’ phase. These often came up as investor requests and we had to keep putting them together at short notice 📚

What can you tell us about the lawyers, financial advisors or other service providers you used?

We had to go through a financial audit post term sheet signing — we didn’t see that coming and it took a good 4 weeks! The rest was normal — we had budgeted about 3 months for it and that’s pretty much what it took. I know of others who’ve done it faster but it’s very subjective — based on which VC and how many VCs you get — generally the more parties involved, the longer the process.

Was your data organised? Did you build a data room?

Partially — whatever we could anticipate we prepared for. But during the course of the raise a lot of new information requests emerged that we had to compile on the fly. In hindsight we could’ve spoken to other founders who had raised later rounds to understand what their DD looked like and get insights on what could be helpful.

What did you learn re deck, pitching & storytelling during funding?

I personally care a lot about detail so, I paid a lot of attention to the text on the deck — it gets read before the person has a chance to know anything about the company, the founders, the product, etc. And it usually gets little more than 2 mins of attention. And given how endlessly we can talk about our companies, it becomes super critical to filter hard — and do it well. Pitching and storytelling afford more time and are usually face-to-face so there’s a chance to tailor to the audience, read the room and adjust accordingly, but it’s still important to keep the conversation relevant. Sometimes we were asked questions that we knew were not particularly relevant to our kind of tech/product/business/industry (but not obvious to an outsider) — and if the conversation stayed on the subject too long our chance of success lowered. So gradually we started drawing the conversation back to where it was relevant and trying to explain why 🙂

Any other thoughts about your Series A?

It took us 3 months to reach the final signed term sheet. We had our first (really bad) offer within 2 weeks of starting fundraising — but it was so bad that we didn’t even think of it as an option. A few weeks later as things were not moving as fast as we’d hoped, we seriously entertained the possibility of taking it and we set ourselves a deadline. That helped move things along much faster and eventually we got much better offers within our deadline 🎲

The Family (AAA) is dedicated to helping ambitious founders raise the best Series A possible. Education is a big part of that, so keep an eye out for more of our content. And of course, if you’re thinking of raising a Series A in the next 4–12 months and want to take part in our programme, get in touch! (👉 pietro@thefamily.co / aaa.thefamily.co)

Thanks to Lola Wajskop for making it possible for us to share this story 🙌

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