Tag Archives: institutional investors

Does raising institutional money at the seed stage help or hurt?

In 2009-2010, during the peak of the eCommerce bubble in India, there were very few seed stage options for raising funds for startups. You could either get money from angel investor or look to raise money from large VC’s, hoping they would put money at the seed stage so they can be part of the later round.

During that period, larger firms in India, such as Sequoia Capital and few others did many (over 15-20) deals in a year. The typical check sizes were about $500K in India (about 2 CR that that time).

The main reason why entrepreneurs were looking to raise money from institutional investors,  besides needing the cash and finding not many other options was the belief that “if they were in early, they would be an automatic in the next round”.

Of the over 40 deals  that were done by institutional investors in 2008-2010 in the early stage (largely in eCommerce), only 4 are still around. Of the companies that took money from institutional investments in their seed round, only 5 secured investment from the VC in their post seed round.

This weekend I had a chance to read the ET survey on Why startups are raising seed stage capital from VC firms.

The average % of the company that entrepreneurs gave up is about 15% and the amount they raised from VC investors at the seed stage is about $500K.

There are many good reasons to raise money from traditional Venture investors, but assuming they will definitely invest in the later round, is quite possibly wrong based on previous history.

If you are looking to raise money and you have an interested later-stage VC investor willing to put money in your company, by all means you should take it.

Assuming they will invest later is a big leap of faith.

There are, like most things in the startup world pros and cons to this approach.

The pros include the “name brand” value of the VC firm on your cap table early on, the ability to tap into the expertise of the VC investors and also access to their network and connections.

The downsides are the signalling effect if they refuse to invest in the follow on round, the likelihood of them investing in other competing startups in the same space in later round (since they understand the market) and finally the smaller pool of investors available for you (since many VC’s wont invest if a lead VC investor passes on the follow on) in the next round.

While I dont think there are many options in India for entrepreneurs, the best bet I would still recommend is to get the right investors at the right stage of your company. At the early stage, angel and seed stage firms make sense, and later on using their help to get VC’s is a good approach.

Credit: Paul Martino, Bullpen Capital
Credit: Paul Martino, Bullpen Capital

Paul Martino of Bullpen capital puts this week in the chart above.

Given that seed is now a perpetual and continuous process until your series A, I would recommend you raise constantly and raise often.

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How to present the market slide on your Overview presentation at demo day?

Most investors and others who attend the demo day dismiss the “our market is very large Gazillion dollars” hype that startups state in their size of market slide. Since the size of market is part of the 3 step process to raise capital from institutional investors, spending enough time on documenting the assumptions you have made are important, as well as having a believable set of numbers to back up your claims.

In their quest to ensure that they are excited about how large it is, most entrepreneurs only do a top-down market analysis and usually mistake total market size with addressable market. For example, if your app helps teenagers communicate with each other using only animal pictures, then technically all teenagers are your target market. Realistically, if you factor in the # of teenagers who have cell phones with good camera, who have reliable Internet connection and then those that like animals it is likely to be much smaller.

If you market is small, it is small. No amount of you trying to make it big is going to make you look credible.

There are 2 types of audiences you are trying to convey to and 3 most important things you need to articulate about your market.

The audience that knows the market and instinctively knows it is big. These are the “insiders” who have been following many other startups in the same market and understand either unmet needs or displacement opportunities.

The second audience (the larger set) that does not know the market at all and needs to see a clear breakdown of total market size, immediate opportunity and complete potential.

The market slides you put together in your overview deck, is aimed more at the 2nd audience than the first one. The insiders only need to know that you have thought through the size of market.

For the uninitiated, you need to keep in mind.

1. You have credibly broken down the “large” market into addressable chunks and have a credible process by which you came up with the market size.

2. Walk your audience through your thinking process on how you came up with the size of your market to gain their appreciation for your understanding of the space.

3. Cite as many good dependable sources in your market slide to show that you have done a good landscape map of your market.

I would highly recommend you do both a top down, as well as a bottoms-up analysis to come to your market size.

Here are 3 market slides from companies I have seen. The first one from Tealet is pretty poor, the one from Mattermark is better, but the one from Square is the best.

Square Market SlideMattermark Market Slide

Tealet Market Slide

If you were presenting in front of a large audience, I would use the Mattermark slide – large size fonts. If you are making a market size slide for the operating plan deck, I’d use the Square format. If you were looking to put a slide on Angel.co for your profile, I’d use the Tealet approach.

There is still a lot of #opportunity in #India for accelerators & early investors #startups

Yesterday, 12 shortlisted companies from a very large list of applicants, presented to our Jury panel of entrepreneurs & investors for Batch 5 at the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator. This time we exceeded the total # of applicants by a significant number given how mature the program is and how well we have gained acceptance in the Indian startup ecosystem.

Of the 12 companies, 4 were very early stage, (think 2 founders and a dog, back of a napkin), 4-5 of them were at product / prototype and the remainder were at revenue.

Except 3, all the others were still bootstrapped. Meaning they had no funding or support from any accelerator, investor or corporate fund. The funded companies, had just (fairly recently, less than 3 months ago) raised money.

If we were to expand the pool to the final “top 50”, we saw fewer than 15% of companies were supported in some way by an institution meant to support them.

I keep hearing from the press, other entrepreneurs and investors that India is “saturated” with accelerators, investors and angels and we are in an “accelerator bubble”.

That cannot be farther away from the truth.

While not every company that pitched yesterday necessarily will yield a large outcome for institutional investors and 2 or 3 are not even angel investment ready, the remaining 50%-60% are. And, the ecosystem is not yet supporting them.

Some of these companies will go on to become fairly large. Will any of them become “Unicorns” – I cant say for sure. There will be a few (2-3) winners though.

The next time someone says we have too many accelerators or angel investors, you should point them to the fact that there are over 1200 product companies looking for funding in India, which have over $10K in revenue. Over 50 of them are doing more than $500K in revenue and still happily bootstrapped either because no one knows them or the founders dont want to accept money the investors gave them with the terms they offered.

We are still in the land of opportunity.